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Ottawa house prices up 7.9% in April; Number of units sold near record

Ottawa’s housing market strengthened in the favour of sellers in April as average prices for residential properties jumped 7.9 per cent year over year to $435,900. Members of the Ottawa Real Estate Board sold nearly 1,500 properties in April, up 2.5 per cent compared to April 2016, the OREB reported Wednesday.

The market for condominiums, meanwhile, saw prices move up more gradually while sales activity accelerated. The average price of an Ottawa condo in April was $268,600, up just 2.9 per cent year over year while the number of condo sales jumped 18.2 per cent to 312 units. (Data for Gatineau will be available later in the month.)

Despite the increases, the Ottawa housing scene is considered more or less in balance between buyers and sellers, certainly compared to Toronto, where it is still very much a frothy, seller’s market. The average price for a detached home in Toronto in April surged 25.2 per cent year over year to $1.6 million while the average condo sale fetched $578,000 — up 32.3 per cent compared to April 2016, according to the Toronto Real Estate Board.

The shifts in benchmark house prices across Ottawa varied significantly by district. They ranged from a year over year gain of 15 per cent for single family homes in the OREB district of Hunt Club/Windsor Park, to a nine per cent decline for homes sold in Rockcliffe Park.

The pattern suggests a slight levelling of home values is occurring. Most of the real estate districts that posted double-digit gains are in the middle of the pack in terms of house values — and exist outside the city’s core. The three worst performing districts — Rockcliffe Park, New Edinburgh/Lindenlea and Manor Park/Cardinal Glen — are among the city’s most expensive.

(The detailed district data uses a benchmark price developed by the OREB and other regional agencies. This tracks housing characteristics such as age of property, number of bathrooms and type of roof, which permits the creation of an index on which the benchmark price is based. OREB claims it offers a more consistent view of underlying trends in the housing market.)

What’s driving the divergence in benchmark prices? Hunt Club/Windsor Park and several nearby districts are increasingly popular because they happen to lie along the path of the proposed southward extension of the light rail transit line.

Similar considerations apply in the west end where another spur of the LRT will eventually be built. Parkway Park/Queensway and Woodroffe each saw 10 per cent plus gains in single family home values. These OREB districts lie along the path of the proposed western spur of the LRT.

A separate catalyst is the consolidation of Department of National Defence headquarters at 3500 Carling Ave. Even though the DND project is running late, real estate agents report that military personnel transferring into Ottawa are searching for homes in the west end, rather than in the traditional DND enclaves of Orléans and Blackburn Hamlet.

Perhaps it should not be a surprise, then, that prices for single family homes rose more slowly in these areas in April, than for the city as a whole.

Published By: James Bagnall, Ottawa Citizen, May 4, 2017