By Jim Barber – Bay of Quinte Living
One thing that is undeniable about the new home market in the Bay of Quinte Region is that the majority of the buyers are coming from outside the area. These folks are looking for the unique combination of great lifestyle, open spaces, variety of home options and affordability. Within the region, families are usually looking to upgrade their starter homes into something larger, or downsize into a retirement-lifestyle home.
While there are new homes available for pretty much any price range, for the most part, the builders in the Bay of Quinte Region sell homes from between $250,000 to $500,000 depending on features, location and size of property.
The homes are generally more spacious, more unique and more flexible in terms of features and customization than the cookie-cutter stuff one finds elsewhere in Ontario, particularly the rapidly-expanding GTA region.
“The first thing that sets this area apart is affordability, no doubt about it. And that’s for a resale or a new home. The other thing that we get in this area is that all the builders and tradespeople really take pride in their work, so you get amazing quality. I have toured around other parts of the province and can’t believe what they get away with and what they sell. Because the ‘ordinary’ here is much better than the best stuff in other areas in terms of pride and craftsmanship,” said Dustin VanSoelen of Duvanco Homes, a major subdivision developer in the Bay of Quinte Region, who confirms what most builders in the area already understand, that most of the purchases are coming from outside the immediate area.
“We are getting more empty-nesters who are looking for a more casual pace of life, but we are also getting young families – people who are recognizing that it’s a great place to raise a family, a little safer and more comfortable.”
“We are finding the type of buyer that we are getting from outside the area has changed over the past few years. When I first started the type of houses that we were building and the type of person we were selling to was a bit different than now. The wineries in The County have brought in a more sophisticated person. They want more in their home – more upscale than they were say six years ago,” said Brenda Stanley of Sandbank Homes Inc. Based in Prince Edward County. Sandbank Homes specializes in adult lifestyle communities.
“And what I have always found is a lot of people moving to our area have fond memories of the area from when they were a child. They may have camped at Sandbanks Provincial Park, or their parents took them to Sandbanks or they took their children to Sandbanks when there were small.”
“A lot of my clientele are people looking to retire and have a slice of the country or settle close to the water. But the other major group of people that I build for are young professionals – people who work in the public services like teachers, hydro workers, police officers. These are people who are moving from their first home into the home where they really want to raise their kids. That’s about half the demographic that I work with,” added Jon Van Huizen of Van Huizen Homes – a company that focuses primarily on custom homes, but which also has some subdivision projects throughout Hastings County.
Geographically speaking, the builders all say that the bulk of their business from people coming into the region is focused on the GTA and Ottawa.
“I have been working with a number of people from the Mississauga area, and they like the fact that they can have so much say in the makeup of their house. I know for myself I give people a lot more direct input into the homes – things like finishes and fixtures – and they’re not used to that sort of service coming from the GTA,” said Van Huizen.
“And the Bay of Quinte region is still kind of unknown for a lot of people. Friends from the Toronto area come and visit me and before they get here, they don’t realize that Montreal and Ottawa are within easy striking distance. Montreal always seemed like a giant trip for them. But from here you can do a day or weekend trip easy.”
VanSoelen said he is finding that many of his retiree clients see the Bay of Quinte region as sort of a ‘halfway’ place to settle down because of where their families live.
“A number of the ones I know have children in Ottawa and also in Toronto, so in order to be able to see their grandchildren, they park themselves halfway. Plus they get to enjoy all the other benefits of living in this area,” he said.
Sandbank Homes is getting lots of interest from the east side of Toronto, including Scarborough, Ajax, Pickering and Whitby, as well as from the Nation’s capital.
“Ottawa is now a huge market for us, all of the boomers who are now retiring from the federal civil service and whatnot, they are looking to move away from that area. So between Ottawa and the eastern part of the GTA, that makes up about 95 per cent of the people who are moving into our adult lifestyle community in Wellington,” Stanley stated.
The builders we spoke to all talked about a market that is experiencing some growth and that this growth should continue, in varying degrees for many years to come.
“One thing I know is that buyers are a lot more educated and engaged than they used to be. When I first started with our company, I didn’t find that they spent as much time researching or they didn’t come to the location as much. Whereas now people are researching online, creating a short list and coming out to visit and making their decision from all of that information,” said Stanley.
VanSoelen said things can’t help but be on the upswing when you look at the investment the constituent municipalities that make up the Bay of Quinte region have made in improving amenities and infrastructure.
“It’s been going on in Belleville and other communities for the past five years and looks like there’s plans to continue on. You have the infrastructure on the ground with roads and also underground, with the expansion of municipal services, but also the supporting infrastructure, whether it’s a hospital expansion, or a new fire hall or police station. And then you look at the retail growth with the big box stores and many new restaurants opening, including a lot of chains,” he said.
“All of this is a good sign that somebody has done their homework and that things are really happening here.”
Van Huizen feels it’s only a matter of time before the market gets ‘discovered’ in a big way.
“Over the past few years growth has come in fits and spurts, there hasn’t been what I would call a sustained boom. But I am pretty hopeful for significant growth. The way I see things happening in the province as a whole is that more and more people in the built up areas will want a slice of the country and it’s going to get harder and harder over the next five to 10 years. The custom country house is something that people should act on now if they want it, because it’s only going to get more difficult to acquire, and acquire affordably, down the road,” he said.
For more information on Van Huizen homes visit www.vanhuizenhomes.com.
For more information on Sandbank Homes, visit www.sandbankhomes.com.
For more information on Duvanco Homes, visit www.duvancohomes.com.
For more information on the Quinte Home Builders Association, visit www.quintehomebuilders.com
Jim Barber writes for Bay of Quinte Living, and resides in Napanee, part of the Bay of Quinte Region.