The value we put on space — literally and figuratively — has increased following the pandemic. And, with elbow room topping the wish list for most Canadian homebuyers, it’s fair to wonder where this commodity is most achievable. Following record highs of over $860,000, the national median home price fell to just under $630,000. Still out of reach for many homebuyers, we looked at how much home Canadians could afford at about half that price.
Here’s what we found out:
- $300,000 doesn’t even cover a mere 500 square feet in 20 of the most populous cities in Canada, including Montréal, QC, Mississauga, ON, and Brampton, ON.
- The price per square foot in Vancouver and Toronto hit the $1,200 mark, meaning that you would get less than 250 square feet for $300,000.
- Alternatively, $300,000 could get you more than 1,500 square feet in Saguenay, QC, Trois-Rivières, QC, and St. John’s, NL — putting the price in these cities at less than $200 per square foot.
- Most of the populous cities located in Québec — with the exception of Montréal and Laval — offer more than 1,100 square feet for $300,000.
As spiking housing rates made headlines, Point2 looked at homes for sale for $200,000 — about one-quarter of the median national home price only a few months ago. However, just this month, the median home price has shrunk, with another plunge expected by year-end. That said, considering that it’s more than 10 times the median income, this new $630k+ amount is still over the budget of many people looking for homes for sale. Even more so when the financial effort doesn’t come with ample living space.
At 1,700 square feet, the average home size in Canada is the third-largest in the world. Yet, unfortunately for the average home-seeker here, copious size usually comes with copious price tags — particularly in the big city. With that in mind, we set to find out where Canadians could get the best of both worlds: more space for half the money.
Hover over the tiles in the chart below to see how many square feet $300,000 could buy in the country’s most populous cities. To get a better perspective of the size differences, the size of the squares represents the actual proportion of living space available for about half the national median home price.
Increased Home Prices, Increased Homebuying Budget Adjustments
Most large cities in Canada come with less-than-ideal price-size ratios
Back in 2017, Point2 analyzed how much space $300,000 could buy. Since then, the Canadian housing market has suffered dramatic ups and downs — with an emphasis on the ups. More recently, 2022 began with one of the highest national median housing prices in history, only to see it yo-yo for a while and then settle on a little below $630,000 in August.
For this study, we focused on price per square foot as the sole metric for gauging house price. To put this into perspective, consider that $300,000 could get you more than 2,000 square feet in Sherbrooke, QC, five years ago. Conversely, today, the same amount would buy only 1,493 square feet in the same city. (Granted, a property’s price tag is determined by an array of factors, such as location, building type, construction materials, amenities and finishing touches, as well as the overall state of the housing market at the time.)
It seems homes are getting bigger in the country. In fact, the total size of homes in Canada went from 25.49 billion square feet in 2015 to an estimated 27.28 billion square feet this year — not only because of increased construction but an increase in home size itself. But a sizeable home in the big city is improbable for most.
In 20 of Canada’s most populous cities, $300k gets you less than 500 square feet. This means that, in coveted cities like Toronto, Montréal, Mississauga or Vancouver, the price per square foot can jump well above $600. Meanwhile, 13 of the other cities analyzed offer anywhere between 500 and 1,000 square feet for the same amount. The perspective is even gloomier given that Canadians’ idea of a good-sized home was well above 1,000 square feet, even five years ago.
Cities in QC Offer the Most Bang for Your Canadian Buck; Less So in BC & ON
One home in Saguenay or Trois-Rivières, seven times the space of one in Vancouver — for the same $300k
At just $178 per square foot, Saguenay and Trois-Rivières share the spotlight for the Canadian cities that offer the most space for the lowest price. $300,000 could get you 1,685 square feet in both cities — which is sure to boost their appeal among those on the lookout for more elbow room. Other Québec cities that come with more than 1,100 square feet of space for $300k are Sherbrooke (1,493 sq. ft.), Québec City (1,382 sq. ft.), and Gatineau (1,190 sq. ft.).
