Photo: Elnur / Adobe Stock

From Lake Simcoe to North Bay, Ontario has no shortage of beautiful lakeside areas and cottage communities. These regions have historically been used as vacation spots and weekend getaways, but with the COVID-19 pandemic prompting some homeowners to revisit what they need most out of their property, some have moved to the northern areas of Ontario full-time.

This trend has also been making waves in the province’s new construction sector. Mark Cohen and Glen Buttigieg, managing partner and vice-president of sales at TCS Marketing Systems, have watched the lakefront pre-construction market evolve over the last few years. The appeal of lakeside living for new construction end-users and investors has been on the rise thanks to remote working and expanding transit networks.

Cohen and Buttigieg tell us more about why lakefront living is becoming more popular in Ontario’s new construction markets.

With remote working enabling employees to work from anywhere, we’ve seen resale buyers move to more rural parts of the province, often to lake or cottage communities. How is this translating to the new construction segment? Have these types of homes gained popularity in the pre-construction sector too?

Mark Cohen: With the work from home model here to stay, people are now choosing to live where they want rather than live close to work.

Five years ago, we were promoting the idea of “escape to the lake,” and now the narrative is “live at the lake.” In 2022 alone, TCS Marketing Systems will be launching at least five pre-construction projects located along the waterfront of four lakes in Ontario. Waterfront living has continued to gain popularity in markets like the Simcoe and Niagara regions, in addition to the strong pre-construction market along the Greater Toronto Area waterfront.

Photo: Mark Cohen, TCS Marketing Systems

How has the new construction lakefront market evolved over the past few years? What are the most significant market trends when it comes to pricing, inventory and purchaser preferences?

Glen Buttigieg: Lakefront living isn’t just for secondary homes anymore. We are seeing larger projects, condo projects and resort-style communities being offered along the waterfronts across Ontario.

We are involved in a project in North Bay that is launching this year on Lake Nippissing that is pretty exciting, and shows where trends are going. There is the appeal of more space and access to a desirable lifestyle for buyers while being more affordable. Another one of our projects in Muskoka is a rare opportunity to buy into lakeside living in this popular destination, and will appeal to empty nesters as well as investors.

What notable lakefront projects and developments come to your mind in Ontario? Are there lakefront areas in the province that are seeing expansion and growth in new housing?

GB: Barrie, St. Catharines and Grimsby are just a few examples. We achieved tremendous success at record prices in Barrie at our Debut Waterfront Residences project, and are gearing up to launch the second building there. Buyers are looking for a balance of affordability and lifestyle.

One of the big factors people are looking at while moving out of the core is access to the city. Our projects in Barrie, Grimsby and Bronte Harbour are seeing a high interest based on this factor alone. Lakefront living is more accessible than ever right now with so many different types of projects, and as the GO trains and other transport networks expand, we will continue to see this trend in new lakefront communities.

Photo: Glen Buttigieg, TCS Marketing Systems

Why might a purchaser opt for a lakefront property as a primary residence? What makes these projects appealing to buyers and investors from a new construction perspective?

MC: People are putting lifestyle high on their priority list and the market is responding with projects across the province that offer resort style living.

During the pandemic, there has been a shift in lifestyle, and lakefront properties offer that elusive access to that outdoor lifestyle many have come to love. From Barrie to Burlington and beyond, there are pre-construction projects launching regularly on the waterfront, giving residents access to amenities, outdoor space and convenient access to the city when needed.

These factors, combined with affordability of living further out of the city, has created a tremendous appeal for first-time home buyers as well as investors and empty-nesters.

What would you say are the obvious pros and cons of lakefront living? What should buyers know if they’re considering a property purchase in these areas for full-time living?

MC: The pro’s for buyers are endless, but costs to build along the water can often be a deterrent to developers. I think people have made a lot of adjustments in the past few years and are actively seeking out a more balanced life. Buying and living full time on the lake is something many associated as a luxury and with secondary homes. Now, the opportunity to make it a primary residence has a lot of appeal.

The GO train system makes living outside of the GTA more accessible in cities and towns like Barrie and Grimsby, but projects further north may be more remote, limiting buyers at this time. Oftentimes, waterfront living also means you are part of a smaller mid-rise building and have more living space to enjoy.

How do you see lakefront living in the new construction segment evolving in 2022 and into the future? What market patterns can we watch out for this year, especially when we consider the pandemic and its impact?

MC: Land is scarce in the city and developers continue to be creative with what they can offer. I think you will continue to see more projects along the waterfront in yet-to-be-discovered, beautiful locations like North Bay and as south as St. Catharines where buyers are looking to settle down roots and live a more balanced life close to outdoor amenities and still be anchored to Toronto. The best of both worlds.

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