Canada’s second-fastest growing city is a bull market

by Neil Sharma on 02 Jun 2021

Ottawa is Canada’s second-fastest growing city and it should surprise no one that its real estate market is as hot as any in the country.

“We’re seeing an incredible amount of people moving to the city, and there’s a lot of movement within the city as well, but the economics behind Ottawa is no surprise to me—it’s why we’re one of the fastest growing cities in Canada,” said Derek Nzeribe, president and founder of House Collection Realty and Milborne Group’s regional director for Ottawa.

Employment in Ottawa has long been associated with the federal government and the cities’ post-secondary institutions, including Carleton University and the University of Ottawa, but the city has also become a technology hub in recent years. A lot of research and development is done in Ottawa—the old Blackberry site was converted into a testing and creation facility for autonomous vehicles; Amazon has established large distribution centres in the city; Apple has built its own research and development base; and Shopify is headquartered in the city.

Nzeribe credits the Canada 150 campaign for highlighting the city’s virtues, having noticed the local market shift in late 2016 into early 2017, and while the COVID-19 pandemic was as much a nadir for activity in Ottawa as it was in the rest of the world, it wasn’t long before business resumed as usual. In fact, it’s writ large in Ottawa’s real estate market.

“In February 2020 from a month earlier, we saw numbers that were unprecedented with serious growth and a market that was still moving very quickly,” said Nzeribe. “Once the pandemic was declared and there was a bit of uncertainty, we saw a lot of that stall, but had there not been the pandemic and we continued on as business as usual, we would be in this scenario either way. The market was already heading in this direction.”

Now, the market is showing signs of healthy moderation. According to the latest figures from the Ottawa Real Estate Board (OREB), there were 2,402 sales in April, well above the five-year average of 1,830 transactions.

“As the typical spring market ramped up, April was poised to be the strongest on record with over 3,200 new listings of properties for sale. Most of these properties entered the market before the province’s stricter lockdown order was announced midway through the month. At that point, the trajectory sputtered, and while it continued to be active, it followed a noticeable decline as Sellers responded to the government’s resolution to reduce the spread of COVID-19,” said Debra Wright, the board’s president.

“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.” According to Nzeribe’s figures, the average detached home price in Ottawa was $892,000 in April, up from around $630,000 a year earlier, while OREB had the average condo selling for $427,145.

“From March to April, we’re still seeing pricing that’s holding steady,” he said. “We’re seeing about a 1% increase in pricing month-over-month but we’re not seeing incredibly fast paced moving numbers. We’re showing that things are starting to level off and coming to a more stable level of pricing. There are no longer 25-30 people bidding on the same house and properties are being listed closer to what their actual values are, and as a result we’re seeing the market stabilize now in that respect.”

However, Ottawa’s condo market is the segment to watch, added Nzeribe, because prices have rose by 11% from January to April.

“It’s interesting compared to other years, and it’s continuing to grow. I’m bullish on the residential condo apartment market in Ottawa. The reason there’s so much strong activity in the condo market is it’s in reaction to the other markets.”

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