Ottawa housing market heating up already in 2021

A row of townhouses is seen on a sunny day in Ottawa in a suburb
The local housing market continues to heat up with bidding wars and high prices. Photo courtesy of the OREB.

By Charlie Senack 

Even during a global health pandemic, Ottawa’s housing market continues to be hot with bidding wars and high prices.

Members of the Ottawa Real Estate Board sold 1,390 residential properties in February this year compared to 1,134 in February 2020 — an increase of 23 per cent. 

Sales in the residential-property class are up 24 per cent from this time last year and 19 per cent in the condominium-property category. 

Ottawa Real Estate Board President Debra Wright says the increase isn’t fully surprising with numbers trending in this direction even before the COVID-19 pandemic began. But when the city shut down for the first time in mid-March 2020, she admits, there was uncertainty. 

“I think everybody had a different perspective when the pandemic started on how things were going to look like,” said Wright. “I myself was quite concerned and depressed and was wondering if I was going to have a business after this.” 

Wright says many people who were struggling to buy a home prior to the pandemic were hopeful the market would steady after the pandemic began but that was not the case. 

With people being forced to stay home, many have opted for more space to move around. Others want space to have a home office, and some features, like a pool, which would sometimes be a turnoff before COVID-19, are now seen as selling features. 

Advice for homebuyers and sellers 

If you’re the one selling your home, Wright suggests you consider leaving the property for a few days and staying elsewhere, because with the way the market is, hundreds of showings are possible. 

“It helps limit the amount of times you need to clean your property and it also helps protect yourself from COVID[-19] as well,” she says. 

A professional headshot of Debra Wright against a white background
Ottawa Real Estate Board President Debra Wright. Photo courtesy of the OREB.

As for advice for future homebuyers, Wright says it’s important you know your financial capability to the penny. Many offers are now unconditional and you can find yourself in some legal trouble if you don’t have the funds. 

Wright also says it’s a good idea for both the homebuyers and sellers to have a home inspection done to help rule out any surprises. This way you can ensure nothing is hiding beneath the surface. 

With high bidding wars and many families eyeing the same place, it’s important that you stand out to the sellers, says Wright. She recommends writing a letter to send with your offer sharing details about your family and expressing why this home is for you. 

Lastly, if you’re out looking for a home, Wright says don’t do it yourself: hire a real estate agent. Because the market can be confusing, this is an important step to have if problems pop up. 

Wright says she doesn’t have a crystal ball as to where the market will head over the next year, but spring is the busiest season in the real estate market and it’s already proving to be a busy one. 

“I don’t want to see prices go down and I don’t expect they will go down, but I would like to see prices stabilize,” she said. “[Cases of] people bidding way above asking price are not fun and no one likes them. The sellers might, because they are getting a great return on their investments, but buyers don’t like them and real estate agents don’t like them.”

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