For the moment, Chatham may be the most attractive destination in Ontario.
With housing markets in Toronto reaching record highs, this part of southwestern Ontario is seeing more people scoop up property, often listed at a 10th of the big-city equivalent.
And among them, Chatham prices are the best.
“We just had a conference in the spring,” said Jamie Winkler, president of the Chatham-Kent Association of REALTORS®. “(With) boards like Windsor, Perth, Sarnia, London … Chatham was by far the most affordable place to live.”
“By far” is not an exaggeration. While places like Sarnia and Windsor boast relatively inexpensive markets, their average residential properties in 2015 are still selling for about $217,000 and $199,000 respectively. Chatham came in at $156,423. Those numbers should all go up in the near future, as houses are generally more expensive over summer months.
“A lot of people come here from the GTA especially,” said Andrea Duchene, in Economic Development at the Municipality of Chatham-Kent. “They’ll sell from Markham, the Vaughan area, $650,000 homes … and buy $200,000 homes in Chatham. Put the rest into their retirement savings.”
Chatham newcomers aren’t downsizing, either.
“Oh, they’re really beautiful houses,” Duchene said. “On the water, or not far from the water. It’s a very desirable community.”
Meg Lyttle recently went into real estate in Chatham in 2010. Originally from Toronto, Lyttle said that the markets are different in most aspects — usually.
“Houses tend to sit on the market a little longer here,” Lyttle said. “But in the spring, we saw something interesting … where (Chatham) houses were being scooped up very quickly … it usually takes seven months or so, but now it’s two to three weeks.”
The average Chatham house cost $144,757 in 2012. Now in 2015, the average house is selling for — at present — $160,749, an 11% increase.
Lyttle cautions that many houses in Chatham aren’t appreciating as quickly as Toronto houses, though Winkler sees it as proof of sustainable growth.
“It’s up compared to last year,” Winkler said. “Three per cent to five percent, something like that. That’s a positive sign.”
In April, the average housing price tag in Ontario was roughly $481,000.
Not surprisingly, the cost of living in Chatham-Kent is usually based on area population. According to Winkler, the former City of Chatham is still the most expensive, after which Blenheim and Ridgetown place closely behind. Smaller communities, like Thamesville and Morpeth, are the most affordable.
In 2014, the average house in Chatham-Kent sold for $160,234. The most expensive properties were in Chatham City, at $162,151, while Ridgetown and Blenheim came in at $147,946 and $138,987 respectively. In comparison, Wallaceburg’s average residential home sold for $105,392.