Photo: James Bombales

Industry watchers have been saying for months that 2018 would be a hot year for the Ottawa real estate market. But no one predicted that listings would reach their lowest levels in decades, prompting further speculation that housing prices could be about to go way up.

According to the Ottawa Real Estate Board (OREB), February saw listings for single detached homes and condos drop 21 per cent and 26 per cent, respectively.

“Right now just about every agent in the city has somebody looking to buy, but we can’t find what they’re looking for because our inventories are low,” writes OREB president Ralph Shaw, in a statement.

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Shaw says that if the trend continues, the market will move firmly into sellers’ territory, with buyers having to compete for a limited number of listings.

That trend is already starting to manifest in higher housing prices. The benchmark price for a single detached home jumped 8.5 per cent year-over-year to $409,200 in February. Meanwhile, the benchmark price for a condo rose 5.6 per cent year-over-year to $273,200.

“We have a lot of people right now that really want to buy a property, but the listings just aren’t there,” Ottawa-based real estate agent Paul Rushforth tells BuzzBuzzNews.

According to Rushforth, demand is growing for the Ottawa market as buyers look for more affordable options than Toronto and Vancouver.

“It’s a lot more affordable, you can get so much more for your money in Ottawa than you can in, say, Toronto,” he tells BuzzBuzzNews.

As to why listings are so low? According to Shaw, one factor could be Baby Boomers reluctant to downsize.

“We aren’t providing what they’re looking for as far as rightsizing of their homes,” he writes. “When it’s a lifestyle change there’s no immediacy about it, so it’s up to the sales force to get out and explain the options.”

Whatever the reason, Rushforth says Ottawa buyers should brace for higher prices if more listings don’t make their way onto the market: “Right now we’re seeing buyers having to pay over asking, we’re seeing bidding wars, and we haven’t seen that in Ottawa for years.”

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