Housing market soars, creating both opportunity and strife

Melanie Ducharme, Municipal Clerk for West Nipissing, says the municipality is currently experiencing an unprecedented out-of-town demand for local property.

Housing prices, the cost of building supplies, evictions, homelessness, COVID-19 — they are all related. West Nipissing is experiencing one of the hottest housing markets in recent history, no-one is quite sure where it’s going, but what is clear is that there are winners and there are losers. Some people are experiencing windfalls, and others are experiencing the angst of insecurity. It’s a seller’s market, and the landscape of West Nipissing is changing, according to some.

Melanie Ducharme, Municipal Clerk for West Nipissing, handles property inquiries every day as part of her function as a Planner. She receives calls from people who are looking to purchase and what they can do with the property, whether it’s on a flood plain, what they can build, if they can keep a horse or hobby farm, if there is a municipal drain and so on. “It’s unprecedented,” she says. “Never, in the years I’ve worked here, have I fielded so many calls… and out-of-town inquiries; not local… When a property gets listed I might get 40 calls – the phone rings off the wall until the property is sold and is off the market.”

The inquiries on vacant land are also through the roof, as are requests for severances and building permits for both new constructions and renovations.  Ducharme notes that the high cost of construction goods is not stopping the surge. She adds that most sales are handled by realtors, who have to follow legislative requirements that include a lot of disclosure on the listing. With a surge in private sales, a lot of inquiries end up on her desk.

And then there are all the stories circulating of people receiving offers of $100K-plus over list price in the region. Ducharme exclaims, “You wouldn’t believe it, it’s crazy! From personal experience I sold my house in March, there was a bidding war.” Ducharme calculates she received roughly $120K over what she was expecting; she is looking forward to a new home she is building. Ducharme believes this current market trend started in the larger cities, is moving here, and has everything to do with COVID-19: with people learning they can work from home, city life has lost its charm. “People are saying, well if I never have to go back to work, I’m not going to stay in the city paying these crazy taxes, or crazy rents, living shoulder to shoulder with people if I don’t have to. Plus they are picking up land here, stuff that’s been for sale forever, just because it’s there. Land here, by comparison to places down south, is still significantly less expensive.”

As for the building permits, “Nuts, absolutely nuts,” Ducharme exclaims. “Even though the price of materials is off the charts, people aren’t even blinking… We’ve speculated that because of people not able to travel and working at home, they are renovating to make a home office, or a loft in the garage. Renos are up, new builds are up, it’s berserk! …The other big thing, people who have a bit of extra land are severing and selling… they are seeing an opportunity and severance applications are coming out the wazoo!”

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