This time, election call fails to cool Ottawa real estate market

Robert Bostelaar, Ottawa Citizen
Published on: September 4, 2015

The federal election has yet to cast its usual chill on Ottawa’s real estate market.

Sales of existing houses as measured by the Ottawa Real Estate Board rose 6.6 per cent in August from a year earlier, despite Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s election call on Aug. 2.

That’s a departure from the usual sales slowdown in the capital when a federal vote is pending. Why are buyers reluctant at election time? “I’m not necessarily sure,” board president David Oikle said Thursday. “Maybe they hesitate — ‘maybe a change in government might impact me’ — and so sometimes people slow down.”

Last month, though, the board recorded 1,279 sales during August, compared with 1,200 in August 2014. The total also topped the five-year average for August sales of 1,234. The figures are based on the board’s Multiple Listing Service and do not take in private sales or other non-MLS transactions.

Ottawa’s real estate market has shown steady if modest growth in recent months. With the August numbers, sales are up 4.2 per cent so far in 2015. The average price across all housing categories, meantime, has risen to $370,951 from $364,307, according to the board.

The August numbers were helped by an 18-per-cent rise in condominium sales, the second monthly increase for a long-lagging category. For the year, condo sales now are on par with 2014.
After months as a “buyer’s market,” Ottawa could be moving to a more balanced real estate scene with a 5.3-per-cent drop in the inventory of unsold properties in August, Oikle said. The average number of days a property is on the market before a sale, however, rose to 89 from 78 in July.

While election uncertainty might become more of a factor as the Oct. 19 vote draws closer, the board president noted that the Ottawa market has been steady in the face of “mixed economic results” in many sectors in the past year. At the same time, however, it offers a lot of choice and, unlike Toronto and Vancouver, remains relatively affordable for first-time buyers.
“We’ve got a circumstance where transactions are up, prices are stable … there’s lots of good stuff going on, and I think it’s healthy,” he said.

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