Bancroft, Ont., the business and recreational hub for North Hastings County, often known as the mineral capital of Canada, has a new moniker this year: best spot to buy real estate in Canada.
MoneySense’s 2021 edition of Where to Buy Real Estate awarded Bancroft its top spot. The guide, which is designed to give buyers insight into the Canadian real estate market, determines the best-value neighbourhoods across the country by looking at current average home price, price growth in recent years, and neighbourhood characteristics and economics.
When compared to 42 other urban centres across Canada, Bancroft’s average price for a residential property in 2020 ($292,733) was 47 per cent below the national average. Yet, homeowners have also seen a great return with the average residential price increasing by 78 per cent over the last three years.
The guide goes on to say that Bancroft’s skilled local workforce; its thriving downtown core, and convenient location between Toronto and Ottawa—not to mention being a stone’s throw away from Algonquin Provincial Park—helped cement the decision.
Real estate market in Ontario cottage country is booming
Despite only having a population of 3,881, MoneySense isn’t the only one to notice Bancroft’s appeal. Real estate broker Lisa Scott says she’s seen an increased interest in the Bancroft market over the last year. “The pandemic has hastened the move to Bancroft for many young retirees and families who looked to the area for affordable housing, proximity to trails and nature, and the small-town vibe,” she says.
Waterfront properties, in particular, are popular, Scott says. “Historically, most of the waterfront properties were enjoyed as seasonal cottages. In recent years, we have experienced a growth in residential use of waterfront properties and have also seen steady growth in four-season use of recreational properties.”
Most of Bancroft’s real estate interest used to come from the Durham region, but Scott says that about 10 years ago, she started seeing people from west of Toronto—Milton, Hamilton, even Kitchener and Waterloo—begin to buy properties. “I think it came down to affordability,” she says. “People were willing to drive farther to get a cottage.”
Scott does admit that Bancroft could use more services. “We could use more water and sewer out to our residential properties,” she says. A lack of widespread high-speed internet also poses an issue. “This is essential for growth and is often the first question that prospective buyers ask about a property.” But Elon Musk’s Starlink project is providing some hope.
Despite the minor detractions, the freedom of remote work and the small-town charm makes Bancroft an attractive option. “One of the bakers in town, she’s not too far from where I live, and she dropped off three loaves of bread and butter tarts at my door. That’s the kind of town it is,” she says. “It really is a pretty cool place to live.”