It’s no secret that homes in Canada are not particularly cheap, especially in large urban centres. Many people are forced to start thinking small and opt for studios or one-bedroom apartments. And while this is a good solution for career-oriented singles and downsizers, it might not work for couples and families, or for those who simply need more space. In the current climate, more space doesn’t seem to be an option, as ownership costs are reaching unsettling levels in some markets.
To get a better picture of the cities that offer more bedrooms and those in which density is putting its stamp on available space, we decided to zoom in on Canada’s 50 biggest cities. We used the national average home price ($495,100 in April) as a reference point, to determine how many bedrooms one can buy across the country. Here are the main takeaways:
- At country level, the national average home price ($495,100) buys 3.3 bedrooms;
- $495,100 won’t buy the national average of 3.3 bedrooms in half of Canada’s top 50 largest cities, and in the 6 most expensive cities in the country, the national average doesn’t even guarantee two bedrooms;
- Windsor offers the most amount of space, with 4.3 bedrooms, while Vancouver offers the least, with just 1 bedroom;
- Ontario has the widest ranging options, from 1.9 bedrooms in Richmond Hill and Vaughan to 4.3 in Windsor;
- Atlantic Canada and the Prairie Provinces are the most buyer-friendly markets, boasting affordable prices and plenty of space;
At a national level, $495,100 will get you an average of 3.3 bedrooms. However, when pricing is broken down to city level, major differences appear. Nearly 20 of Canada’s 50 largest cities sport home prices above $700,000; 5 cities even boast averages above the $1 million mark.
As houses are becoming increasingly unaffordable, more and more Canadians are looking at condos instead of single-family homes. The accelerated price growth, paired with Boomers’ downsizing and Millennials’ preference for 24/7 urban living, has contributed to a significant shift in home building trends. Two out of three new homes built today are multifamily properties – by comparison, fewer than half of new developments were condos in the mid-2000s.
This shift means that multifamily buildings are now the new norm in cities and developers are making efforts not to compromise on space and comfort, while also transitioning towards stacked living. However, even if the average condo size has been increasing in the past years, condo-heavy markets offer far fewer bedrooms than cities where single-family houses dominate stock and supply.
So, which are the markets that stand out when it comes to how much space the national home price of $495,100, can secure?
Vancouver continues to redefine scarcity
Looking at the five priciest Canadian real estate markets, homes priced around the national average are few and far in between and offer little space. In Vancouver, the local home price reached $1,480,712, meaning the national average price will buy just one bedroom. One bedroom in trendy Vancouver might sound like a fantastic idea to many young professionals; however, the market is far from being so simple. Location and amenities play a major factor in pricing, not to mention that few homes are available for the average national price – roughly only 1% of Vancouver’s inventory is listed around that price point.
It’s also worth noting that in a thoroughly unaffordable market such as Vancouver, $495,100 will most likely buy one bedroom that is part of a larger condo or home, meaning buyers need to spend significantly more to own a full residence, be that a detached house or a condo.
Burnaby, BC and Richmond, BC also put a premium on space
Following Vancouver, British Columbia’s two most expensive markets are Burnaby and Richmond, with local home prices above $1 million. Although potential home buyers in these cities are looking at slightly more space, it still doesn’t mean the national average price affords them two bedrooms: in both Burnaby and Richmond, $495,100 will buy only 1.6 bedrooms on average. Furthermore, options are very limited, with only a handful of listings available around this price point.
GTA’s Richmond Hill, Vaughan and Oakville also tight on space
Ontario’s Richmond Hill, Oakville and Vaughan also rank among Canada’s top markets from a pricing perspective, with home prices hovering around $1 million. However, the national average will buy a bit more space here than in British Columbia’s top markets – Richmond Hill and Vaughan afford 1.9 bedrooms, while in Oakville you will be able to buy 2.1 on average.
Toronto offers 2.1 bedrooms, but more lifestyle options
If smaller cities don’t offer much in the way of entertainment, lifestyle-heavy locations such as Toronto might do the trick. There is one drawback, however: the national average home price won’t get you too far in Toronto. The city’s popularity, paired with its economy and lifestyle diversity, mean that buyers can afford only two bedrooms here. Toronto’s condo boom is also a major factor in the lower number of bedrooms that buyers can score here. According to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, November 2017 saw a whopping 141% year-over-year increase in condo starts. In fact, Toronto currently ranks as the national leader in new condo construction, with more than 13,000 out of the city’s 15,112 new home starts being condo units.
Calgary offers perfect blend of space and options
In Calgary, buyers can enjoy 3.3 bedrooms, as well as a wealth of options, with over 300 properties on the market for that price point. However, those interested in the extra elbow room will have to sacrifice the range of lifestyle options.
Montreal is Quebec’s least generous city
At only 2.7 bedrooms for $495,100, Montreal doesn’t offer much more space than some of Canada’s most expensive markets. Of the approximately 8,600 listings available in the city, 4% are around the national average home price.
Home seekers from all the other Quebec cities on this list are potentially looking at more than three bedrooms for $495,100, with Sherbrooke, Terrebonne and Lévis buyers being the most fortunate: here, the national average home price can secure them four bedrooms or more.
Ottawa in line with national figures
In the capital city, buyers looking to pay the national average home price can expect to afford 3.3 bedrooms, placing Ottawa firmly in the mid-range of price versus number of bedrooms. Of the approximately 2,300 listings available on the market, about 6% hover around $495,100.
