"Space is the new luxury," says Max Hahne, broker of record at Engel & Völkers Collingwood Muskoka.

It turns out that no matter how nice a house or condo you have in the city, during a pandemic, you're still in the city. And the restrictions COVID-19 has placed on Toronto residents have led many homebuyers to start looking north to cottage country.

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"In the third week of March we were still seeing the same number of inquires, but we've been seeing an uptick in the number physical showings since Easter," Hahne says over the phone. He says much of the interest he's seeing is coming from Toronto homebuyers who looking to permanently move out of the city to find a rural, recreational home. He also notes that Engel & Völkers follows strict guidelines in order to be able to show a home during this time, including signed declaration forms regarding health and travel, offering masks and gloves, and ensuring all parties involved maintain proper physical distancing.

COVID-19 has changed how people view both their lives and their living situations. For instance, Hahne says he has a lot of prospective buyers who, directly because of COVID-19, have realized they don't need to be in the office every day to be successful at their jobs, or even those who have simply decided to retire earlier than they may have before the pandemic.

And, above all, buyers are interested in space.

One of Max Hahne's current active listings, a $1.79 escape just outside of Collingwood

"Most of the properties I'm showing are in the $2-3 million range and they're almost all on larger acreage. I'm getting a lot of 'sign calls', people are literally sitting in front of a property and calling us up to ask us for more details."

Hahne thinks at least some of the reasons for this is that so many people have found themselves stuck at home and they're deciding to spend a lot of their time looking at real estate. Popping out for a four-hour return drive to get a sense of a property north of the city suddenly doesn't seem like a huge effort when there's not much else you're allowed to do that day.

"Our Muskoka lines are ringing off the hook right now," says Hahne. Mostly, it's important to note, it's very wealthy clientele who are reaching out. The kind of people, Hahne says, who had to cancel their European vacation and are now looking to either rent or buy a cottage where they can spend the summer with their family. The cottages these buyers are after are in the $5 million-plus range, and can easily rent for $100,000+ a month.

Which is to say, not everyone's looking to Collingwood and Muskoka when it comes to buying a new home right now. But for those that are turning to cottage country – space is not the limit.