In the backdrop of the country’s adverse housing market, a wider search beyond Canada’s largest and most expensive cities shows regional pockets of affordability
Housing affordability is a subjective matter, but it takes on a whole different meaning in Canada’s post-pandemic market: Following a 30% hike compared to early 2020, the national median price recently reached nearly twice the U.S. median. With home prices swelling to record numbers in the last two years, homebuyers found themselves readjusting their budgets.
Although not the lowest figure, $200,000 (about one-quarter of the average national home price) is a suitable reference point to gauge the share of what is now referred to as an “affordable listing.” The reality is that $200K isn’t enough to land a home in almost any of Canada’s most coveted cities. In fact, only about10% of all homes for sale in Canada are less than $200K — and very few of them are in major cities, where median home prices are exploding.
What’s more, as urban hubs continue to deal with sky-high demand and similarly sky-high costs, data shows that housing options for less than $200,000 are incredibly scarce in the top 50 largest and most expensive cities: These needles in the haystack account for less than 1% of the entire stock for sale.
However, the chance of finding a home for sale for less than $200K increases when zooming in on the most populous cities within a region. Point2 analysts discovered that homebuyers who are willing to expand their house-hunting grounds to the largest cities in The Prairies, Atlantic Canada or Québec can have their pick of broader concentrations of more affordable listings.
Here’s what caught our eye at the national and regional levels:
- 38 of Canada’s 50 largest, most expensive cities — which, incidentally, are all in Ontario and British Columbia — showcase zero listings for less than $200,000.
- Kawartha Lakes, ON is the only larger city where more than 1% of all homes for sale are less than $200K.
- Among the largest cities at the regional level, Cape Breton, NS, in Atlantic Canada boasts the highest share of homes for sale under $200K: 44%.
- Populous cities across The Prairies have the most homes for sale under 200K, particularly Edmonton, AB (1,300), and Regina, SK (400).
Ontario & BC: Your Only Shots for Homes Under $200K in the Big City
Beyond ever-evolving prices, the housing crisis has been blamed on various factors, from scarce affordable inventory to increased nationwide demand caused by immigration. And although legislative documents (like the recently proposed More Homes for Everyone Act) support speedy development, things are looking bleak for home buyers in Canada’s main hubs.
Settling in the largest, most desirable cities comes with an extreme price tag, so the chances of finding a starter home here are close to zero. Literally. Only 12 of the 50 most expensive large cities display homes for sale for less than $200,000 — all in Ontario and British Columbia. (Spoiler alert: None of them are Toronto or Vancouver). Even so, the percentages are a letdown for homebuyers on a budget.
Kawartha Lakes, ON, sets itself apart with almost 5% of for-sale stock priced at $200,000 or less (many of them vacation homes). Trailing way behind are cities like Kelowna (0.96%) or Surrey, BC (0.46%), where the odds of finding something more affordable become increasingly unfavorable.
Interestingly enough, listings below $200K are nonexistent in both Welland, ON— where the median price is the lowest among the 50 largest cities — and in Richmond Hill, ON, where the median price is almost double the national average.
Big Cities in Atlantic Canada & The Prairies Boast Highest Shares of Listings Under $200K
While the 50 largest cities in the nation don’t offer a great deal of hope, things are looking up in the largest cities in each region. According to Statistics Canada, more people are leaving the country’s main hubs for less hyped-up areas — and understandably so: $200,000 might not get you much in the glitzy cities, but it can access a wider selection of more affordable homes at the regional level.
Regional affordability difference is reflected in the number of cities with listings under $200K in each analyzed region. Specifically, most of the larger cities in Atlantic Canada and The Prairies showed significant shares of less expensive homes for sale, as opposed to Ontario or BC.
Below, read more on the percentage of homes for sale for less than $200,000 in the most populous cities in five regions: The Prairies, Atlantic Canada, Québec, Ontario, and British Columbia.
The Prairies: 8 Cities with Considerable Shares of Listings Under $200K
On top of making various lists of affordable cities, the concentrations of homes priced below $200,000 range from 36.50% in Regina, SK, to almost 7% in Calgary, AB. Notably, although Edmonton, AB, falls somewhere in the middle with nearly 25% of all homes for sale coming in at $200K or less, the city actually claimed the highest number of such listings with almost 1,300. Other cities with significant shares of homes for sale for $200K or less are: Lethbridge, AB (26.10%), Saskatoon, SK (23.47%), Winnipeg, MB (23.45%), Red Deer, AB (22.80%), and Airdrie, AB (8.43%).
