The flexibility offered by remote working is causing more people – including young people – to move to Sarnia-Lambton, says Rob Longo.
“We’ve seen a lot of people moving into town, discovering Sarnia-Lambton, which is a very positive thing for us,” said the president of the Sarnia-Lambton Real Estate Board.
“A lot of people think it’s all retirees, but we’re also getting younger people — younger couples and families with school-aged kids.”
Historically, younger residents have left for college or university and then found work in larger centres. But the pandemic is requiring many people to work online, and some of them won’t be going back to brick-and-mortar offices.
“Now with a lot of the remote working jobs, a segment of them have that option to stay here — and they would much rather stay here,” he said.
Housing demand combined with limited stock has resulted in a sharp increase in home prices and rent.
In September, the median sale price of a home in Sarnia-Lambton was $439,950, a jump of 30% in one year.
Last month, the local market posted a dollar volume of more than $82 million – on just 163 sales.
Longo said the influx of newcomers is coming from areas like Kitchener-Waterloo, London, Windsor and Strathroy.
“People are making that choice to pick Sarnia-Lambton, and it’s nice to see,” he said. “Obviously we know it’s been a hidden gem for some time, but we don’t necessarily want it to be hidden, right?”
New multi-residential projects, including the recently announced $15-million, six-storey apartment complex on Afton Drive and the rapidly rising Tricar building downtown, will increase supply and help address the lack of inventory, Longo said.
“If there’s seniors or people looking to downsize that want to go into an apartment or condo, that frees up another house for another young couple or person to buy and move up that chain.”
However, the current supply shortage remains acute, he said, pointing to a significant decline in active listings last month, down more than 35% year-over-year.
“It’s not just a Sarnia-Lambton thing — it’s happening all over Southwestern Ontario,” he said.
“The only way to take some of the pressure off is to increase the housing supply, and I think the government should be stepping up to do more to create more housing units for people.”
New subdivision projects underway in Corunna and Plympton-Wyoming could alleviate some pressure, Longo said.
“Hopefully Sarnia will start to get some more subdivision land unlocked. We’ve got some stuff happening right now in the Rapids Parkway and some more phases coming there in the spring, so hopefully that can help.”