By Jim Barber – Bay of Quinte Living
Availability, affordability and variety – those are just three of the adjectives one could use to describe the vibrant residential housing market in the Bay of Quinte Region.
With an unmatched quality of life, an abundance of natural amenities, open spaces, accessible waterfront, as well as top quality educational, recreational and health care infrastructure, the region is growing in popularity with folks looking for a place to move or to upgrade their current homes. On top of that there is an enviable variety of property sizes, and a plethora of residential offerings, from condos, to century homes to new, leading edge development communities – all of which is creating a heightened interest in the benefits of not only buying property but actually moving and living in the Bay of Quinte Region.
Affordability is arguably the most pertinent factor when extolling the virtues of the area’s real estate market, especially when compared to other areas of southern Ontario, such as the Greater Toronto Area and the Golden Horseshoe. The value for the dollar in the Bay of Quinte Region is truly impressive.
“Housing is affordable here, there’s no doubt about it. The average residential sale price so far in 2014 is virtually the same as in 2013, coming in at $226,343 compared to $226,373 last year,” said Natasha Huizinga of Coldwell Banker Ekort Realty quoting from the President’s Report of the Quinte and District Association of Realtors.
This assessment is shared by Meaghan Cooke of Royal LePage ProAlliance Realty.
“It’s a growing market and it’s a diverse market but I think the biggest thing is affordability. Things are really are affordable here. I got into real estate in 2006 and the values were pretty high here but now they have levelled off and you can get a really great house in the area for a great price. The average price is around that $226,000 mark and some of the homes I am selling for $250,000 or $260,000 would probably be going for anywhere from $700,000 to $900,000 in places like Toronto or even Ottawa,” she said.
Cooke’s clientele and territory comprises much of the rural areas of the Bay of Quinte region, and that farmland is becoming more popular for both local and out-of-town buyers – but not because there is a great desire to plow fields and tend to cattle.
“I sell a lot of farm properties to people from Toronto and they can’t believe the amount of space they can get for the dollar. And they are buying these farms for the privacy. They can’t believe you can get 75 acres for $350,000 with a house on it. And they might not do anything with it; they might just rent some of the property to farmers. But these folks are selling their big places in Toronto for like a million dollars, giving them lots of extra money to renovate whatever they buy here,” Cooke said.
The diversity of property also makes the Bay of Quinte region a desirable market for people looking to relocate or people looking to upgrade what they already have in the area.
“This region is able to entice people to move out of larger urban centres and have a reduced cost of living and be really able to balance that whole work/life scenario. I have had the experience in the larger centres and I am in my early 30s. And a trend we have seen with a lot of people my age is that they are choosing to move out of the larger urban centres and build a life for their family outside of the city environment,” said Rob Plomer who, along with partner Kate Vader, sells a variety of properties throughout Prince Edward County and the Belleville area for Chestnut Park Real Estate.
“For our business I would say that it’s probably 60 per cent comprised of people from outside the area and 40 per cent within. Because of Kate and my age, and knowing a lot of people here, we deal with a lot of clients who are perhaps looking for their first home or looking to start a family and they want to stay in the area, but upgrade. Overall, we see a really interesting cross section of people in the 30 to 60 age range coming into the area as well, because of the quality of life and affordability.”
Huizinga assets that one other draw for people to the Bay of Quinte region is the area’s rich heritage, being the part of the province first settled by British Loyalists coming in the wake of the American Revolution.
“We do have a healthy mix of new and resale homes and we are also an area that is fortunate to have century and Victorian homes still standing proud alongside new builds – a lot of which you will find have not yet been chopped up into apartments. There are also new subdivisions going up across the region as well, making people who move here spoiled for choice,” she said.
Plomer is also seeing people who are perhaps in a later stage of life and are downsizing larger homes and transitioning into smaller ones, but homes that have more amenities and style.
“Buying bigger is not always better. We are finding that people are willing to downsize to luxury. So they don’t want a large lot that needs lots of maintenance but inside they want to have really nice finishes and a really high-end, quality home. A lot of people 55 and older are looking to move from the urban centres, even the ones around here, and looking to downsize. They want a place they can manager in the countryside or be in a cottage that is waterfront property and then have the ability to travel as well,” he said.
Overall, the real estate market in the Bay of Quinte Region is one that is blessed to be both expanding but not to the extent that there is a dearth of affordable properties. There truly is a property or home for every taste and budget.
“Places like Brighton are becoming a true retirement community, while the whole region is benefitting from the having the Canadian Forces base at Trenton, which is expected to also grow over the next few years. All of the activity we have and the amazing quality of life is catching the attention of people outside the area, many of whom are looking for places to raise young families or to enjoy a better pace of life,” said Cooke.
Huizinga summed up the potential of the local market when she talked about her own decision to come to Brighton nearly a decade ago.
“You cannot go wrong moving here. I moved to Brighton in 2006 from Drumheller, Alberta. I rented a house in Brighton sight unseen, as I felt getting to know the place before settling down and making a commitment was the smartest thing to do. I was not disappointed in landing here totally by accident,” she said.
“The region has so much to offer, from affordable housing to unique amenities at your doorstep such as doctors, dentists, schools, wineries, cheese makers, chocolatiers, antiques shopping, quaint eateries, pristine beaches, provincial parks … I cannot thing of one single thing we are missing as a region. And the people here are friendly and inviting to newcomers to the area.”
Jim Barber lives in the Bay of Quinte Region in Napanee, and writes for Bay of Quinte Living