Muskoka’s new cottagers: Pandemic has 
supercharged our real estate market

City dwellers from southern Ontario have fled north to become first-time Muskoka home and cottage owners, setting new records for property prices and sales

6 min to read

Muskoka’s real estate market from spring 2020 to the present could best be summarized in two words: unprecedented demand. When Ontarians were ordered to stay home and the province closed up shop just over a year ago, people living in southern Ontario’s tiny urban condos and yardless homes decided it was time to get out of Dodge.

First-time buyers zeroed in on cottage country’s wide-open spaces and lakefront retreats. Some had always wanted to buy a cottage. Others needed an alternative to summer travel. People near retirement decided it was time to move to a forested oasis. Muskoka’s real estate agents, who expected a very quiet pandemic summer, were in for a major surprise.

Chuck Murney, president of The Lakelands Association of Realtors, reports that Muskoka’s March 2021 home sales set new records for both waterfront and non-waterfront properties. The association represents over 800 realtors in Muskoka, Parry Sound, Haliburton and Orillia.

“We also saw a significant uptick in the number of new listings during the period when compared to the totals from the last few months,” says Murney. “This fresh infusion of new listings helped to shore up overall inventory. Although a welcome reprieve from the recent historic lows, active listings are still hovering only slightly above the lowest level ever. This factor will continue to contribute to the extremely tight market conditions we have been experiencing over the past year.”

At of the time of publication, Muskoka’s roaring real estate market is still rolling along. However, the roll may be slowing ever so slightly.

“It’s been a crazy first quarter,” says Kelly Fallis of Chestnut Park Real Estate Ltd. in Port Carling. “Typically, nothing in the housing market happens until March. But on Jan. 4, it came in like a freight train and hasn’t stopped. There’s almost a panic in people’s voices when they call and say, ‘I need a cottage!’ There’s been a bit of a turn, a shift that’s lovely because we are getting a dose of reality back into the market. I think it’s because there is somewhat more inventory. The residential market pricing has come down a bit and I’ve started to see conditional offers. Before now, there were none.”

Fallis works with three “camps” of buyers: people looking for a cottage; people looking to move out of the city and work from home; and investors buying cottages to rent. She continues to get calls from first-time buyers with money in hand, ready to a buy lakefront property. However, with waterfront cottages and lots being scarce, buyers often need to compromise. Fallis’ clients tend to consider off-water property if it has plenty of acreage and a public beach or boat launch near by.

Some clients who want to retire or leave the city are purchasing homes in towns like Bracebridge and Port Carling. As with waterfront properties, multiple offers are the norm now for in-town residences and other non-waterfront properties.

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