Headline News By James Bagnall 108 Views

Ottawa's strange pandemic-fuelled year in real estate: The drive for more space continues

Stoke Lacey — that sprawling, 227-acre beachfront property along the Ottawa River just west of Pinhey’s Point — has long been a symbol of this region’s most thrilling chapter in high-tech.

Michael Cowpland, the British-born co-founder of Mitel Corp., shelled out nearly $1 million in the late 1970s to buy the land and its 20,000-square-foot bungalow, then spent $1 million more to add a pool, tennis court, solarium, discotheque and helicopter pad. In today’s money, that’s nearly $8 million altogether. The result was party central for an entrepreneur who loved to entertain.

The estate was listed before Christmas by its current owner for $5.8 million. “It may not be worth it to renovate,” said Marilyn Wilson, the sales representative and owner of Marilyn Wilson Dream Properties Inc. “This is really more for someone who is looking for land, waterfront and privacy,” she added.

In short, Stoke Lacey has become a very different kind of symbol — it’s now a refuge from the pandemic. And a very green one at that. Before he sold the property nearly 40 years ago, Cowpland planted some 50,000 blue spruce trees. A mature forest has emerged to significantly enhance the property’s privacy.

“There’s been a tremendous demand for rural properties,” said Reba Wilson, broker and director of marketing for Dream Properties. “So far this year, the market remains very active.”

The Ottawa Real Estate Board reported Wednesday that its members sold nearly 2,200 residential properties last year in 15 of the largest towns across the Ottawa Valley: up 8 per cent from 2019 despite a slump in the spring. In Ottawa, the number of resales approached 10,500, up little more than one per cent over the same period.

Valley properties also saw relatively greater price gains, though there is quite a bit of catching up to do. The average price for rural properties last year was $449,900, up 24.4 per cent compared to 2019.  Board data showed that residential resales within Ottawa averaged $641,200, up 19 per cent from 2019.

The numbers from December alone suggest there is still quite a bit of momentum in the overall market.

The board said its member agents sold a record 710 residential properties last month, up 34 per cent from December 2019. Condos were also moving swiftly, with 292 sales last month, up 29 per cent year over year.

In Ottawa and throughout the valley, the board tallied a total of 14,455 residential resales in 2020, up three per cent from 2019. Agents affiliated with the board also sold 4,516 condos, for a decline of 1.5 per cent. Overall, there was marginal net increase in total activity for residences and condos combined.