BARRIE, ONT. -- While much of the economy has been struggling over the last year, the real estate market is hotter than ever.

Housing prices hit new heights, according to the Barrie & District Association of Realtors (BDAR). Data released from the first quarter of 2021 showed sales more than doubled compared to the same time in 2020.

"There's a record number of sales that are happening, record number of new listings that are coming on the market now even though we are still seeing a serious lack of inventory," said Chantal Godard, the 2021 president of the BDAR.

"The word that keeps coming up is unprecedented, which is not my favourite word to be using, but it really is. There's nothing in history that sort of dictates what's happening now," she added.

Across Simcoe County, there was a 58.8 per cent increase in units sold compared to the first quarter of 2020.

Specifically, Barrie sales numbers increased 64.5 per cent year-over-year.

According to Godard, it is a seller's market, with demand outpacing the number of listings available.

It's a trend Lance Chilton, broker of record with RE/MAX Hallmark Chilton Realty, is seeing.

"For buyers, the challenge is that they are looking at homes that are $499,000, but you've got to be prepared to pay above $600,000, and that's just the way it is," said Chilton. "But as long as you understand that, and understand that the homes here are still good value, then you'll be okay."

Chilton's team recently sold a home on Elizabeth Street in Barrie for 21 per cent above the asking price, with bidding wars driving prices.

Godard said much of it is due to people from the GTA moving north during the pandemic.

"Given the fact that we're seeing so many people that want to relocate, that want that better quality of life, that want to have a property, that want to have a backyard that they can entertain their family in - that's really what's driving those prices and driving what's happening in the market."

It's not just the real estate market being subject to bidding wars. Renters are also finding themselves overwhelmed by the current status.

The multi-generational Sproule family is splitting up, looking for two houses, but so far cannot even find one. They would like to see some form of regulation to ensure equity.

"Other people that have applied have either gone in and did what you call the bidding war that usually happens with mortgages, and they've been offered more money to take the house or that their credentials are better," said Darlene Sproule.

The topic has been raised at city council this month.

Nearly 900 new affordable housing units have been created in the city as part of its 2015 Affordable Housing Strategy.