2012 Muskoka Real Estate Market - Year in Review

Thank you for taking the time to learn more about the real estate market in Muskoka and Almaguin Highlands. It’s my job to provide you with the information you need to make an informed decision. The following charts will give you a quick look into the 2012 real estate market, but don't hesitate to contact me if you would like more details, or click the newly improved Interactive Graphing feature on my website, now with median pricing and unit sales by price range.

Overall unit sales for Muskoka and Almaguin Highlands has increased +2.27%. Included in that number are: Single Family, Cottage, Condo, Vacant Land, Fractional, and Mobile. The highest percentage rise in unit sales of those types was vacant land/acreage with a significant increase of +33%. Finally, vacant land is starting to recover after two years of abuse due to the implementation of HST in July of 2010. The reason for this high increase in unit sales is that the average price for vacant land went down -25.4% to $114,311. This number includes waterfront and non-waterfront lots.

A non-waterfront lot would cost between $50,000 - $150,000 depending on the location and size. A waterfront lot on a smaller lake would be around $150,000 to $250,000 and on a larger lake, starting around $400,000. These are just rough numbers to start, I’ve seen lots in the Muskoka Lakes go for well over $1MM.

In the following graphs, I will explain the single family and cottage market. If you require statistics on condos or any other property types, please email sold@johnaben.com or call my cell anytime at 705-788-4770 and I’d be happy to help.

Although the unit sales are up 2.27%, when I combine single family and cottage properties for Muskoka and Almaguin Highlands the unit sales declined -1.24%. When broken down below, single family unit sales declined -3.5% and cottage properties increased +1.32%. Sales remain sluggish and still -16.79% below the peak in 2007, an indication that consumer confidence is still low. But there’s hope with many articles indicating consumer confidence is on the rise, not to mention the low interest rates. Here’s an article dated December 31st, by Bloomberg, titled “Canada Consumer Confidence Rises on Real Estate

The average price for single family homes in Muskoka for 2012 increased +3.53%, while Muskoka cottage properties decreased -1.26%. I attribute the rise in average price for single family homes to the increased activity of retirees relocating to the area (projected growth by age), selling their more expensive homes, and moving into the higher end of our non-waterfront market, see below.

Almaguin Highlands experienced a small gain of +1.52% in average price, for single family homes and a decrease of -2.69% with cottage properties. If you are up for the drive, you will be amazed how much more value you will get in a cottage property in Almaguin Highlands.

Muskoka cottages are more affordable now than last year and still -4.63% below the peak in 2007. Single family homes in Muskoka have reached their highest level, despite unit sales declining year after year. Since peaking in 2007 unit sales are -25% lower. Although these increases have been marginal over the past 5-6 years, it’s mostly attributed to the volume of higher end homes off the water being sold, not an actual rise in the home prices.

Let’s take a look at the Muskoka Cottages selling on the larger lakes. I’ve used Lake Joseph, Muskoka, Rosseau, Lake of Bays and the Huntsville lakes (Fairy, Mary, Peninsula and Vernon) in the chart below. It wasn’t an overly eventful year for the larger lakes with unit sales remaining basically flat from 2011 to 2012 with overall only 12 fewer sales for 2012.

Average sale prices for the large lakes in Muskoka were flat as well with the exception of the Huntsville lakes where the increase in average sale price was +20.66%, pretty amazing considering unit sales were down -25%. This increase can be attributed to the highest sale price ever on the Huntsville lakes through real estate at $2,400,000, see below.

For the first time I would like to talk about the smaller lakes and rivers in Muskoka and Almaguin Highlands. One can argue which lakes are considered large and which lakes are small, but here’s the list I used:  Big Lakes, Small Lakes.

The average sale price for both Muskoka and Almaguin Highlands are trending up. The 2012 average Muskoka cottage is now 1% higher than the previous high in 2008, at $408,119.

Real estate statistics are a great way to take the pulse of a particular market but knowing what the numbers mean, can sometimes be confusing. Here’s the difference between average and median price.

Average: is the set of data added together divided by the number of data that you have.  

Example: $250,000, $280,000, $285,000, $350,000, $500,000; add them up equals $1,665,000. Divide $1,665,000 by 5 and average is $333,000.  

Median: is the exact middle number that exists in an ordered set (smallest to largest) of data.

Example: $250,000, $280,000, $285,000, $350,000, $500,000; the middle number is the third number, "$285,000" which is the median. In this case the median has exactly two numbers on each side of it. Now, if there is no middle number, such as $250,000, $280,000, $280,000, $285,000, $350,000, $500,000 then average the two middle numbers, which would be an average of $280,000 and $285,000 which is $282,500.

Average and median are both measures of central tendency, but the average can be skewed by very large or very small data.

You'll notice in the second chart below that there’s very little change in the median price for each town. Using the median price helps to more accurately display what’s happening in the single family real estate market by removing the very low, or very high data, which is the case for the Muskoka market.

To the left is a complete breakdown of the residential market for Bracebridge, Gravenhurst and Huntsville, by price range. If you look up the price range you believe your house would fall into, you can find out how many buyers there were for the particular year. For example, if your home is in Huntsville and has a market value of $450,000, there were 8 buyers last year.


Let’s look at Average sale price and how we compare to other cities in Ontario. I’ve provided two Muskoka options for comparison purposes: (1) properties without waterfront, and (2) all properties including waterfront. The homes in Muskoka, not on the water, are clearly well below the cities evaluated. On the other hand, the properties with waterfront were comparable to the GTA until last year. While the greater Toronto area continued to trend upward, Muskoka plateaued in 2012, possibly because our largest customer base is from the GTA and with their market continuing it’s upward trend, Torontonians are being more cautious, because that trend cannot continue. Here’s an article looking at the uncertainty in the Toronto market:  What will spring bring for Toronto real estate?

The next two charts show the breakdown of cottage properties by price range, 2011 vs. 2012 for both Muskoka and Almaguin Highlands.

The highest sale in 2012 through real estate for Muskoka was $5,900,000 on Lake Rosseau.

The highest sale in 2012 through real estate for Almaguin Highlands was $637,500 on Mirage Lake, located 10 minutes north of Huntsville.

10 more sales over $400,000 for 2012 over 2011, resulted in the average price for single family homes to rise +3.53%.

What type of market are we experiencing? The ratio of number of sales to number of listed properties, tells us if we are in a buyer’s market, seller’s market or balanced market.

Balanced market indicates you can expect stable price growth - around the rate of inflation.

Buyer’s market indicates slow growth - below the rate of inflation.

Seller’s market indicates you can expect rapid price growth - higher than the rate of inflation.

For 2012, the cottage market was balanced with the exception of Huntsville, where it was a buyer’s market. There were more new listings than number of properties that sold.

With respect to the single family market there was balance in all areas for 2012.

It’s difficult to determine an accurate days-on-market stat. The problem is that if a cottage is listed multiple times, the formula used to calculate the days on market only used the time on market within a date range.

So, when I calculated the days on market for 2012, I averaged how long the properties for each area took to sell. If a property was listed in 2011 for 200 days, then comes off the market for the winter, re-listed in spring of 2012, the 200 days from 2011 are not included in the stat. Therefore, the days on market shown below would be on the low side.

When dealing in real estate, why not work with the company that has the highest percentage of market share. Royal LePage Lakes of Muskoka has been a consistent market leader in Muskoka and Almaguin Highlands for years.

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