Where to Buy Now

THE REAL ES­TATE IS­SUE

Ottawa Magazine - - FRONT PAGE - By Laura Byrne Paquet with files from Sarah Brown, Matt Har­ri­son, Dayanti Karunaratne, and Joseph Mathieu

BBack in the late 1950s, the Cana­dian dream home was a big bun­ga­low on a big sub­ur­ban lot, prefer­ably on a quiet cul-de-sac where the fam­ily’s 3.9 chil­dren could safely play road hockey and ev­ery­one could park their gi­ant finned cars. The gi­ant cars were key be­cause peo­ple needed them to get to the mall, to school, to the den­tist’s of­fice, and just about any­where else they wanted to go.

Sev­eral gen­er­a­tions later, many of those 3.9 chil­dren — and their mil­len­nial off­spring — have a dif­fer­ent dream in mind. With ris­ing gas prices and in­creas­ing traf­fic, park­ing isn’t the draw­ing card it once was. Long drives are be­com­ing deal break­ers.

And re­search shows those long drives aren’t good for you, either. Ac­cord­ing to an On­tario study pub­lished in the Jour­nal of the Amer­i­can Med­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion in 2016, pedes­trian-scaled neigh­bour­hoods were as­so­ci­ated with lower rates of obe­sity and de­creased in­ci­dence of di­a­betes. (The au­thors added, how­ever, that more re­search is needed to de­ter­mine whether walk­a­bil­ity was the rea­son res­i­dents of those ar­eas were slim­mer and health­ier than other peo­ple.) The Holy Grail of ’Hoods Be­yond phys­i­cal health, there’s that hard-to-mea­sure yearn­ing for hu­man con­nec­tion that we know con­trib­utes to qual­ity of life. Ama­zon, eBay, and Canada Post bring the world’s goods to our door. Many of our in­ter­ac­tions with even our clos­est friends and rel­a­tives are me­di­ated through screens. If we’re not care­ful, we can spend days in­doors, star­ing at In­sta­gram, never hear­ing a hu­man voice.

Is it any won­der that vi­brant, walk­a­ble neigh­bour­hoods are the holy grail for many?

They’re so cov­eted, in fact, that the liveli­est ones are out of reach for most home-buy­ers. Even a small place in the Glebe, West­boro, or New Ed­in­burgh doesn’t come cheap (a pock­et­sized one-bed­room condo at Bank Street and Third Av­enue was listed re­cently at $429,000, which is roughly $88,000 higher than the lat­est me­dian condo price for the city as a whole, ac­cord­ing to sta­tis­tics from Royal LePage). With new mort­gage rules that will see some buy­ers turned down no mat­ter what the size of their down pay­ment, houses in pop­u­lar ar­eas are more out of reach than ever.

On Jan­uary 1, 2018, new rules came into ef­fect that will af­fect most peo­ple who are ne­go­ti­at­ing mort­gages with a fed­er­ally reg­u­lated lender. Now, any­one mov­ing their mort­gage to an­other bank or re­fi­nanc­ing their home will be sub­ject to a stress test to de­ter­mine whether they can keep pay­ing their mort­gage if in­ter­est rates rise by two or more per­cent­age points above the con­tracted rate.

“We’re one of the only ma­jor Cana­dian cities that hasn’t had a price drop in 21 years” — Hanna Browne, bro­ker, Royal LePage Team Realty

Lenders and real es­tate agents be­lieve the new rules make sense and will help keep home­own­ers from overex­tend­ing them­selves, says Hanna Browne, a bro­ker with Royal LePage Team Realty.

The flip side is that buy­ers in 2018 will be able to af­ford a lot less than they could last year. “A fam­ily with an in­come of $100,000, be­fore the new year, they would have been able to qual­ify for a home at $550,000, whereas now they can prob­a­bly only pur­chase around $475,000,” says Browne, cit­ing Ot­tawa Real Es­tate Board (OREB) sta­tis­tics. As a re­sult, houses in ex­pen­sive, pop­u­lar ar­eas will be more out of reach than ever.

What is an Emerg­ing ’Hood? But here’s the good news: if you dream of liv­ing in a neigh­bour­hood where you can meet friends in a pub, browse in a farm­ers’ mar­ket, or ac­tu­ally talk to your neigh­bours in­stead of just wav­ing at them through your wind­shield, you don’t nec­es­sar­ily have to be house-poor. (Af­ter all, as Browne points out, OREB sta­tis­tics sug­gest al­most 10,000 of the 13,500 houses sold in the city in 2017 went for un­der $500,000.)

You just have to think ahead and be pa­tient. What you need is an emerg­ing neigh­bour­hood — one that doesn’t have quite all the bells and whis­tles yet but likely will soon.

