Breaking into Windsor-Essex housing market means paying $100K+ over asking amid industry boom

Christiano Fontana paid more than $120,000 over the asking price for a home in Windsor, yet he considers himself lucky. 

Homes selling way above asking are making it hard for buyers, but easy for sellers

The housing market in Windsor-Essex hasn't cooled down and marketing tactics are making things even hotter. (Katerina Georgieva/CBC)

Christiano Fontana paid more than $120,000 over the asking price for a home in Windsor, yet he considers himself one of the fortunate.

"I got lucky," he told CBC News Wednesday.

But he later followed that up with a laugh and said, "I don't know if you'd call me lucky or not, but I got one you know?" 

"Lucky" in this market typically means paying tens of thousands over asking price, as Fontana had to. It's a sign of this hot market, realtors told CBC News, that homes are routinely being listed well below what they're expected to sell for.

From the price of home sales to permits for new builds, everything in Windsor-Essex's housing market is flying off the shelves — an increased demand that is making it harder for people to afford a home. Experts in Windsor's real estate market say the industry continues to hit new highs compared to last year, but with dwindling supply, prices keep rising. 

Fontana said the home he bought was listed at $299,000, but in the end he paid more than $420,000 for it and only beat out the other top offer by $4,000. 

Christiano Fontana is getting married this year and has been looking to buy a home. Though he paid way over the home's asking price, he says he's just happy that he at least got into the market. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

"It's just the way it is," he said. "It's unfortunate ... I have a lot of friends, they don't have a choice but to rent and they will rent for the rest of their lives unless prices come down somewhat." 

In a virtual roundtable discussion with Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens on Wednesday, members of Ontario's and Windsor-Essex's real estate market, along with the city's planner and permit services chief talked about the growth the region has seen. 

"It's a very cruel game of musical chairs where you have more and more people circling fewer and fewer chairs, so as inventory goes down, you have more and more people that will engage in bidding wars, prices go up, there will be frustrated buyers," said Tim Hudak, chief executive officer of the Ontario Real Estate Association. 

According to information provided by the City of Windsor:

  • The average price of a home in Windsor-Essex has increased by 25 per cent from February 2020. 
  • Every month since July 2020, the total number of houses sold has been outpacing the same month the previous year. 
  • New builds have increased from 360 in 2018 to 796 in 2020. 
  • In the first quarter of 2021, 108 permits were new apartment unit builds — a number not seen in Windsor for decades. 

In the last year, the city says it has issued 60 permits for new residential builds in the Zone 1 area, which is north of Tecumseh Road between Prince Road and Pillette Road. The city says this is an older area but one that would benefit from new residential builds. 

"The break neck speed of growth over the past 12 months is just staggering," said Dilkens. 

As for who's buying, the Ontario Real Estate Association says 40 per cent of the sales are from within Windsor, 25 per cent is first time buyers and four per cent of activity was from Greater Toronto Area buyers. 

Percentage of people moving to Windsor from elsewhere in the province. (Ontario Real Estate Association)

Thousands on affordable housing waitlist

During the roundtable, CBC News asked what measures are in place to make things affordable and what the government can do to help. 

Windsor's City Planner Thom Hunt said the affordability conversation is happening across the province, with talk of federal, provincial and municipal incentives for private developers to make a portion of their buildings affordable. 

But ideas such as rent control or changes to taxation were dismissed during the roundtable discussion. 

Some 5,400 people are currently on a wait list for affordable housing in the region, according to the Windsor Essex Community Housing Corporation. 

Sellers on Cloud 9

It's a seller's market, so those pitching up the For Sale sign, like Al Soultani, are doing a happy dance. 

Al Soultani and his family sold their home for $200,000 over asking. Soultani says the sale feels like he did 'win the lottery.' (Maggie Chen)

Soultani's Windsor home sold for $200,000 over asking. 

"It does feel like winning the lottery," Soultani told CBC News. 

And he's not the only one on Cloud 9. 

Dean Cooper's home in Woodslee sold two weeks ago for a little more than $600,000, a price that was about $100,000 over what he listed it at. 

"It felt really great," Cooper told CBC News. "I would have never expected it to go that high but that's the part of this bidding war." 

Dean Cooper sold his Woodslee home for about $100,000 over the asking price. (Submitted by Dean Cooper)

To get more people interested in the property, Cooper and his realtor employed a tactic now being used by many: low-ball the home's listing price. 

That's according to Damon Winney, president of the Windsor-Essex County Association of Realtors, and Goran Todorovic with Re/MAX Care Realty. 

But, according to the Real Estate Council of Ontario, even homes listed at their value are selling way above. 

"This is the absolutely best opportunity for them to sell their home," Todorovic said. 

Another way realtors are getting homeowners on the market is by calling them directly and telling them how much their property could sell for. 

As for Cooper, he said he's decided to invest the funds he made, downsize and move into an apartment in Leamington.

"When retirement comes the decision will be a lot easier," he said.