SUDBURY -- New data suggests some northern Ontario cities offer the most affordable real estate in the province.

According to RE/MAX, Sudbury and North Bay offer two of the best prices for homes in the province, despite the fact prices in both cities have risen in recent years.

“We’re a very affordable marketplace, absolutely, and we always have been,” said Cathy Gregorchuk, owner of RE/MAX Crown Realty in Sudbury. “We’re not necessarily a boom and bust market like our southern Ontario partners and our increases have always been nice and steady -- 2 per cent, 2.5 per cent, 1 per cent.”

Gregorchuk said since the pandemic, there has been an increase in average sale prices, something that she estimates at about $300,000, up from about $260,000.

While she said it is a busy market now, there was a period of uncertainty at the beginning of the pandemic.

Demand outpacing supply

“People weren’t putting their homes on the market because of COVID,” Gregorchuk said. "They weren’t sure. ‘How do I sell my house? I don’t want people touching things.’ So once we got the word out … that, hey, we can sell safe homes … we had more homes come on the market.”

Local real estate experts point out that demand is outpacing supply, meaning right now they are dealing with a so-called seller’s market.

“Even before COVID our market was strong,” said Dan Gray, president of the Greater Sudbury Real Estate Board. “No question our market is a lot stronger now because there’s just so many buyers out there compared to the amount of homes for sale.”

While the average home price has risen this year, experts points out the market is still on the inexpensive side compared to other regions in the province.

Shannon Unger is owner of RE/MAX Legend Real Estate Inc. in North Bay, which also ranks as one of the province’s most affordable cities. She said this year, she is seeing an increase in the number of people wanting to relocate to northeastern Ontario due to the pandemic.

Can work from home

“We’re getting a lot of people coming in from the Ottawa area as well as that south market and they are all saying the same thing: ‘I’ve learned that I can do most of my work from home. I’ve learned that I do not want to be stuck in the rat race and I’ve learned that I would really like to cash out and have some lifestyle,” said Unger.

Unger said North Bay has also seen its average sale price rise this year. It now sits at about $296,000, up 13 per cent year over year.

Pointing to various findings in the RE/MAX 2020 Livability report, including 68 per cent of Canadians wanting to see more green public spaces and 64 per cent wanting more walkability, she said North Bay has a lot to offer.

“North Bay is a little more than three hours north of Toronto and it’s all four-lane traffic,” said Unger. “That’s a very big deal for people who are looking for that livability, that affordability, and still being able to capture some of the lifestyle that they were once accustomed to or just simply living up north.”

The trend of more residents from southern Ontario moving north is also happening in Sudbury, said Gregorchuk.

Protocols in place

“A lot of people can work from home now,” she said. “Nobody realized how easy it was to work from home, so why not move home? A lot of our young people that moved to Toronto … are now able to move home and move their families home and work from home and get a pretty nice house as compared to what they were down in London or Toronto or Windsor or wherever.”

With many people selling their homes during the pandemic, various new protocols have to be put in place, many of which are up to the particular home owner or real estate broker.

“Each home has what restrictions the seller wants and/or the agent and then of course they have the forms that they want us to sign before we show the property,” said Gray.

While the real estate market often slows down in November, Gray said is optimistic the trends will continue.

“The market is just going to keep going,” said Gray. “There’s just too much positive stuff happening in Sudbury and then of course we have that down south market that we really didn’t have unless people were relocating here that we have now.”