Torontonians cashing in their chips help drive record home sales

A lot of sold signs went up around Sarnia in September. This one is on Murphy Road. Glenn Ogilvie

Marco Vigliotti

Low interest rates, affordable prices and a swelling tide of seniors moving from the Toronto region are credited with propelling Sarnia home sales to unexpected record heights.

Donna Mathewson, sales representative with Royal LePage, says a combination of opportune financial conditions and a wave of newcomers is responsible for pushing home sales past the $40-million mark last month, the highest September total ever recorded by the Sarnia-Lambton Real Estate Board.

“It’s a bit of both,” she said of the role historically low interest rates and incoming retirees have played in driving sales.

“We do have some people coming in from outside of town … but we also have people moving up.”

Housing sales in dollar value were up 39% in the month of September and 13% over the year. The number of properties sold was 22% higher last month than a year ago.

The record sales figures are all the more surprising given Sarnia’s listless economy. The current municipal election campaign is dominated by debates on how to attract needed new investment and jobs.

Mathewson, though, remains optimistic. Sarnia is in a strong position after weathering the last recession better than many Ontario communities, she said.

“As long as our industry maintains here and as along as we can get secondary jobs in like our call centres, then I would predict that we’re going to sit better than our bigger city counterparts.”

Attracting newcomers has also been beneficial, according to Mathewson, who praises a campaign by the Sarnia-Lambton Economic Partnership for successfully selling the region to retirees in the Greater Toronto Area.

“We have so much to offer for retirees that this select group has been targeting the Toronto area for the past few years. And I think it’s working,” she added.

The Real Estate Board is maintaining statistics on where people are relocating from but those numbers are not currently available.

The economic development group’s advertising blitz in Toronto directs residents to the website ihatetraffic.ca, which touts Sarnia-Lambton’s affordable real estate and congestion-free roads. It also talks up the area’s numerous golf courses, sandy beaches and mild climate.

But the big draw is financial.

A $700,000 home in the GTA can cost as little as $300,000 in Sarnia-Lambton, the site says.

The $400,000 difference invested at 6% could provide an income of $2,000 per month.