Parry Sound emerges as luxury property hotspot

by Neil Sharma on 19 Mar 2021

Ryan McKeown is the owner of I Branched Out, a home décor shop in Parry Sound that specializes in high-end, custom furniture using real Ontario wood. Born and raised in the town of just over 6,000 residents, McKeown’s has noticed a dramatic change over the last several years.

“It started three or so years ago, but the pandemic has certainly caused people to get out of the city and move north. We’re only two hours from Toronto,” McKeown told CREW. “We see that in my store all the time. Just today, I had someone who listed their downtown Toronto condo and they’re building a cottage 10 minutes from downtown Parry Sound.”

I Branched Out, located on Parry Sound’s main street, is a popular destination for one-of-a-kind craft furniture purchases, and as a result it receives customers from as far as the immediate GTA. However, like most small businesses, it has struggled through the COVID-19 pandemic, and according to McKeown, if not for the seeming tidal wave of new residents, his business might not have survived.

“Our store made it through the pandemic mainly because of the new building here in Parry Sound,” he said. “We see eight to 10 people every Saturday who aren’t from here.”

As a result, it has become commonplace for houses in the town to sell for over $1 million, and according to Matt Smith, who’s launching a boutique brokerage, Engel & Völkers Parry Sound, in the town’s downtown on March 22, people are moving to the town for its “12-month living.”

“The big attraction to the area is the lifestyle. You get a lot more activities in Parry Sound with the trails, boating and the outdoors lifestyle,” said Smith, a longtime broker with Engel & Völkers Toronto Central in Yorkville. “A lot of communities this size can’t support a year-round lifestyle, which means they shut down after Thanksgiving, but Parry Sound has a regional hospital here, and it really is a regional hub. It can support 12-month living.”

The town is receiving a robust contingent of entrepreneurs who are opening up high-end boutiques, as well as young artists, says Smith. Moreover, some of the available properties are as opulent as anything found in Toronto, if not more, including a 37-acre, 50,000 sq ft former lodge whose current owner is using it as a private residential estate. The town’s emergence as a hotspot for luxury properties compelled Smith to open Engel & Völkers Parry Sound and staff it with local realtors.

And with a slew of custom construction in the town, Smith anticipates his new brokerage will be busy.

“It’s really gotten a lot stronger since COVID happened,” said Smith. “It had been coming along for a few years, with families relocating up here and skyrocketing prices. You used to be able to pick up a nice place in the low to high $800,000 range, but now it’s well over $1 million. The price points alone have driven things to luxury status. You used to find waterfront cottages here and now people aren’t building cottages, they’re building four-season homes. These are the changes we’ve seen in Parry Sound in the last 12 to 18 months.”

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