Out-of-town home buyers like what they see in Windsor

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

The Windsor Star/Craig Pearson




The invasion of the out-of-town home buyers has begun.

Skyrocketing prices in the Toronto area have encouraged more house hunters to consider moving to Windsor and Essex County in search of affordable housing — and they’re finding a nice place to live, to boot.

“Prices have soared here,” said Jeff Branget, who is heading to Tecumseh from Milton with his wife and three children in July. “So we started looking further and further west. With Windsor prices, we will suddenly be mortgage free with some money in the bank.

“We just couldn’t turn it down. My wife was literally going to work (with a long commute) just so we could stay in this area.”

The first home Jeff and Stephanie Branget bought together was a townhouse for $300,000. Five years later they sold it for $600,000. They bought another place for $735,000 and nine months later sold it for $930,000.


But tired of the housing rat race and monstrous mortgages, they and their children, aged 6, 7 and 1, will now move to a split-level, four-bedroom home in Tecumseh they bought for $341,000.

Born in Timmins and raised near Hamilton, Branget said his parents — who hail from the Windsor area — recently moved back home. It sounded like a great lifestyle change to him.

“There are a lot of myths about the GTA, and they’re all positive myths, that it’s the place to be,” said Jeff, who buys and sells comic books online and will be able to work from home in Tecumseh. “And there seems to be some negative myths about Windsor. But they’re not true. It’s a great area to live in.”

Windsor real estate agent Julie Bondy, who found Branget’s new home, said Windsor is popping up on home-buyers’ radar further and further away.

“What’s happening in the market right now is we still have relatively low inventory and we have a lot of demand from buyers,” Bondy said. “In the hottest areas, when you have a good, well-staged house, you’re seeing a lot of offers and a lot of money over list.”

In fact, just a week ago Bondy sold a home in LaSalle for $100,000 over list price. Also, Bondy recently sold a house to an eager out-of-town buyer by showing it to him through FaceTime on her smartphone as she walked through the house.

Low interest rates and a low unemployment rate are factors, said Bondy, as are the relatively affordable prices compared to Toronto. But she also believes people find much to like locally, with Detroit next door, an airport, nice weather and more.

“People from Toronto are all paying off their mortgages or having very low mortgages by coming here,” she said. “So they’re able to live very nicely in this area.

“And it’s not just retirees. Families are moving down here now. We’re seeing more of that in the last six months.”

Bondy said her husband Jovan Vujovic, who owns Signature Homes Windsor, also fields increasing interest from the Toronto area for the new homes he builds, such as in a new subdivision near the Seven Lakes Golf Course.

Kim Gazo, president of the Windsor-Essex County Association of Realtors, said serious shoppers have even recently started coming from further afield than Ontario.

“We’re even seeing investors from Vancouver, who didn’t usually make it this far before,” Gazo said. “They tended to stop in Toronto. I was surprised because it’s pretty far to go. But we’ve got a lot to offer in Windsor, so why not?”

Numbers from the Windsor-Essex County Association of Realtors show Windsor-area home prices on a roll. In May, 791 properties sold for an average of $282,000, compared to $235,000 in May 2016.

What’s more, Gazo predicts the hot housing market will remain on fire for a while.

“Things are going really well,” Gazo said. “But there is still enough room for people to list their house. It’s a great time. There are a lot of buyers and not enough inventory for them.”

cpearson@windsorstar.com  twitter.com/WinStarPearson


Buying frenzy

The hot housing market in Windsor and Essex County has driven home prices up, according to the Windsor-Essex County Association of Realtors.

Average sale price, May 2017: $282,134

Average sale price, May 2016: $235,011

Most popular home styles: bungalow/ranch (235), two-storey (139), 1 1/2-storey (107), raised ranch/bi-level (105), and 1 3/4-storey (37).

Source: Windsor-Essex County Association of Realtors