Atlantic Canada: Cape Breton Island Overflows with 44% of Listings Under $200K
With most of its large cities flaunting median prices well below the national average, Atlantic Canada doesn’t disappoint when it comes to more affordable homes. For example, of all stock for sale in Cape Breton, NS, more than 44% is less than $200,000, followed by 26.7% in Saint John, NB, and 13.46% in St. John’s, NL. Coincidentally, Halifax, NS — the largest of the six — has the smallest share of homes for sale for less than $200K (1.63%), while also posting the highest median price among the region’s largest cities at nearly $598,000.
Québec: Shares of Affordable Dwellings Dwindle Following Québec City’s 9.8%; Montréal at 0.3%
Perhaps surprisingly, Québec City logs the most affordable median price in the region at a little more than $331,000. Furthermore, the share of listings priced below $200K here closes in on 10% — a percentage that translates into about 240 homes on the more affordable side. At the same time, gradually smaller shares around 1% to 2% are found in Longueuil, Gatineau, and Laval. As you might expect, Montréal boasts the highest number of overall homes for sale (about 4,900), although only 0.31% — 15 of them — are priced below $200,000.
British Columbia: Slim Pickings Below $200K as Region Posts $1M Median Home Price
As we enter $1M median home price territory, it’s no wonder that affordability gets harder and harder to reach. In fact, the median home price is more than $1 million in the five largest cities in BC. Right off the bat, the highest concentration of homes less than $200K feels like a harsh reality check: just 0.46% in Surrey (most of them manufactured homes). Meanwhile, none of the 3,200 homes for sale in Vancouver go for less than $200,000, and the situation is similar in nearby Burnaby. And, although Abbotsford has the lowest median price among the region’s largest cities ($1,078,000) and 14 in 1,000 homes here are for sale, a measly 0.26% of its for-sale stock is priced at $200,000 or less.
Ontario: Hamilton & Ottawa the Only Large Cities with Listings Under $200K
Between British Columbia and Ontario, finding affordable options is almost impossible for homebuyers on a budget. There are simply no homes for sale for less than $200K in Toronto, nor in nearby Mississauga or Brampton. And, although Hamilton and Ottawa do offer shares of such listings, the percentages are negligible at 0.24% and 0.14%, respectively.
For more on the shares of homes currently for sale for less than $200,000 in Canada’s most populous cities by region, check out the table below:
While $200,000 as the new affordability threshold might sound surreal to some, there are silver linings on the Canadian horizon. The need for housing caused the national vacancy rate to fall for the first time in 20 years. More importantly, prices began to slow in the spring, with optimistic forecasts of further drops by the end of the year. Here’s hoping.
- For the nationwide ranking, we looked at median home prices in the top 100 most populous cities in Canada to determine the 50 most expensive large cities in the country. We then analyzed the number of homes below $200,000 in each of them.
- At the regional level, we selected the top cities by population in single province regions, as well as in multiple province regions. The Prairies and Atlantic Canada group multiple provinces due to the low number of highly populated cities.
- We looked at the largest cities with the highest shares of listings below $200,000 in each region, namely: The Prairies, Atlantic Canada, British Columbia, Québec, and Ontario.
- To gauge the inventory of homes for sale for less than $200,000 in each city, we examined and counted listings from REALTOR.ca. The study was based on all active listings, as well as listings pending sale, priced up to and including $200,000 at the time of the analysis (the first week of May 2022).
- We used MLS Benchmark Composite Prices for the majority of the cities included in the analysis, with the exception of Montréal, Hamilton, Halifax, Laval, London, Gatineau, Longueuil, Red Deer, Lethbridge, Cape Breton, Belleville, where we considered Median or Average Sale Prices as per local MLS monthly reports, and Montréal, Laval, Longueuil, Kelowna, Kamloops, where we used a weighted average of the prices for each property type to determine the Composite Price. Where unavailable at city level, we looked at Local MLS Prices at regional level: Québec, Longueuil, Kelowna, Saanich, Brantford, Nanaimo, Victoria, Saint John, and Fredericton.
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