London Calling


London broker Ty Lacroix likes to promote a two-for-one deal to baby boomer clients from other cities - buy a condo in London and still have enough money for another vacation home in Florida.

That's because compared to nearby Toronto, London offers a comparable housing size and style for less than half the price. Lacroix, broker of record and owner of Envelope Real Estate, said a comparable house above $600,000 in Toronto would be as low as $225,000 in London.

Clients moving to London after being transferred from other major cities are often shocked at the value they can get for their price range. "I tell them I can buy you a mansion here for that price," Lacroix says.

LONDON'S LURE

Using May housing statistics, the average home in London-St. Thomas area was $236,067 according to the local real estate board. In Vancouver it was $812,326, in Toronto it was $473,337, and just an hour down the road in Kitchener-Waterloo it was still a much pricier $303,837.

"London is a good place to invest in real estate because it is still a reasonably priced housing market," says Kathy Mendham- Meathrel, a sales representative at Realty Executives Elite who also writes a blog on London's market. "This lower price means that more people can afford to make real estate part of their portfolio."

Located about halfway between Toronto and Detroit, London has a growing population of 352,000, according to the latest census. Homeownership is increasing in London, but still 38% of the population were renters in the latest census.

The city says it has spent $300 million over the past 15 years to help build projects like the John Labatt Centre and London Convention Centre in downtown.

Situated along the Quebec City - Windsor Corridor, it lies at the junction of Highway 401 and 402 and has an international airport. London's proximity to the U.S. made it an especially strong manufacturing location; however the rise of the Canadian dollar has significantly challenged that industry.

The unemployment rate rose to 8.7% according to July stats, from 8.2% a year earlier. That upward trend is the opposite of what's been seen in some other Ontario cities. Windsor dropped from 12.4% a year ago to 9.2% this year, and Kitchener- Waterloo-Cambridge dropped from 7.7% to 6.9% over that same period.

With a mixture of blue-collar and white-collar residents, however, a decline in a single industry will not be able to sink the London economy overall.

REAL ESTATE MARKET REBOUNDING THUS FAR THIS YEAR

The local real estate market has been moving in a positive direction in London, prompting some media speculation that a more long-term rebound could be expected. Housing starts rose 15% year-over-year to 162 in June from 141 a year earlier.

To get find out why the London rental market is so strong, pick up a copy of our October issue, on newsstands until Oct. 12.

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