“Our market isn’t typically like the Toronto market, but it’s just been crazy lately.”
In years past, real estate agent Maryrose Coleman of Sotheby's Realty adds that the Muskoka market has usually slowed down by now. "Usually what we see is a lot of activity in the springtime… it tends to slow down as we move into July."
To be clear, there is no slowdown in sight right now.
"I've been slammed like I've never been slammed before," says Ross Halloran, Broker at Sotheby's Realty. "I have a team of nine agents and five support staff and we're stretched thin just trying to keep up with the demand."
In March, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit Ontario, this is not what anyone was expecting cottage country real estate to look like. But as people settled into the 'new normal' and saw that they could successfully work from home, city condos suddenly started to feel more and more cramped, and space north of the city began to feel more and more like a full-time option.
When COVID hit, it forced the Spring Cottage Life Show, scheduled to take place at the International Centre in Mississauga from March 26-29, to be cancelled as well. "The SCLS is like our Super Bowl," Halloran says. "When it was cancelled, and with COVID going on, I went to my team and I said, 'listen, this is going to be a brutal summer.' At the time we had 53 listings."
Luckily, he was wrong.
"The pandemic turns out to have only accelerated the trend of retirees, empty-nesters, those looking to down-size, and people now working from home looking to Muskoka as an answer," says Halloran.
Both Halloran and Coleman agree they are currently seeing unprecedented demand. "I had a client with a $6.5M budget who wanted a cottage on either Lake Rosseau or Lake Joseph, though it couldn't be an island or water access only, and I was only able to find one property to show them,” Coleman tells Toronto Storeys. All told, she found seven properties available in the buyer's price range, but just one that wasn't on an island or water access only.
"I'm seeing properties that have been on the market for 5 years suddenly being sold."
So if you thought the pandemic was going to give you the opportunity to sweep into cottage country with the intention of picking out the property of your dreams, you'd better take a jump in a cold lake. Certainly, according to both Coleman and Halloran, if you're looking at a piece of Muskoka real estate on one of the 'Big 3', that is, Lake Joseph, Lake Rosseau, and Lake Muskoka.
Recent numbers released this week from the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) back up Coleman and Halloran's insights. In fact, waterfront sales in Muskoka in June not only posted an incredible 85% increase over June 2019, the region’s waterfront properties also saw a jump in their median price, hitting a record-high of $660,000.
Further still, it's possible that the strongest indication of how hot Muskoka real estate is right now is that by this time in previous years, several properties listed in the spring that didn't sell have usually been taken off the market with the intention of having them return in the fall for the second round of buyers who've missed out on another summer of owning and want to scoop up a cottage in time for next year. But Coleman says she's "not anticipating we’ll see much of that this year, given how much demand there is and how little inventory is.”
Given that Coleman has buyer briefs from over 15 clients – ranging from under $1M to more than $10M – and has "nothing to sell them,” it sounds as though she's right. Meanwhile, Halloran, on his way to show yet another property, tell us, "What we thought was sure to turn into a buyers' market just a few months has once again turned out to be another sellers' market."
And it may just stay that way for a long time to come.