Q&A: Nancy Benson chats about Ottawa’s Real Estate Market and why Winter can be a good time to list

Happy new year, everyone! As we are still early in 2019, I thought it would be a good time to offer an overview on the Ottawa resale real estate market, including trends over the past year and how the market is looking now. I recently chatted about the resale market with a writer from our team at Nancy Benson & Associates. Some excerpts from our chat:

QUESTION:  The Ottawa market had a healthy 2018.  The average sale price of a residential-class property was up 5.1 % over 2017. The average condominium unit sale price was up 3.2 %.But for much of 2018 the Ottawa Real Estate Board reported lower than usual inventory, particularly in certain areas. Is this still the case or has it been changing recently?

NANCY BENSON: Throughout the city there wasn’t as much turnover this past year. Some people were staying in their homes and renovating, or rebuilding, rather than selling and buying again. Particularly in central neighbourhoods where people enjoy being able to walk to restaurants and shops, we’ve seen a lot of construction. Sometimes people are tearing down and rebuilding because they recognize the value of their central location.

QUESTION: How would you describe the market currently, early in 2019?

ANSWER:  I would say it’s still more of a sellers’ market in many areas. There are some areas where the market is a little slower. In terms of price range, homes in the $500,000 and under price range sell a little more quickly, although there is also pretty good popularity in the 750,000 to $1 million and more range in the desirable neighborhoods. There still isn’t enough inventory in the popular neighbourhoods. The market favors the sellers in these areas.

QUESTION: So, could this be a good time for a seller to list a property?

NANCY BENSON: Listing when there is low inventory and a fairly high demand tends to bring our sellers a better price. Many people plan to put their home on the market in the Spring because most people think that way, but then you are also competing against more sellers, so it can soften the prices slightly. It depends on the property.  If a property is tailored toward an older buyer, for example, you have to watch that those people are available to look at properties. As we all know, many older prospective buyers go south in the Winter and often only return in April.

Generally, Spring and Summer is more geared toward suburban locations, whereas the downtown and central locations tend to sell well 12 months of the year. It depends on what the client is selling.

QUESTION: For people who do want to list their properties for the busy Spring-Summer selling season, when should they get in touch with you to start the process?

NANCY BENSON: It’s a great idea to begin planning now, whether you are considering to sell in the next few weeks or later in the Spring market. This is especially true if you need to do some interior touch-ups or maintenance items to ready your property for the market. When I meet a client, I will tell them what I feel needs to be done to appeal to today’s buyers and provide them with contractor information for some cost-effective assistance.

It’s usually easier to get tradespeople at this time of year than it is in the Spring and Summer, especially for things like painting or refinishing floors. Completing these tasks now allows my Sellers to enjoy a fresher home, and also their property is ready to launch on the market when the time is right.  

People don’t always realize it’s generally a four-month process between when they begin to ready their home, placing it on the market for sale, finding a buyer, and then that buyer finally movin in.  So even listing your property in February, for example, means you probably will be moving in June. When you list in the Spring, you might be lucky to find a buyer who wants to move in July, but most buyers at that time would be looking for Fall occupancy.

I generally advise people who have an idea of when they want to move, to work backwards by four months in terms of when they should list.

QUESTION: A highlight in 2018 was the recovery of Ottawa’s condo market, after struggling for a while. The number of condominium units sold was up 13.1% in 2018 over the previous year. How did the recovery affect your clients?

NANCY BENSON: The condo market was a bit sluggish for a few years, but last year we definitely saw an increase in activity and prices. Over the past year the condo market has done very well, especially for medium-sized and larger units.  For condo sellers, it was a good year.

There were people who bought a few years back and then maybe rented their units for a while because they weren’t able to recoup their money. Now they’re selling, as we’re seeing prices back to normal and with regular appreciation. On larger units, there was quite significant appreciation seen in this past year.

QUESTION: Have there been areas in Ottawa that you’ve seen gaining in popularity in recent years as an alternative to the hot, pricey neighbourhoods?

NANCY BENSON: I’ve seen people whoperhaps aren’t able to purchase in neighbourhoods like Westboro or the Glebe, for example, deciding to purchase in peripheral neighborhoods, “the next neighborhood over”, where there are more affordable homes.

Close to Westboro, the Carlington area is starting to see pretty good appreciation. People can see the value of being just a few blocks from Westboro with more affordable prices. The same is true for parts of Alta Vista, many people are seeing the value and if they consider to do small renovations they can increase their investment substantially.

In the east end, Beechwood Village, just east of Beechwood Avenue is starting to come into its own as it’s mere steps from New Edinburgh and Rockcliffe, and just a short walk to the Byward Market. Braemar Park, across from Carlingwood Shopping Centre, is an area with a lot of nice bungalows and easy access to the shopping centre and other amenities. That area is doing well. Another up and coming neighbourhood is Riverview Park. It’s across from the Trainyards Shopping Centre and just one bus to downtown.

QUESTION: Ottawa remains a very affordable market, particularly compared with average sale prices in Toronto and Vancouver. When people move to Ottawa from those cities, what’s their reaction to the prices in this region?

NANCY BENSON: They are seeing there is good value in Ottawa, a medium-sized city with lots of amenities, lots of greenspaces. Ottawa is home to many great restaurants, shopping, and the arts as well.

One of my clients who moved from Toronto bought an older condominium unit in a great location near the Ottawa River. The unit was dated, but it was very spacious and in a desirable location. Even after she did extensive renovations to make it more contemporary, she spent far less than a similar unit in Toronto would cost. She’s delighted with it! This is only one example of the many clients moving from more expensive locations throughout the country and even foreigners who see good value in Ottawa.

If you’re considering buying or selling property in the Ottawa area, I’d love to chat with you about the Ottawa market and conditions in your own neighbourhood. I’d be happy to tell you about the expertise I offer, with more than 30 years of experience as a Realtor in the Ottawa area. You can read about my services at www.nancybenson.com, where you can also view my current listings and get an idea of the sophisticated marketing we offer sellers. You can give me a call, at 613-747-4747.