Local housing market OK, real estate brokers say

While the U.S. housing market is in shambles, things in Scarborough aren’t so grim, local real estate brokers say.

Paul Etherington, a real estate broker and manager at RE/MAX Rouge River, said overall his area hasn’t been affected by the U.S. market very much. His office serves east Scarborough, Whitby, Ajax, Pickering, and Oshawa.

It’s not the best time to be selling a house in east Scarborough, but it’s not the end of the world either, local realtors say.

“There’s a bit of caution but we really haven’t seen a slowdown or anything,” said Etherington, who’s been in real estate for 24 years.

But, Helen March, a real estate broker with Coldwell Banker Case Realty Toronto who serves Scarborough, said things are a little different in her market.

“It has slowed things down just a bit,” said March, who has 35 years of experience in the business. “Just from the perspective that no one’s quite sure what’s going to happen.”

Both brokers agree it’s an excellent time to buy in the area. Etherington said there are very fair prices in Durham and east Scarborough, but he’s finding he is still getting many offers on his properties so it’s not quite a buyer’s market.

“Six months ago, I would say it’s a seller’s market but now it’s a balanced market,” he said. “A couple years from now people will . . . look back on it and think this is probably one of the best times there was to buy a house.”

In March’s area — Malvern, Highland Creek, and West Hill — things are more slanted to the buyer.

“It’s definitely a buyer’s marketplace right now but we haven’t experienced that for a while and that’s not a good thing,” March said. “It should be a little bit more balanced.”

But it’s not the end of the world for sellers, he added.

“If it’s a slow market and you’re selling and you get your house sold and you buy in a slow market, you haven’t lost anything . . . because you’re moving laterally in the same marketplace,” she said.

Also, people worried about getting mortgages in Scarborough should rest easy, the two brokers say.

Lending criteria is slightly stricter because of the U.S. subprime mortgage crisis but doesn’t affect very many people, Etherington said.

“Most of the people who would’ve got mortgages before are still able to get mortgages,” he said.

The average three-bedroom home in the area of east Scarborough Etherington serves now costs around $330 to $350 thousand. Last year, it would have cost from $340 to $360 thousand, he said.

March said the typical price of a three-bedroom house in her area is about $325 thousand.

Etherington believes low prices won’t last very long in the area.

“I don’t know where prices will be next year, but I really feel confident that three to five years from now they’re going be higher and the best time to buy a house is probably right now,” he said.