OREB eyes 'shift' away from condos as home sales keep booming in October

Home sales

While Ottawa’s red-hot housing market continued to set a blistering overall pace in October, Realtors are detecting a potential “shift” away from condos as the trend toward remote work fuels demand for larger properties with space for amenities such as home offices and gyms, the city’s real estate board says.

Members of the Ottawa Real Estate Board sold 2,146 properties last month, up from 1,604 a year earlier and well above the five-year average of 1,515.

But OREB noted that although sales of condominiums rose 22 per cent year-over-year to 481, the number of new units added to the market jumped 70 per cent compared with October 2019 to 708 ​– leading experts to suggest a change in housing preferences may be afoot in Ottawa.

“The condominium market is on our watchlist,” said board president Deb Burgoyne.

While Ottawa’s inventory of residential properties on the market has shrunk 46 per cent since October 2019 as buyers continue to snap up homes at a steady pace, the number of condos listed for sale has actually grown by 15 per cent over the same period.

“This is an inverse relationship compared to the beginning of 2020 when condo supply was depleting much quicker than residential,” Burgoyne said.

Realtors began seeing a shift away from condos in June during the first wave of the pandemic, she added, triggering speculation that prospective buyers are looking for bigger spaces that are more conducive to working from home.

“One could extrapolate or conclude that buying preferences may be shifting towards a desire for properties with more square footage than (a condo) offers,” Burgoyne said. “Particularly due to the sheer number of employees working remotely for the foreseeable future, commute times may continue to be less of an issue.”

The average house price in Ottawa rose 25 per cent year-over-year to $603,253 in October. The average condo, meanwhile, sold for $368,936, a 16 per cent increase from a year earlier.

“As the chillier weather and upcoming holiday season approaches, it will be interesting to see how the market calibrates,” Burgoyne said. “Typically, we start to see a slowdown in home sale activity. Whether that actually transpires is something we can’t predict given the topsy-turvy year that is 2020.”