Saguenay’s affordability attractive for first-time buyers
Saguenay, the most affordable market among Canada’s largest population centres with a local home price of $203,068, is somewhat of an anomaly. Buyers can expect to afford an average of 3.3 bedrooms here – the same number as in Ottawa, Hamilton, ON and Calgary, AB, markets which are more than twice as expensive as Saguenay.
Although Saguenay’s economy is still mainly based on the exploitation of natural resources and agri-food, the active tourism sector, particularly eco and adventure tourism, paired with a growing transition towards biomedical sciences and energy research and development, could make this Northern Quebec city a great option for Millennials. Its attractive home prices also make it a sustainable option for single-home buyers, especially first-time single-home buyers.
Halifax offers spacious beachside living
For buyers looking to live close to the ocean but are priced out of the West Coast’s sky-high urban markets, Atlantic Canada may be the solution. In St. John’s, NL, $495,100 equals 3.7 bedrooms, while Halifax, NS offers nearly as much space – 3.6 bedrooms. Halifax’s housing affordability, employment options, level of education and life satisfaction make it a top spot for Millennial buyers, ranking the home of Dalhousie University as the 4th most popular hot spot for this generation. In fact, Halifax now sports its own little Brooklyn – the once gritty neighborhood of Dartmouth is steadily gentrifying, with gourmet coffee shops and boutique stores popping up in places where, not too long ago, pawn shops and strip clubs where the main attractions.
St. John’s generous homes remain attractive for retirees
As for St. John’s, its affordable home prices and economic downturn mean retiring Boomers will remain some of the most active buyers in the area – after all, Newfoundland and Labrador has the highest median age in Canada. The provincial government has also announced expansions to its homebuyers’ programs, which will help hundreds of families to achieve homeownership.
For example, The Home Purchase Program will offer grants of $3,000 to buyers – be it families or single households – looking to make a down payment on homes under $400,000. With St. John’s being the most expensive market in the province, boasting a local home price of $298,640, plenty of potential buyers will be eligible for the program, especially as builders have refocused on smaller homes priced below $300,000. Smaller homes, paired with lower home prices and expanded access to governmental aid will benefit Millennials and first-time home buyers alike.
Oshawa and St. Catharines most sizeable options on Lake Ontario
Depending on buyers’ preferences and budgets, the national average home price can buy plenty of elbow room in quiet St. Catharine’s, affording 3.9 bedrooms. Oshawa, ON also offers plenty of space and options, with 20% of the inventory hovering around the $495,100 mark, and an average purchasing power of 3.9 bedrooms.
While these two Lake Ontario cities offer the same number of bedrooms, buyers can either choose the more lifestyle-heavy Oshawa, with its many educational centres and higher-priced homes, or the outdoor-friendly St. Catharines and its significantly more affordable home prices ($525,806 vs. $405,199).
Booming Regina and Saskatoon roomiest Millennial markets
$495,100 goes a long way in the Prairie Provinces, buying at least 3.3 bedrooms. Ranking as the two fastest-growing CMAs, as well as two of the youngest, Saskatoon and Regina are far more budget-friendly options. Although there are only a few dozen properties listed at this price, buyers can afford an average of 3.4 bedrooms in Regina, SK, and a generous 3.9 bedrooms in Saskatoon, SK, ranking these markets as attractive options for first-time buyers. Furthermore, overall supply remains generous in Regina, while sales activity has been steadily decreasing since 2017, according to the Association of Regina Realtors.
Lévis, QC, Sherbrooke, QC and Terrebonne, QC runners-up for most bedrooms
Buyers looking for over four bedrooms should turn their attention to even more affordable markets. Among the nation’s top 50 largest cities, $495,100 will buy four or more bedrooms only in cities where the local average home price does not surpass $300,000. While several cities come close, only four locations offer an average of four or more bedrooms at the national average price point: Quebec’s Lévis, Sherbrooke and Terrebonne, with 4, 4.1 and 4.2 bedrooms, and Windsor, ON, with 4.3 bedrooms. It’s also worth noting that homes listed around the $495,100 mark are limited, making up between 1% and 6% of the total inventory in these locations.
Windsor, ON ultimate leader in number of bedrooms
Home to 25 of the 50 largest Canadian cities, Ontario has a little bit of everything for everyone. While in the pricey markets of Richmond Hill and Oakville one can barely afford two bedrooms, Windsor sits firmly at the other end of the spectrum, offering a generous 4.3 bedrooms for $495,100. Of course, depending on location and amenities, home prices can vary wildly for the same number of bedrooms. Even in Windsor, which is one of the most affordable markets among Canada’s top 50 largest cities, with a local home price of $303,183, four bedrooms can come at as little as $189,000 or as high as $1,888,000.
- For our study, we looked at the 50 biggest cities in Canada by population.
- Sources used to compile the data: agents’ databases, MLS services and Point2 Homes.
- Home prices via local Real Estate Associations, CREA reports, RoyalLePage’s House Price Survey. Local prices are average home prices from April 2018, except for: Vancouver, Burnaby, Richmond which are median home prices in April; for Montreal the local home price is the average home price for Q1 2018; for Saskatoon the local home price represents the average home price year-to-date.
- We analyzed average number of bedrooms of homes priced at Canada’s average home price ($495,100) +/- 4.
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