Simply put, the calendar year of 2014 ended on a very strong note with regards to residential real estate activity within the Southern Georgian Bay marketplace. As provided by the Southern Georgian Bay Association of REALTORS® (SGBAR), statistically 2014 represented the second best year (2007 being the best) for home sales in the Western Region which is comprised of the Town of Collingwood, Clearview Township, The Blue Mountains, Grey Highlands, Municipality of Meaford and the Town of Wasaga Beach. These strong numbers alongside many other factors should translate into a positive start for the 2015 calendar year which we will explore further in this report.
When looking back at December 2014 it is important to provide context and take a look one year back at December 2013. Many will recall a blistering start to a long, cold winter that lasted well into the spring of 2014. The outdoor conditions were fantastic for winter enthusiasts who carved the runs at Blue Mountain and the many private clubs along the Niagara Escarpment and the Beaver Valley as well as for those who enjoy the countless number of winter activities and attractions in the Southern Georgian Bay area. Although perfect conditions for winter recreational activities, the early winter hampered year-end sales for 2013 and early activity for 2014. The weather proved difficult for those attempting to sell and view real estate, in particular recreational properties within the region.
When reviewing the Performance Record for the Western Region the sales numbers for December 2014 are all up significantly as compared to the same time period for 2013. The percentage of sales to listings for December 2014 was 44.7% versus 33.98% for 2013. Total Dollar Volume Sales for the month of December 2014 as compared to the same month a year prior was $40,685,559.00, up from $25,611,038.00 representing an impressive increase of 59%. The total number of unit sales for December 2014 was 118, up 31 from December 2013’s total of 87, an increase of 36%.
For all of 2014 the total number of units sold for the Western Region was 2,208 up 4.7% from 2,109 in 2013. The total dollar volume for 2014 was up 12% from $630,149,062.00 for 2013 to $705,764,088.00 for 2014. In contrast, the total number of listings for 2014 was 5,986, a decline when compared to 6,310 for the previous year. This increase in sales, both in unit and total dollar volume terms combined with a decline in listings for 2014 is clear evidence of a tightening marketplace.
When we further breakdown the total number of sales for 2014 we see that the majority of units (a total of 977) fell between $200,000.00 and $349,999.00 representing a modest increase of 3.2% over 2013. As we move up in price range the number of sales decline as is to be expected, but when compared to the previous year the numbers are up for the respective price ranges. For 2014 there were a total of 373 total unit sales between $350,000.00 and $499,999.00 as compared to 307 units for 2013 representing a significant increase of 21.5%. Similarly unit sales between $500,000.00 and $799,999.00 witnessed an increase of 12.9% from a total 163 unit sales for 2013 to 184 for 2014. The price range of $800,000.00 to $999,999.00 represented the most significant percentage increase in sales year over year at 95.8% with a total number of sales for 2014 at 47 as compared to 24 for 2013. The total number of unit sales at $1,000,000.00 and above was 40 for 2014 representing a 17.6% increase over 2013’s total of 34. An interesting side note to the higher price point sales is that these numbers only take into account resale activity as recorded by SGBAR. However, we know that across our region there are a number of higher end resort development communities priced at the top end of the market with vacant lots that are being sold anywhere from $150,000.00 to $450,000.00 where the final build maybe anywhere between $700,000.00 and well above $1,000,000.00. In addition, homes are being purchased at lower price points and then completely “gutted” and fully renovated. A walk along Third and many of the “Tree” streets in Collingwood will provide you with fine examples of this last point. Additionally, if you were to drive along the base of the Escarpment or venture out into the beautiful rural areas of the region you will see countless high-end custom builds dotting the landscape. All totalled, it points to a very robust and healthy market across all price points and in particular at the higher-end.
As we enter 2015 the price of oil, Alberta’s economic downturn, Ontario’s economic uptick, the declining Canadian dollar, the possibility for an early Federal election all dominate the domestic headlines. Each of these issues are complex and intertwined, and offer plenty of fodder for those wishing to debate and forecast Canada’s economic outlook for 2015 and beyond. The housing industry remains a topic of conversation and debate as those from within and outside the industry debate the direction and outlook for Canada’s housing market especially in the larger urban markets like Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver. Without oversimplifying what is a very complex issue, the outlook for the Southern Georgian Bay’s housing market looks promising.
When developing a forecast for 2015 it is important to review the previous year. As outlined above it is clear that 2014 was a strong year for residential real estate activity both across the Southern Georgian Bay marketplace, the province and country and that should continue into 2015. As the American economy continues to improve, many predict that Ontario’s economy will benefit from that, a result of increased demand for our export goods in part due to lower oil prices, the low Canadian dollar and most recently several announcements both by Provincial and Federal levels of government to invest millions of dollars into Ontario’s manufacturing sector with the anticipation of creating thousands of new jobs across southern Ontario. In addition, interest rates and inflation remain low, and consumer confidence appears to be stable. These are all pillars of a stable housing market and economy.
Combined with key indices that are analyzed to forecast Canada’s economic activity, there is the very real but difficult element to quantify, and that is “quality of place.” The Southern Georgian Bay area remains a destination that is desired by many to call home, either on a permanent or part-time basis. The area offers lifestyle, quality year-round amenities, choice in location, price point and product offerings, all desirable qualities for those looking to invest in real estate and a place to call home for 2015.