Can You Buy A House For Under $200K In Canada? Apparently You Can, But There's A Catch
Don't give up on your home ownership dreams just yet!
While today, $200,000 will just about only get you a parking spot in Canada's major cities, it hasn't always been this way. In fact, less than 50 years ago, you could have secured a property in Toronto for under $65,000. Yes, really.
Historical data from the Toronto Regional Real Estate Board (TRREB) reveals that between 1977 and 1982, the average cost of a Toronto home ranged from $64,559 to $95,496, with average prices not breaching the six-figure mark until 1983. Even then, average sale prices lingered under $110,000 until 1986, when property costs suddenly surged to over $138,000 on average.
Fast-forward 20 years and the average house price in the 6ix had continued its relentless ascent. By 2007, the number of home sales in Toronto had peaked and the average price had only gotten higher, soaring to an astonishing $376,236 – the highest figure ever recorded at that time.
Unfortunately, the worst was still to come. By 2017, the average price of a Toronto home skyrocketed to a staggering $822,510, more than doubling within a decade. And if that wasn't enough, TRREB calculated that by 2022, the average cost of a Toronto home had reached an eye-watering $1,189,730 — a 332% increase from 2002 and a 1,146% surge from 1982.
While these figures paint a pretty grim picture of the housing market in Toronto specifically, they also provide insight into housing trends across the rest of the country. Cities like Vancouver have experienced similar, if not more drastic, increases in housing costs over the past decade.
Given the data, it's hardly surprising that aspiring homebuyers feel as though the dream of homeownership is slipping out of their grasp. The situation has left many questioning whether owning a home is attainable at all, let alone an aspiration worth pursuing.
Bleak prospects of homeownership
A recent BMO survey shared with Narcity found that the majority of Canadians (68%) feel that buying a home is more out of reach for them than it was for their parents. This is felt particularly by Gen Z (71%) and millennials aged between 25 and 34 (69%).
A 2022 Ipsos poll found that 63% of non-homeowner Canadians had actually given up entirely on ever owning a home.
But, although rising interest rates and increased unaffordability continue to pile pressure onto those still hoping to get onto the property ladder, all hope is not lost.
In fact, you don't have to have a six-figure salary or wealthy parents to achieve the goal of homeownership — you may just need an optimistic outlook, some DIY skills and a whole heap of luck.
That's because, despite broader market trends, getting a house for under $200,000 in one of Canada's biggest cities is still possible.
Of course, there are some caveats. You're not going to find a $200,000 home in Canada's busiest and most desirable cities, including Toronto, Vancouver and at least 30 others. And, in those where you can nab a bargain, properties at this price point make up for around 1% (or less) of all listings.
However, if you're prepared to be patient, be flexible and in some cases, relocate, then you may still be able to bag a home for less than what your parents paid 30 years ago.
Do affordable homes still exist in Canada?
New research from Point2Homes has found that while Canada's 50 largest cities are low on supply when it comes to affordable housing, first-time buyers still have a shot at getting onto the property ladder.
To start, if you're looking to drop less than a quarter of a million dollars on a home in one of the country's biggest cities, your most promising prospects lie in Atlantic Canada. Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, and Saint John, New Brunswick, emerge as frontrunners, boasting the highest percentage of homes listed for under $200,000 (45% and 37% respectively).
Far from being considered remote or uninviting, these hubs not only offer the allure of city living and coastal vistas, but they also have much lower benchmark prices than larger cities in more central locations of the country.
St. John's, Newfoundland; Moncton, New Brunswick; and Halifax, Nova Scotia, are also credited as having a proportion of houses for sale at price points considered average in Toronto 20 years ago.
And if the Prairies are more to your taste, there are options there too. Among the big cities with the highest percentage of properties for sale under the $200,000 price point are Regina, Saskatchewan (28%), Winnipeg, Manitoba (19%), and Edmonton, Alberta (18%).
But things don't look quite so promising in Ontario or B.C.
There are some big cities in Ontario where it's still possible to find a home for under $200,000 — although the chances of you landing one are slim to none. Per the report, of the five largest cities in the province, Hamilton and Ottawa might be your best bet with homes occasionally getting listed for less than a quarter of a million dollars — but these make for less than 1% of the overall market. Ouch.
You could try Waterloo, where just over 3% of properties are listed for under the $200,000 mark, or Kawartha Lakes, where around 2.6% of homes hit the market for under that same figure.
In B.C., your best chances of finding an affordable property in one if its biggest cities are most likely in Abbotsford or Richmond, but here the prospects are even more bleak. With 0.14% and 0.10% of homes here being listed for under $200,000, the likelihood of you actually landing one are lottery-esque.
Point2Homes notes that, naturally, the largest and most expensive cities in Canada are usually the most desirable ones.
However, a quick scan of the calibre of properties available at the $200,000-ish mark in some of the cities mentioned above can add even more weight to the argument that relocating to Atlantic Canada would be a smart move for prospective new homebuyers.
What does a $200,000 home look like in 2023?
In Saint John, for example, you could nab an inoffensive three-bedroom, two-bathroom detached home for $249,000.
Nearby, another property promises five bedrooms and two bathrooms, in addition to an impressive river view, for under $230,000.
An affordable property in Regina.RE/MAX
An affordable property in Regina.RE/MAX
Another storybook-like home in Regina's east end is this three-bedroom, two-bathroom house — which is equal parts charming and colourful. On the market for just $249,900, it's a whole lot more than you'd get elsewhere.
If Winnipeg is a better fit for you, this move-in-ready home is available for the same price and promises modern, simple decor and the most adorable front porch.
An affordable property in Winnipeg.Randy Leopold | RE/MAX Professionals
Without a doubt, navigating the Canadian housing market as a first-time homebuyer is no easy task, particularly as the landscape continues to be marked by steeply rising prices and a scarcity of affordable options in major cities.
And while the dream of homeownership may feel out of reach for many young people — particularly in Ontario and B.C., where the chances of finding a property under $200,000 in a major city are slim — there are glimmers of hope.
In Atlantic Canada and the Prairie provinces, cities like Cape Breton, Saint John, Regina, Winnipeg and Edmonton offer a higher percentage of homes within a more attainable price range, showing that it is possible — albeit challenging — to find an affordable property.
And although cheap housing may be limited in Canada overall, buyers who are patient and flexible can still find real gems… the catch being that it might just involve a little compromise (particularly on location) and a whole truckload of optimism.
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