So what puts a neigh­bour­hood in the “emerg­ing” cat­e­gory? It’s an in­ex­act sci­ence, and my past pre­dic­tions haven’t al­ways come true. How­ever, a few fac­tors usu­ally play a role, in­clud­ing in­ten­si­fi­ca­tion, ma­jor in­fra­struc­ture projects, and pub­lic tran­sit im­prove­ments. New roads, bridges, tran­sit sta­tions, and wa­ter sys­tems can make more in­ten­sive de­vel­op­ment pos­si­ble, at­tract­ing more res­i­dents. That higher pop­u­la­tion den­sity makes many ameni­ties more fea­si­ble. In other words, if you build it, they (res­i­dents, shops, ser­vices, schools, doc­tors, craft brew­eries, or­ganic bak­eries, your hip­ster cousin) may come. The key word is may.

“It’s a bit of a chicken and egg with busi­ness be­cause you have to have a cer­tain level of pop­u­la­tion to be able to at­tract and keep busi­nesses — but you know, peo­ple aren’t go­ing to move in un­less there are busi­nesses,” notes Phyl­lis Oden­bach Sut­ton, pres­i­dent of the Ot­tawa East Com­mu­nity As­so­ci­a­tion.

One Word: Que­bec Of­ten, those will­ing to take a chance on a neigh­bour­hood in tran­si­tion are flex­i­ble be­cause they don’t have the bud­get to buy in the hottest ar­eas. If that sounds like you, I have one word: Que­bec. In the last quar­ter of 2017, the ag­gre­gate me­dian price of a house in Gatineau was $265,759, or 60 per cent of the cor­re­spond­ing fig­ure of $442,533 for Ot­tawa.

Of course, there are other fac­tors to think about be­sides price when putting down roots in Que­bec. English-lan­guage schools, uni­ver­sity tu­ition fees, hy­dro rates, and car in­sur­ance prices, among other fac­tors, might sway home­own­ers one way or an­other.

If you’re look­ing to get in on the ground floor of the Next Big Thing, here are four neigh­bour­hoods to con­sider — two in Ot­tawa and two in the Ou­taouais.

The usual nar­ra­tive of de­vel­oper ver­sus es­tab­lished neigh­bour­hood goes some­thing like this: De­vel­oper pro­poses project. Res­i­dents ex­plode. Plan­ning bat­tles en­sue.

When it comes to the con­struc­tion of roughly 1,050 new hous­ing units on the Oblate Fa­thers’ prop­erty on Main Street, how­ever, Old Ot­tawa East has flipped the script. “I think that de­vel­op­ment has been wel­comed by the com­mu­nity,” says Sut­ton. “The open big space and trees were lovely, but we also rec­og­nized that it was not likely go­ing to stay that way for­ever.”

One rea­son for the amity seems to be that the new de­vel­op­ments — the Cor­ners on Main con­dos (Domi­cile De­vel­op­ments) and the Grey­stone Vil­lage con­dos, town­houses, and sin­gle-fam­ily houses (by Re­gional Group and eQ Homes) — ben­e­fit the area’s cur­rent res­i­dents. Karen Watts, a se­nior sales rep­re­sen­ta­tive for Domi­cile, says many buy­ers in her project are empty nesters from sur­round­ing streets look­ing to down­size.

The neigh­bour­hood’s pop­u­la­tion grew by a mod­est two per cent be­tween 2011 and 2016. How­ever, once the Cor­ners on Main and Grey­stone Vil­lage are com­pleted and fully oc­cu­pied — likely by 2019 — the 2016 pop­u­la­tion of roughly 7,000 could leap by 25 per cent. Lo­cals hope the in­flux of new res­i­dents will sup­port more shops, ser­vices, and res­tau­rants.

The 29.5-acre Oblate lands de­vel­op­ment is not the only news. Main Street has just un­der­gone a two-year $39-mil­lion re­con­struc­tion project — part of the city’s Com­plete Streets ini­tia­tive — de­signed to make the road safer. Pre­dictably, there have been com­plaints about con­fus­ing sig­nage and rush-hour traf­fic, but Sut­ton says the trade-offs are worth it. “In terms of walk­a­bil­ity, liv­abil­ity, the abil­ity to bike, it has made an un­be­liev­able dif­fer­ence.” An­other boon for lo­cal pedes­tri­ans and cy­clists will be the $21-mil­lion Rideau Canal Cross­ing — a 123-me­tre-long pedes­trian bridge be­tween Old Ot­tawa East and the Glebe sched­uled for com­ple­tion in Au­gust 2019.

Bound­aries Queensway to the north, Colonel By Drive/Echo Drive to the west, Riverdale Av­enue to the south, and the Rideau River to the east

Old Town Hall Com­mu­nity Cen­tre

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