It’s a known fact that homes in Canada are not particularly cheap and that prices have almost gone bonkers, having registered double-digit percentage increases in many cities. If almost a decade ago the average home price was about 3.5 times a family’s median income, now the ratio has jumped to an astounding 5.5. And it’s not only the prices that might be puzzling the Canadian home buyers nowadays. Although they might have an idea about how much they need to pay for a re-sale condo or detached home in a certain city, what’s rather unclear is how much house they get for the buck, in other words, how many square feet they get for the money they need to shell out.
Say you had about $300,000 to spend on a new home and you want to find something pretty decent. Looking at the visual below, you’ll quickly see that $300,000 is not enough to buy you a home of average size — around 2,000 square feet — almost anywhere in Canada’s biggest cities. From the cities we took into account only 2 were close to offering a decent home size for this price: Gatineau and Sherbrooke, both in the province of Quebec.
In the chart below, hover over the squares to see exactly how many square feet you get for $300,000. The areas dedicated to each city are proportional, so you get an at-a-glance perspective on the size differences.
Price per square foot, a universally accepted metric
Price per square foot is a universally accepted metric, which can help one gain a general insight into home values. We know it’s not perfect, and during our research, the real estate agents we talked to warned us about its possible pitfalls. Building materials, construction type, finishes, amenities or — one of the most coveted things of all — location, are all important factors which can radically influence the value of homes.
Still, what about elbow room?
It’s important to have an estimate of how much square feet you can get for a certain amount of money, sometimes as important as knowing the median home price. Our study aims at giving you such an estimate, calculated based on the median home price. Your real estate professional will be able to assist you with more details based on a break down by property type. In general, expect to find quite a discrepancy between prices per square foot and median home prices, as the former is greatly influenced by property type.
Although $500K is the national average home price, we found that in reality, people are hoping to find homes well under this amount and this is why we decided to look at how much space is in $300,000 homes. In fact, a study we ran a few months ago helped us understand what kind of homes Canadians are really searching for. We were rather surprised to discover that although the national average is so high due to activity in metropolises such as Toronto and Vancouver, in many other cities — Ottawa or Edmonton for example — people are still hoping to find homes well below this price — that is, between $300,000 and $400,000.
Canadian cities reveal significant differences in house space for $300K
A recent article published by Financial Post points out that Canadians are the third in the world to enjoy large homes, the average being around 2,000 square feet. Given that home prices in Canada’s major cities are among the highest in the world as well, that should not be surprising.
Nevertheless, the same article raises the question whether folks would be willing or not to downsize when faced with the affordability factor. The data we gathered might shed some light on this question as it can roughly show how much resizing Canadians might have to do if they want to spend on an average-size home what their neighbours in the US are paying right now.
From 339 square feet in Vancouver, BC to 2,041 square feet in Sherbrooke, QC, here’s how much raw space cities can offer for $300K:
British Columbia: Vancouver, Richmond, and Burnaby offer the least elbow room for your money
While B.C. is a national leader in terms of average home prices, it also holds the crown when considering the price per square footage as well. Among the biggest cities in B.C. we looked at, only Abbotsford, the largest city outside the GTA, offers over 1,000 square feet for $300K.
We all know that home prices in Vancouver are top in the nation. That’s why, it’s no surprise that for $300K you’ll only get about 339 square feet of home. This is way too little, you’ll probably say. Well, from what we know, Vancouverites are increasingly embracing the tiny homes trend, and for quite a while, home builders are actually offering to build 200 sqft homes for as little as $40,000. In North Vancouver!
Ontario, a little bit of everything for everyone
The good thing about Toronto’s real estate market, compared to that of New York City, for example, is that, despite the fact that home prices seem to know just one trajectory — upwards, that is — you can still find something that would fit anyone’s pockets.
According to our calculations, $300,000 would get you 520 square feet in Toronto, which is the equivalent of a tiny bachelor’s pad. Although this is obviously little, it’s still better than nothing; in fact, many tiny homes fans will consider this to be an ideal space!
Mississauga, closely approaching Toronto in terms of average home prices, and one of the top 18-hour cities in Canada, offers a bit more space, around 750 square feet. But if you are to think about Toronto vs. Mississauga wins & losses (city life, cultural opportunities, etc.) many people will probably sacrifice a bit of space to enjoy all the rest.
The most square footage for $300K among the biggest Ontario cities you’ll get in Windsor –1,435 sqft. If you think this is not too bad, take a look at how much house you can get across the border for the same amount of money. In Detroit alone, $300K will get you no less than 7,000 square feet of home.
Saskatchewan and Alberta show real estate similarities
Saskatchewan and Alberta are close not only geographically, but they also share several similarities with respect to their real estate markets. That is, for months now, although sales have been stagnating or even declining, home prices are still holding up. And with the new mortgage lending rules, they may even climb more.
Briefly put, for $300,000 you can get between 900 and 1,200 square feet of home in the two provinces’ biggest cities. The size vs price ratio has been many times looked at favourably by first-time home buyers. Calgary apartments around 1,000 square feet and priced around $300,000 are considered a good buy. The same goes for Saskatoon condos or town homes.
Quebec, the best province for your buck
In Quebec you’ll probably get the best bang for your buck. Montreal, the second-most populous city in Canada, is particularly accessible if you’re looking for a good size vs. price ratio, as $300,000 can get you around 1,230 square feet of home.
And Montreal is not an isolated case in Quebec. In fact, four other large cities in the “belle province” are also at the top of our list for offering the most house space for less than the average home price: Sherbrooke, Gatineau, Quebec City, and Laval. If you add to the affordable home prices, the attractive historic sites and cultural eclecticism which Quebec is very rich in, you’ll understand what makes many people pick Quebec over other provinces in Canada to settle in.
Nova Scotia: Halifax is quite accommodating for Canadians looking for more space for less money
Apartments for sale in Halifax have kept steady price wise in 2016, with the median going around $300,000. For an average detached house, you might need to take out around $100,000 more. We were curious to see if the apartment median can at least get you something decent, so we asked real estate agents about the square feet one can enjoy in Halifax for $300,000. The 1,200 square feet we obtained is, in fact, not too bad. It compares to Montreal QC, Ottawa ON and Winnipeg MB and it’s more than double the space you’ll get in Toronto for the same house money.
Curious to see the house offer given the above price per square foot ratio? Check out what $300,000 can get you in Canada’s biggest cities!
- for our study we looked at the 50 biggest cities in Canada (in terms of city population) and selected 30 based on data availability;
- sources used were a mix of listings available on Point2 Homes, Realtor.ca, and agents’ own listing databases
We’d like to thank all real estate professionals who provided us with price per square footage data:
Francesca Stalteri, Real estate agent, Richmond Hill, ON; Jamie Vieira, Broker, Oakville, ON; Mariana Ivanova, Sales representative, Toronto, ON; Kevin Baker, Sales representative, Kitchener, ON; Jack Dyer, Broker, Cambridge, ON; Kim Kunselman, REALTOR®, St. Catharine’s, ON; Nazar Hameed, Real estate salesperson, Mississauga, ON; Sam Wyatt, REALTOR®, Vancouver, BC; Amy Assaad, Charted real estate broker, Montreal, Laval, Quebec City, Gatineau, Sherbrooke, QC.
Were you expecting to get this much/little home size for the money in your city compared to others? Let us know using the comments section at the bottom.