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Ontario’s COVID-19 shutdown dampens Ottawa home sales in April

The Ottawa Real Estate Board said sale prices for the average residential property were up 42 per cent year-over-year in April 2021. Craig Lord / Global News

The head of the Ottawa Real Estate Board says the city’s housing market was primed to break records in April until the Ontario government’s latest shutdown measures in the COVID-19 pandemic put a damper on expected home sales.

OREB members sold 2,402 homes last month, according to figures released this week. Some 77 per cent of those sales were residential-class properties while the remainder were condos.

Overall sales represented a 164 per cent spike over last April’s figures, which were drastically cut down during the initial pandemic lockdowns.

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For more comparable figures, OREB said sales volumes were around the 2,000-unit mark in Aprils 2019 and 2018.

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OREB president Debra Wright said in a statement that April was poised to be the strongest on record with more than 3,200 new listings up for sale. But when the province’s state of emergency and stay-at-home order went into effect mid-month, “the trajectory sputtered.”

“Nevertheless, the number of transactions managed to surpass unit sales recorded in previous Aprils, and we presume the figures would have been even higher in different circumstances,” she said.

The average sale price of a residential-class home sold for $743,204 in April 2021, up 42 per cent year-over-year. The typical condo sold for $427,145, a 30-percent jump from the previous year.

Wright pointed to a continued short supply of homes on the market as reasons for the surging housing prices. She said the “substantial increase” in new listings last month gives her “cautious optimism” that supply and demand could even out sooner than later.

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“When the stay-at-home order concludes, we hope that pent-up supply will bring some much-needed housing stock to the resale market.”

She went on to caution, however, that Ottawa’s real estate market remains tough to predict.

Interest rate changes, the “skyrocketing” cost of building materials and proposals to increase the mortgage stress test could compound with changing consumer habits that are seeing some prospective buyers shop around outlying communities or in Quebec, Wright said.

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