By Peter Squire
If there is one weekend that exemplifies what Manitoba is as a province, it has to be the May long weekend. Whether you have a cottage or recreation property, you want to get out of the city and enjoy one of our many lakes and beaches. Those who do own cottages traditionally open them up on this weekend and prepare them for another glorious season where new memories will be made while enjoying the lake in all its bucolic splendor.
From a pure real estate point of view — beyond all the intangibles that get attached to rest and relaxation at the lake while getting away from your job and home in the city — the pandemic has made lake country living even more appealing as more Manitobans are avoiding the typical rushed weekend commute back and forth to the city by working remotely full time from these relaxing escapes.
Demand in general for all property types has been exceptionally robust this past year due to historically low interest rates and the realization that if you are in a world subject to so much uncertainty around travel out of province or internationally, why not put more of your time and money into your own backyard. In Manitoba’s case, the backyard extends well beyond the city as property here is extensive, accessible and affordable compared to many other provinces in Canada.
This long weekend, long-time cottage owners heading out to the lake will be joined by a number of first-time owners as 2020 — and the first four months of this year — has shown a real resurgence in interest and demand for acquisition of lake country property as evidenced by transactions on the Winnipeg Regional Real Estate Board’s (WRREB) Multiple Listing Service® (MLS®). It was clearly one reason sales outside Winnipeg in 2020 were significantly higher in percentage growth terms than inside the city.
It should be noted that the property-type equivalent for lake country MLS® sales is residential-detached since it has been determined that it’s very difficult to distinguish cottages from homes in Manitoba, so the former resort property category has now being folded into the residential-detached category in 2021.
So what is happening in 2021 specifically? What started to unfold last year — when June began an 11-month record-setting WRREB MLS® sales run where each month easily outperformed the same month from 2019 and has set new monthly sales records ever since — is even more pronounced this year.
For the MLS® area along the west side of Lake Winnipeg, which captures all of the beach communities along the shoreline including the town of Gimli, residential-detached listings entered on the MLS® for the first four months are similar to the previous year, with 76 in 2020 and 78 in 2021. However, conversion of those listings to sales is remarkably different when compared to last year. Up to 70 (or 90%) of 2021 listings have been sold whereas only 26 (or 34%) sold in 2020. It is worth noting that of the 12 condos in this area that were entered on the MLS® this year, 11 of them have already sold.
Heading across Lake Winnipeg to see how the east side beach communities like Grand Marais and Victoria Beach are faring is again indicative of exceptionally strong demand for lake country living. There are not enough listings to keep up as there have been 60 sales out of the 59 that have been entered on the MLS® this year. This works out to a 102% conversion rate while last year it was only 18% — or 18 sales out of 55 listings.
Similarly, another lake country MLS® area further north along Lake Winnipeg — which includes towns like Lac du Bonnet and Pine Falls — has experienced a dramatic difference in listings being converted to sales with 56 sales out of 69 listings compared to only 19 sales out of 74 listings in 2020.
Not to be left out, two other MLS® areas in WRREB’s large market region are considered lake country locations as well. One is geographically far-reaching in scope, sandwiched between Lake Winnipeg and Lake Manitoba, and includes Teulon, Lundar, St. Laurent, Riverton and Ashern. The other MLS® area is located in the Whiteshell and includes Pinawa, Whitemouth and Seven Sisters Falls. Both are desirable areas in which to live while enjoying the surrounding bountiful nature.
Both of these areas saw much more active churn of listings to sales in 2021 compared to 2020. The Whiteshell MLS® area is performing exceptionally well this year with 23 out of 24 listings sold compared to 11 out of 27 for the same four month in 2020. The other MLS® area mentioned is showing marked improvement in 2021 with 66 sales out of 88 listings sold. This is in sharp contrast to 27 sales generated from 82 listings in 2020.
Heading into the long weekend, there are 116 active residential-detached listings to check out for all five rural MLS® areas and you’ll see more come to market in the next few months once seasonal and cottage property owners are able to get their property prepared for sale during prime-time use.
It is worth noting that many of these lake country properties are 4-season and becoming permanent residences to be used all year. As has been mentioned by market analysts looking at the rural exodus of Canadians in 2020 due to the pandemic, the line between a getaway cottage and a permanent home is becoming blurred.
There is also a lot of future planning for a home or cottage in lake country going on as is evident from the huge spike in vacant land sales in the first four months of this year compared to the same period in 2020. In fact, 156 sales versus 37 works out to an astounding 322% increase in sales activity. Many of these properties are waterfront or located near the lake while others back onto golf courses or are larger acreages which may never be developed.
If we do unfortunately get rain this long weekend, don’t despair as you will have more time inside to check out all the latest lake country listings available at winnipegregionalrealestatenews.com. Although our parched province can certainly use the rain.
Peter Squire is the Winnipeg Regional Real Estate Board’s Vice-President, External Relations & Market