Waterloo Region real estate: What you can get for $300,000, $500,000 or $800,000

Not all that long ago, it wasn’t hard to get a grasp on what was happening in Waterloo Region’s real estate market.

Prices were going up, sure – but at stable, predictable rates. Once a buyer knew how much they could afford, or a seller knew how much they were hoping for, it wasn’t hard to figure out what sort of house would sell for $250,000, or $450,000, or – for the dreamers among us — $1 million, even if it wouldn’t be for a couple years.

Now? Forget it. With homebuyers flocking in from Toronto in record numbers, with average sale prices rising by several per cent on even a month-to-month basis, it’s virtually impossible to do any advance planning around real estate deals, or to even predict what a house might sell for in a few months’ time.

This, then, is a snapshot. Not of where things will be in 2018, or even this fall, but of where Waterloo Region’s residential market stands as of May 2017, and of what sort of house is likely to sell around three price points.

$300,000: The starter home

With the average sale price of a detached home in Waterloo Region edging closer to $600,000, some buyers might think that cheaper homes are simply out of the question.

Not so, says real estate agent Kevin Reitzel.  While $300,000 may be associated with condos and townhouses these days, there are still some detached homes listing in that range.

“They’re just going to be smaller than they were a few years ago,” he says.

Reitzel estimates that a $300,000 detached home is now typically between 900 and 1,000 square feet, with two bedrooms and one or two bathrooms.

He says homes of that sort are becoming more popular with first-time buyers who may have been looking a little further upmarket until recently.

“They’ve become less picky,” he says.

$500,000: The family home

If you’re looking for the sort of home that’s traditionally been just out of reach for the typical first-time buyer, paying half a million dollars for it may be the new normal.

Reitzel says a typical $500,000 sale is now a house featuring three or four bedrooms, two or three bathrooms, 1,800 to 2,200 square feet of space, and a single or double garage.

In many cases, houses priced in this range will now sell as-is, without renovations designed to increase the home’s value.

“The house will sell itself in this market,” Reitzel says.

Part of that drive is coming from Toronto-area buyers, as they realize that their money takes them a lot further in Waterloo Region than in the cities they’re used to looking in.

$800,000: Living in luxury

It wasn’t that long ago that paying $800,000 meant you weren’t just getting one of the nicest homes in the region – you were getting one of the nicest of the nicest.

Now, though, that mark seems to be the running price in higher-end neighbourhoods like Waterloo’s Colonial Acres – and once again, newcomers to the area are part of the reason why.

“If you look on a map, it’s one of the furthest (neighbourhoods) from the 401 – but it’s a very, very popular area for Toronto people. They love it,” says Reitzel. At the other end of Waterloo, the same principle applies to Laurelwood.

Eight hundred thousand dollars is the current going price for the sort of house that would have fetched $500,000 or so at the beginning of the decade.

These are homes with larger lots and at least 2,400 square feet of space. They’re the sort of homes Reitzel refers to as “more of a lifestyle choice” than a pure housing decision.

Source: Ryan Flanagan, CTV Kitchener Published Monday, May 15, 2017

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