Real Estate Reality: Baby boomers bail on GTA, cash in on hot housing market

Cindy Wegg is loving retired life.

After 22 years in a Leslieville semi, Wegg and her wife moved to St. Catharines in November and settled into a 1,700 sq ft home. Wegg figures a place like hers would have cost $1.5-$1.75 million in Toronto at the time they closed. In St. Catharines, they paid a little over $300,000.

This week NEWSTALK 1010 is bringing you "Real Estate Reality", a series of stories focused on selling, buying and renting homes in the Greater Toronto Area.

For Wegg the move from Canada's biggest city to a community of 133,000 was carefully plotted.

"It was one of the things that we planned on, when we were both retired, that we would...sell the house in the city and move somewhere else a little quieter, a little smaller. Just try and take the equity in the home and use it toward our retirement."

Wegg's Leslieville address cost her $140,000 when she moved in in the mid 1990s. She sold last week for some 20% over the asking price of $750,000.

Access to community services, public transit, an arts scene with higher education, an LGBT community and affordable golf sold the couple on their new hometown of St. Catharines.

It's a trend Michelle Atherton, a sales representative with Royal LePage in Niagara has seen a lot of lately: retirees from places like Toronto, Milton, Oakville and Barrie packing up a moving truck and with a nest egg to get them through their post-work life.

She expects younger people unable to break into the Toronto market will follow suit in increasing numbers over the next few years.

Tim Hudak, CEO of the Ontario Real Estate Association and Fort Erie native says GTA homeowners are also selling and heading to places like Bancroft and Kitchener-Waterloo.

Atherton gushes that a rejuvenated downtown with a growing arts scene, new arena, restaurants and shops makes St. Catharines a desirable place to call home. Proximity to Toronto and Buffalo along with the promise of year-round GO train service don't hurt.

But the home prices significantly under the provincial average may be the attractive feature.

"Right now in Ontario as a whole, the average selling price is $556,000...we're at $367,000," Atherton explains. Toronto Real Estate Board data put the average cost of a GTA home at $916,567 in March. A detached home in Toronto will set you back an average of $1.215 million.

"I watch the market religiously," says Stephanie French who is a few years away from retirement. "It seems very, very dry in the area.

Like Wegg, French has cashed in her GTA housing investment and started anew in St. Catharines.

She sold her 25-year- old townhome near Britannia Rd W and Winston Churchill Blvd three months ago for about $200,000 more than she paid eight years ago.

St. Catharines' affordable living enticed her down the QEW.

French has settled into a completely renovated detached home on a 5,000 sq ft lot. The century home needs a new garage and a new roof, but the character and price are hard to argue with: around $300,000.

She realizes could have scored an even bigger payday had she delayed her move by just a few months. French says a former neighbour in Mississauga recently sold their home for more than $160,000 over asking.

"I'm one of those people that you just can't look back because you'll have regrets your whole life. So I have no regrets. I'm happy I did it when I did."

Thursday on Real Estate Reality: Bidding wars and bully tactics in Toronto's rental and buying markets

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