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Ottawa home builders rushing to keep up with pent-up pandemic demand

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The Ottawa Real Estate Board said the city's housing market is primed to stay hot as long as demand outstrips supply. Craig Lord / Global News

Ottawa home builders are getting started on more new properties this summer as buyers rush to get into the market following spring’s pandemic disruption.

Ottawa’s builders got to work on 740 new units in July, according to housing starts data released Tuesday by the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corp. That’s a 24 per cent increase over the same month in 2019.

The biggest spike was seen in apartments and other non-detached dwellings: work started on 417 units in this category, an increase of 29 per cent year over year.

Read more: Annual pace of new housing construction increased almost 16% in July, CMHC says

Home buyers, meanwhile, are still rushing to get into a hot market that’s quickly rebounding from the novel coronavirus pandemic shutdown.

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The Ottawa Real Estate Board (OREB) said late last week that its realtors sold 2,189 properties in July, a year-over-year increase of 19 per cent. The five-year average for home sales in July, which usually sees a summer slowdown in deals, is 1,729, according to the board.

OREB president Deborah Burgoyne said in a statement that with the pandemic curtailing the spring market, the summer months are fielding the pent-up demand.

The unseasonal summer activity is also seeing home prices rise.

The OREB said the average sale price of a condo in Ottawa was $357,764 last month, a year-over-year increase of 19 per cent. On the residential-class side, properties sold for an average of $585,084 in July, an increase of 20 per cent from last year.

Burgoyne noted that 57 per cent of listings sold over the asking price last month, compared to 37 per cent in July 2019.

But the fervent pace of housing starts in Ottawa could eventually put downward pressure on the city’s hot market. Burgoyne said the market is likely to stay hot as long as demand outstrips Ottawa’s housing supply.

Burgoyne said “timing is critical” for anyone contemplating a move. While sellers are primed to make a solid return on their investments, the matter becomes more complicated if a move is tied to another purchase in the market.

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“This market is challenging for all involved, and more balance would be a welcomed relief for everyone,” she said.

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