Lake country sales being driven by the desire for a more balanced lifestyle

By Peter Squire

We’re heading into a long weekend and in Manitoba that usually involves enjoying some quality time out at the beach or cottage.

With summer coming to an end, at least in how we view it from a real estate perspective — when combining July and August together — it’s time to do an update on one of the most active areas of our MLS® market this year. That area has been lake country, where we have focused on gauging residential-detached (which now includes seasonal recreation properties) and vacant land sales.

We know, for instance, that residential-detached sales have settled down the last few months after
setting such a torrid pace earlier on this year. So how  did they fare this summer when it comes to the  four main  lake country MLS® areas we have been tracking in 2021?

Let’s start with the west side of Lake Winnipeg which encompasses beach communities like Sandy Hook, Winnipeg Beach and Gimli. Residential-detached sales were not quite as brisk as last summer, as the pandemic boost to rural sales — including lake country — began in earnest last June so summer months really benefited from that development. There were 55 compared to 68 in 2020. Though if you go back to a more normal year in 2019, there were 40 sales.

The east side of Lake Winnipeg MLS® area — with communities such as Hillside Beach and Victoria Beach — actually outperformed summer 2020 as it had 47 sales compared to 43. The MLS® area further east — which includes the towns of Lac Du Bonnet and Pine Falls — had 43 sales versus 52 in 2020, while the lake country MLS® area starting at Teulon and extending further north and west to run alongside Lake Manitoba, recorded 44 sales — 9 behind last year’s 53 sales.

On the other hand, this lake country MLS® area had the most vacant land sales of these four lake country MLS® areas with 24 compared to 13 in 2020, while the west side of Lake Winnipeg MLS® area also showed a good result with 22 sales — more than double the 10 sales which occurred in 2020.

The other two lake country MLS® areas saw summer vacant land sales activity drop off from what took place in 2020. Both had 12 sales this summer, where the west side of Lake Winnipeg had 20 in 2020 while the Lac du Bonnet MLS® area was at 21 sales.

Looking at the median or midpoint price of the summer vacant land sales, this summer in the four MLS® areas shows one sold for $27,500 on Whytewold Road on the west side of Lake Winnipeg, a $35,000 price for a Laurentia Beach Road lot at Lake Manitoba, a $39,900 sale on Fairway Drive at Granite Hills, and one selling for $53,700 on Poirier Street at Albert Beach.  

Compared to summer 2020, year-to-date residential-detached and vacant land sales for the first 8 months of this year are still well ahead despite some lake country areas seeing a drop in residential-
detached and vacant land sales from summer 2020.

Without singling out one MLS® lake country area, they are all enjoying much higher conversions of listings to sales than 2020 for residential-detached properties. This is the main reason behind better sales results this year. Three of the four areas are 80% or higher, with the other one at 74%, which contrasts sharply with 2020 where after 8 months two lake country MLS®
areas were only converting 51% and 57% with the others at 60% and 63%.

All four MLS® area average sale prices have risen in the low double-digits (11% to 12%) with the exception of the east Lake Winnipeg area which recorded an 18% increase from $202,886 in 2020 to $239,084 this year. The highest average sale price is in the Lac du Bonnet MLS® area as it has jumped from $266,114 to $299,139 in 2021.

Sales of residential-detached properties are all up over 2020 with the highest percentage increase coming in the east Lake Winnipeg MLS® area with a 64.7% increase, and the Lake Manitoba lake country area second with a 41.2% rise in sales activity. The west Lake Winnipeg MLS® is still generating the most sales so far this year with a total of 178.

Similarly, year-to-date vacant land sales are appreciably higher than 2020, with all of them quite similar and ranging from 73 sales in west Lake Winnipeg to 82 in the Lake Manitoba MLS® area.

To give you a better sense of what has been happening from a REALTOR® perspective, not just statistical comparisons, Daphne Shepherd, a certified Resort and Second Property Specialist (RSPS) working out of Teulon, who is also a director at the Winnipeg Regional Real Estate Board (WRREB) had this to say:

“The pandemic has provided an opportunity, a platform for those motivated buyers and sellers looking to make a change — a lifestyle shift, if you will.

“With public restrictions in play for the last 16 plus months, people have been left with residual income.  With low-interest rates, a crimp on extracurricular lifestyle activities, and residual income, “investment” opportunities were on the minds of many. 

“It was the platform for investment buyers to purchase 3-season cottages and then rent them (example: Airbnb) for additional income. There was an “extremely high” demand for cottage rentals throughout the west Lake Winnipeg MLS® area as this was one activity people could engage in which offered an opportunity to get away from the city and connect to recreational living. This also drove recreational products to an all-time high, making it very difficult if not impossible to purchase leisure items such as canoes, boats, flotation devices, deck furniture, bicycles, etc.”

WRREB’s president, Kourosh Doustshenas, agreed with Shepherd that the pandemic was a catalyst for people unable to travel and needing their own space beyond the current situation to consider buying a secondary property. In Manitoba, the option to own both a primary residence and secondary recreation property is a possibility that does not exist for many buyers in other more expensive real estate markets in the country.

“People are hungry for a shift and re-connection to a more expanded, vibrant, meaningful and balanced lifestyle,” Shepherd added.

We couldn’t agree more. We hope you have a relaxing long weekend.

Peter Squire is the Winnipeg Regional Real Estate Board’s Vice-President, External Relations & Market