Cambridge Ontario – formerly known as Lamebridge
It’s 1973 and the decision has been made to amalgamate the 3 communities of Hespeler, Preston, and Galt. 3 little distinct villages all with different personalities. Fast forward to the present and here we are 4 years before the 50th anniversary and we are now finally seeing the re-emergence of those personalities after the Region decided to put us all in a blender and call us Cambridge (Lamebridge if you were raised there). When I moved to Cambridge in the summer of 1995, the city was ghostly, sprawling kilometers of 1-2 story buildings with a small village mentality. You could drive from each of the downtowns to another in minutes but here we are now, on the precipitous of the infamous LRT, re-emerging downtown sectors, high-rise buildings projects, all while being snug right up against the King’s Highway 401. Times are a changing – urban sprawl has spread us widely thin, now the move to mid and high -rise is the future whether we like it or not, cities need them to survive.
The peak of 2017
If you were watching the real estate market from 2016-2017 you probably noticed an influx of our easterly neighbours in the GTA swiping up “reasonably priced” housing and land as their markets continued to inflate week by week. Working in the New Homes sector in Guelph, I saw this first hand as Realtors were bringing their clients dollars westward to get more square footage for their dollar. Within a year and a half, I saw pricing skyrocket up to 200% in some segments. People weren’t even seeing the houses before purchasing. If the price was right they bought, sometimes two at a time, almost as if their dollar was worth 1.5 of ours. On top of that, buyers were upgrading their homes, rolling their upgrades into their mortgages. Another $100,000 at 2.5% interest?…deal!
Surpassing the peak of 2017
Here we are now and Guelph seems to have steadied with record-setting prices only for the next wave of purchasers to mover further down the 401 corridors to Kitchener and Waterloo. KW is now the #1 place to invest in Ontario real estate due to the tech hub, universities and LRT (with a speed train connecting our tri-cities to Union station in the pipeline). Prices keep rising, inventory remains incredibly low as we are on the threshold of new record-setting values across the board…oh wait, we just surpassed 2017. We are in uncharted territories with pricing in the tri-cities constantly going into bidding wars under $500,000. The median price for a detached home in Cambridge in the first quarter was $490,000. That number will surpass the HALF A MILLION mark by the end of the week. WTF?!
What makes us so special?
Cambridge was overlooked for good reason, we simply didn’t have the pieces in place to make Lamebridge attractive, but enter 2019. We now have a school of architecture in Galt, a district of repurposed warehouses (Tigerbrand lofts, Southworks/Gaslight, Blacksmith Lofts, American Standard/Riverbank lofts, Cedar Street lofts, and the Grand Lofts. The fact the Grand River flows through the city gives a unique advantage (also a little challenging with flood plains) over our Tri-city neighbours. There is so much natural beauty along the riverside that can be credited towards bringing our city to the next level. Heck, we now have 7 microbreweries that are thriving! We are quite centralized between Lake Huron, Erie and Ontario, 1-2 hours to Michigan and New York’s borders, the Muskoka’s and 100 clicks to the big city of TO. Cambridge is slowly making the turn as Galt, Hespeler and Preston are given new budgets to expand streetscapes, waive development charges and gentrify old run down, vacant buildings in the core. As we watch our neighbours in KW, our local governments are now following suit with favourable measures to stimulate progress and growth. We still have a ways to go, as these downtown cores need bodies to sustain a strong local economy but the pieces are being put in place for that to happen. A half dozen mid-rise buildings or another few high-rise buildings could do that. Maybe we aren’t so Lame-bridge after all…
Prices are HIGH but it’s just the first phase of city growth
Yes, we have seen prices jump dramatically. Yes, we are seeing days on market whither down to single digits. Yes, we are bidding for properties that have no business being competed upon but it’s not the peak, not yet. This is the process, understand we are at the beginning of the cycle. We saw Guelph become the best place to invest in Ontario in 2017 and it started just like this; buy all the lower price point products first. Then the focus shifts to the mid-range products (usually a family moving up to something larger). Now Guelph is leveling out to traditional year over year typical growth and Kitchener-Waterloo is now the Silicon Valley of Canada with rising price tags filled with robust opportunity in the latest and greatest place to invest and Cambridge is it’s little sibling ripe for the taking (Preston specifically if you are looking for the best price point). Condos are popping up (which is a sign of growth) and young professional talent is scooping up city-centric luxury shoeboxes. As more people move our city, we gain more tax dollars to put back into our infrastructure and future plans to grow. We are no longer a kept secret, be wise and grab your piece before you smack your forehead with the infamous “I knew I should have got in the market!”