Whitby: Upgrade to bigger and better

Once home to the World War II spy training ground of Camp X, Whitby is no longer such a secretive location. It’s lately become a real estate hot spot for those in the Toronto area seeking a larger home and a smaller town atmosphere.

Located east of Toronto in the Durham Region, Whitby is considered a bedroom community suburb with more than 100,000 residents.

Mike Bouma, a broker with RE/MAX Ability Real Estate Ltd., says much of Whitby is made up of four bedroom two-storey homes with 2,000 square feet or more. Many of its residents have chosen Whitby as home because of that space for a family, and still relatively close commute.

A drive might take roughly 40 minutes to get to downtown Toronto and a Go Train ride is about an hour to Union Station. The commute has lately been getting improvements, such as the 407 East Extension. There’s also an expansion at the Whitby Go Station.

In more recent years, a greater mix of starter homes, move-up properties, condos, and estate properties have been added, says Bouma.

“Prices are comparatively higher than Oshawa or Clarington,” he says. “But as you might expect, Whitby still offers greater affordability than areas further west in Durham Region.”

According to the Toronto Real Estate Board, the median price of a home in Whitby in March was $301,250, compared to $322,000 for the entire East Region and $417,000 for the Central Region. Maria Carey, a realtor with Century 21 Percy Fulton, says that median reflects the typical difference of Whitby and more central Toronto: about $100,000 less in Whitby for a comparable home.

She says properties in Whitby aren’t getting as many offers as one might find closer to Toronto, so there’s a less competitive field for buyers. “Buyers also have more choice in Whitby than they’d have in Toronto,” she says. The average days on market for a property in Whitby was 21 in March, however, still less than Toronto’s average of 23.

Bouma says prices have been moving higher in the past couple years.

“Consumer confidence is up, interest rates are still very low, and some (buyers) may even be linked to a final release of pent up demand as first time buyers who have waited for the right time to enter the market are making a move,” he says.

But there’s also a special draw to Whitby than the larger factors impacting the whole region. There’s a scenic waterfront area and marina, respected schools, and a small city charm.

Lately there has been an especially strong demand in the Port of Whitby area and in South Whitby, both offering smaller and more affordable housing options, as well as access to the train and waterfront.

Investors have also been drawn to the new condo developments sprouting up in Whitby over the last few years, as well as duplexes and triplexes. The most typical investment option is a bungalow with a basement apartment, however, says Bouma.

A three-plus-one bedroom of the semi-detached variety start in the $230,000s, says Bouma, and can draw closer to $260,000 for a detached with a legal basement. Rents roughly are $1,300 for upper units and $800 for typical inclusive basement units, he says.

Condos in the Port of Whitby attract younger professional commuters, while older sections appeal more to local renters for their affordability.

This story from the CRE/CREW  achives appeared in the July 2011 issue of the magazine.

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