6 real estate trends

The trends shaping this year's cottage market and the next

By Jay TeitelJay Teitel

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6. Internet scouting is replacing the Sunday drive

In the early 1960s, when my parents were looking to fulfill a long-held dream and buy a recreational property—either a cottage or a farm—they spent every Sunday driving through the countryside north of Toronto, checking out possible locations. It took them three years of Sunday drives to find their spot, and when they did, I got the feeling that they were a little sorry the search was over.

Today they wouldn’t have time to think about it. As recently as five years ago, the typical cottage buyer in Ontario spent six months to a year finding a property. 
As of 2010, the time frame had dropped to between two weeks and two months. The magic engine behind the change—or the culprit, depending on your viewpoint—is the Internet. Online real estate information, abundant and instantly retrievable, has revolutionized the two real estate markets in which distance between buyers and properties make onsite visits inconvenient: the international market and the recreational property market. The web has created a new generation 
of cottage buyers and sellers who are unprecedentedly informed, focussed, and confident. “Five years ago, half our buyers were online,” says Huntsville realtor John Jarvis. “Today I’d say ninety-eight per cent of them are, and they have twenty times more information on a lake or a property. We regularly get e-mails from buyers who’ve done their own research, looked 
at eighty properties online, and narrowed their preferences down to two.” Buyers have become so web-savvy that brokerages are now providing such services as Google Earth views of cottages and virtual video tours (some posted on YouTube to avoid problems with downloading that would occur with their own websites).

Everything speeds up in the omnipresence of the Net, including the onset of every one of the trends I’ve already mentioned in this article. Which is not to say that everyone thinks this is a wonderful idea. “The sheer amount of information can be a good thing and a bad thing,” says Stephen Lynott, from his office in the Gatineau valley. “I always tell people, you still need to go see properties in person. Something may look really good online, but when you actually get there, it’s not quite so good after all. ‘Wait,’ you say, 
‘I didn’t see the lack of privacy online.’ 
You have to see these places in the flesh. Pictures just don’t do them justice.”

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