While the condo market might have felt like a ghost town in the early months of COVID when social distancing restrictions took hold, and many residents fled large cities to ride out the pandemic, as the vaccine continues to rollout, restrictions ease, and the return to the office nears, it's clear that buyers are once again interested in condo living.

During the early stages of the pandemic, condo unit sales in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) plummeted 71.6% in April and prices by 1.7%. But unlike single-family homes, which rebounded back to life throughout lockdown, condo unit sales and price growth lagged for the remainder of the year.

However, thankfully this is no longer the case. Condo sales led the market in terms of growth in May, up 170% year-over-year -- 20% higher than single-family homes. What's more, condos are proving to be an excellent alternative affordability-wise for those priced out of the GTA's ground-level home segment, as the average price for a condo now stands at $682,280, compared to $1,415,698 for a detached home.

While demand for condos has clearly returned, activity varies greatly throughout the region, and the markets beyond big city limits are seeing the most action, according to a new analysis from Zoocasa.

READ: Two Buildings Are Driving Down Condo Values By Over 20% in This Toronto Neighbourhood

Zoocasa looked at average condo prices, sales, listings, and buying conditions between April 2020 (the depth of the pandemic sales slump) and May 2021 and found the regions of Simcoe, Durham, and Halton have experienced the most robust pace of price growth for condo units -- outstripping those in Toronto.

According to Zoocasa, Simcoe County has the fastest-appreciating condo values. Largely a rural market, Simcoe had limited supply and transactions during last year's market slump, with just ten units sold in March and zero in April. This led to a more volatile 56% year-over-year upswing in price to an average of $605,980 this May.

However, despite comparably fewer units available, Zoocasa says buyers here will enjoy more balanced conditions -- an increase of 18 listings last month brought the local sales-to-new-listings ratio (SNLR) to 56%.

The market with the second-largest price increase is Durham County, where a unit now averages at $531,222, marking a 46% increase between April 2020 and May 2021. Zoocasa reported that a total of 51 units sold last month, and while 77 new listings were brought to market, it wasn’t enough to offset steep sellers’ market conditions, with a SNLR of 77%.

In third place for price growth is Halton Region, which experienced growth of 22% between April 2020 and May 2021, with the average unit now selling for $615,750. A total of 139 homes traded hands and 208 new listings came to market last month, leading to a balanced market with an SNLR of 67%.

In comparison, while it's currently the most expensive region to buy a condo, Zoocasa says Toronto lies in the middle of the pack in terms of price growth, suggesting that buyers might still be trading the city setting for greater affordability.

In Toronto, the average unit cost $716,976 this May, marking a 17% increase from April 2020. Zoocasa says city buyers will now enjoy a more balanced market, as a total of 3,351 new listings came to market in May, offsetting 1,881 sales, leading to an SNLR of 56%.

condo prices Zoocasa