Those left wondering if they will ever achieve their dreams of cottaging or moving to Muskoka could soon see their fortunes improve.
Real estate listings are staying on the market a little bit longer; buyers are getting the chance for in-person tours of the property they’re interested in; and in some cases, they can even get a home inspection done.
The feeding frenzy seems to have calmed and we’re looking at a more level marketplace says Bob Clarke, owner of Royal LePage Lakes of Muskoka Clarke Muskoka Realty.
“We’re heading towards a more normalized market,” explains Bob. “Still at higher prices than before, but a bit more balanced market where people have a chance to make educated decisions.”
It’s a far cry from the intense bidding wars that were commonplace in mid-to-late 2020 and early 2021. Many listings sold sight-unseen for well over asking.
“Listings under $2 million we were getting multiple bids, no conditions, fast closings,” says Bob. “It was pretty typical of an unbalanced market where people were feeling the pressure to get out of the city for the open spaces and serene atmosphere of Muskoka.”
With the COVID situation calming down and restrictions in the city loosening, there has been a large reduction in panic buying. As well, there has been increased discussion by businesses about their employees returning to working in the office.
Yet, Bob notes there continues to be a dearth of inventory and properties are still selling relatively quickly – just at a more reasonable speed than in the past few months. With not a lot of inventory available, don’t expect a sudden drop in prices, even if they have leveled off a little.
“We’re still seeing pricing 25-percent-plus north of last year, but we’re not seeing further escalation,” says Bob. “In terms of selling price, the market seems to have flattened now.”
Looking ahead, Bob says the pricing will likely stay high as the demand for waterfront properties in Muskoka is still evident and the inventory continues to be sparse. However, as he notes, there will be less immediate pressure to make a bid. The opportunities to make informed buying decisions will increase.
“People still want to be here,” says Bob. “Including those who have been planning to move to Muskoka for their retirement, families wanting to raise kids here or at least make memories each summer, and those who can continue working from home.”
The shortage of listings is not limited to only developed properties: undeveloped land is also at a premium. That’s why many buyers are finding cottages and then doing renovations or additions, or even complete rebuilds, to create their dream space.
Should you find yourself lucky enough to secure an open piece of land or decide to go the purchase and renovate or rebuild route, Bob says it’s important to understand what’s happening in the construction sector. After all, material pricing, labour force issues, and delays in getting the appropriate permits can all influence your plans.
“We’re seeing normalization in material pricing,” says Bob. “Lumber is at about 1.5 times higher than pre-pandemic pricing, as compared to 4.5 times higher during the past year.”
Lead times are slightly better than in the past year, however, most items still have longer lead times than they used to. Bob notes that the situation will continue to improve.
There also continues to be a labour force shortage and exceptionally long lead times in receiving site plan approvals – between eight and 12 weeks depending on the complexity of the project. All of which means that if you’re buying in order to build or renovate, you shouldn’t expect immediate results.
“The demand for building and renovation projects remains very high,” explains Bob. “If you’re looking to buy a property that needs a new build or work done, it’s important to know longer lead times will be needed.”
Bob believes part of the reason for long delays in site plan reviews in the Township of Muskoka Lakes is because they’re testing the proposals against potential new rules being recommend during the township’s ongoing Official Plan review.
To keep people informed about the OP Review and how proposed changes could greatly impact property owners’ abilities to build, renovate or subdivide their land, Bob and several community members started the Our Muskoka Stakeholders Association.
“The process has been underway for over a year and it’s important to know the impact many of these proposed changes could have on the individual cottagers and homeowners,” explains Bob.
With a final draft of a new Official Plan expected to be adopted at the end of 2021, there are still opportunities available for public input.
To keep abreast of the proposed changes and news about the Muskoka Lakes OP Review, including surveys, links to official documents, petitions and more, visit www.Our-Muskoka.ca
“Learn the facts and make up your own mind,” says Bob. “Don’t let other people plan your future if you don’t agree with the changes. It’s essential that your opinion is heard.”
TEXT CHRIS OCCHIUZZI