The only regional outlier is Montréal, where the price per square foot is a whopping $1,146. Essentially, that means that $300k here would buy only 262 square feet. Alongside Vancouver and Toronto, Montréal is the only other city where the price per square foot reached more than $1,100.
It’s no surprise that British Columbia and Ontario hubs claim the other end of the list with the least amount of space for the highest price tags. But, no matter the appeal of Vancouver or downtown Toronto, more than $1,200 per square foot is just not worth it for most homebuyers. Long story short: for $300k, you would get merely 243 square feet in Vancouver and 247 square feet in Toronto. So, hypothetically, one home in Trois-Rivières or Saguenay could hold more than six homes in Vancouver, Toronto or downtown Montréal — for the same money.
Unfortunately, if your heart is set on Ontario, the cities of Oakville, Mississauga, Markham, Burlington, and Richmond Hill might also be bummers. Here, at $300,000, you’d have to cram into 383 to 412 square feet of living space. By comparison, Windsor is the place to be: at $306 per square foot, you could get 980 sq. ft. of living space for half the national median housing price.
As for British Columbia, your best bet is Abbotsford: $412 per square foot here translates to 728 sq. ft. for $300,000. Although it’s still not ideal, that’s three times the home size in Vancouver and just an hour away from the more bustling city.
More Space for Less Money May Boost Appeal of The Prairies & Newfoundland’s Largest City
More than 1,000 sq. ft. for $300k in St. John’s, NL, Regina, SK, Edmonton, AB Saskatoon, SK, & Winnipeg, MB
The price-per-square-foot ratio has been fluctuating across the country, but one thing has been consistent compared to five years ago: Québec cities are the best for your buck. However, Prairie provinces (Saskatchewan, Alberta and Manitoba), as well as Newfoundland, are also major players for Canadian affordability.
Among the convenient Québécois entries, St. John’s, NL, manages to snatch the second spot when it comes to more room for less money. At $190 per square foot, $300k could buy 1,579 sq. ft. of space in the smallest large city on the list.
Regina ($239/square foot) and Saskatoon ($278/square foot) are also among the places with a whole lot of space for half the current national median home price: $300k in these Saskatchewan cities could buy 1,255 and 1,079 square feet, respectively.
Likewise, living large in Edmonton ($229/square foot) is more doable than in other hubs. For homebuyers seeking more space at a lower cost, $300k could translate into 1,115 sq. ft. in Alberta’s capital. The same amount gets you a more modest 831 sq. ft. in Calgary.
Finally, at $279 per square foot, Winnipeg is the last entry where half the median national price could buy more than 1,000 square feet. Having $300k in the only Manitoba city on the list could get you 1,075 sq. ft.
In the past few years, Canadians have come to discover a new appreciation for the size of their living space — whether because of work-from-home arrangements, a need to spend more time with family or just an increased need for personal space. Regardless of how house prices will fare in the next period, one thing’s for sure: homebuyers are wired to look for better deals — especially in terms of space.
- This study considered the 50 largest cities in Canada (in terms of population) and focused on 43 cities based on data availability. As such, the cities excluded from this study due to lack of data were Longueuil, QC; Greater Sudbury, ON; Lévis, QC; Langley Township, BC; Kingston, ON; Terrebonne, QC; and Saanich, BC.
- Based on available data, the study used price per square foot for overall residential properties for 30 cities; condo data for 8 cities (Toronto Downtown, Mississauga, Québec City, Laval, Gatineau, Sherbrooke, Saguenay and Trois-Rivières); and single family home data for 5 cities (Hamilton, Burnaby, Windsor, Barrie and St. John’s).
- Data regarding price per square foot was compiled based on a mix of sources, such as realtors’ associations, brokerages, and listing portals like REALTOR.ca, redfin.ca, c21 and more. The space one could buy for half the median home price was then calculated by dividing $300,000 by the price per square foot in each city.
- Per available data, Toronto refers to Toronto Downtown, and Montréal refers to Montréal Downtown and southwest.
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