On the outskirts of the small Ontario town of Shelburne, about an hour and a half drive northwest of Toronto, there is a subdivision filled with brand new homes. There's not much space between them, no grass planted in the front yards, and it's still a construction zone — but Berta Dias is a big fan of where she lives.
She moved in a year ago with her husband and three kids. "We love it here," she said while walking down the sidewalk, her young son biking alongside her. "It's so peaceful."
Dias said she likes how quiet and friendly the small town is, but there's another reason the family ended up in Shelburne: "I could never afford a house in Toronto, or even Mississauga."
Toronto's overheated real estate market has dominated news coverage in recent months, but what has received less attention is the ripple effect it's having beyond the Greater Toronto Area.
A new housing subdivision on the outskirts of Shelburne has helped meet demand for homes. Some locals attribute the surge in interest to Torontonians fleeing the expensive housing prices in the GTA. (Meagan Fitzpatrick/CBC News)
Dias's husband works in the Toronto area, so living in Shelburne means his alarm clock goes off way earlier than it did when the family lived in Brampton, more than 60 kilometres to the south.
He's not alone. Dias said the couple has several friends who get up before the crack of dawn to commute to Toronto.
"They do it every day, they leave around 4:30, 5 o'clock," said Dias. For his job with Rogers, her husband is some days driving as far as Niagara Falls, and then back to Shelburne. "He doesn't mind," she said. "It's worth the commute."
Market is 'absurd'
A small community at the crossroads of two highways, Shelburne is perhaps best known for a heritage music festival held every summer. It's just one of the smaller communities north of the GTA experiencing the consequences of Toronto's skyrocketing home prices.
Some who work in the real estate industry in communities stretching as far as Barrie, describe what's happening in the region north of Toronto as "absurd," "insane," and unprecedented.
Sharon Grant, a longtime real estate agent in Shelburne, said the high prices and bidding wars going on are unlike anything she's seen in 26 years in the business. (Meagan Fitzpatrick/CBC News)
Properties that used to sit on the market for months are selling within days, getting multiple offers, and selling for way, way over the asking price.
"I've never seen anything like this in my 26 years," said Sharon Grant, a real estate agent with Royal LePage in Shelburne. "We follow Toronto. Whatever is happening there is happening here, too."
And in Toronto, prices keep rising and bidding wars are becoming routine.
In March, the Toronto Real Estate Board said the average price of a detached home in the GTA was $1.2 million, a more than 33 per cent increase from the previous year. In the city of Toronto, the average price of a detached home was even higher: $1.56 million.
That has prompted some Torontonians who can't afford to buy in their own city to look farther and farther afield for a home.