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Half of residents in Canada’s biggest cities eyeing more affordable real estate markets

by HR News Canada
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A recent survey conducted by Royal LePage Real Estate Services reveals that a significant portion of residents in Canada’s largest urban centers are contemplating relocating to more affordable housing markets, driven primarily by the cost of living and the increasing prevalence of remote work opportunities.

The survey, conducted by Hill & Knowlton, sampled 900 residents from the Greater Toronto Area, Greater Montreal, and Greater Vancouver.

It found that 50% of respondents would consider buying a property in one of Canada’s most affordable cities if remote work or local employment were available. Among renters, the inclination to move was even higher, with 60% indicating a willingness to relocate, compared to 45% of homeowners.

Karen Yolevski, COO of Royal LePage Real Estate Services Ltd., emphasized the role of remote work in this trend.

“Compared to existing homeowners who have already set down roots, we know that renters are more likely to move to be able to afford a home. This flexibility is supported by the post-pandemic permanence of remote work opportunities,” she said. Yolevski also noted that many Canadians are driven by the desire to reduce their living costs and seek a more relaxed lifestyle.

Thunder Bay named most affordable city

Thunder Bay, Ont., was identified as the most affordable city in Canada, where just 22.2% of a household’s monthly income is needed to service a mortgage payment. Other affordable cities include Saint John, Red Deer, Trois-Rivières, and Edmonton, where the percentage of income needed ranges from 25.1% to 28.9%.

Where people want to move

The survey revealed regional preferences for relocation. In Greater Toronto, 51% of respondents would consider moving to a more affordable city, with Edmonton (19%) being the top choice, followed by Thunder Bay (15%) and St. John’s (14%).

In Greater Montreal, 54% of respondents would consider relocating, with Quebec City (29%) being the most popular destination, followed by Sherbrooke (15%) and Trois-Rivières (12%). In Greater Vancouver, 45% of respondents expressed a willingness to move, with Edmonton (19%) again being the top choice, followed by St. John’s (13%) and Thunder Bay (9%).

Lifestyle factors

Yolevski highlighted the broader lifestyle factors influencing these decisions.

“It’s clear that lifestyle is an important factor in Canadians’ decisions about where to buy a home,” she said. She pointed out that many Canadians are looking for reduced everyday expenses and a break from the hustle and bustle of urban centres, a trend accelerated during the real estate boom of 2020 and 2021.

Despite the high interest in relocating, 40% of respondents in major urban centres stated they would not move to a more affordable city. This sentiment was higher among homeowners (47%) compared to renters (30%). Yolevski acknowledged the continuing allure of major cities, noting, “Canada’s largest cities have much to offer, from diverse employment opportunities, to endless entertainment options and amenities.”

More housing supply needed

The findings underscore the ongoing challenge of housing affordability in Canada’s largest cities and highlight the need for increased housing supply. “Regardless of how many residents choose to relocate elsewhere, there will always be a strong demand for housing in the cities of Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver,” Yolevski said.

The survey’s findings reflect a broader shift in housing preferences influenced by economic factors and the lasting impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on work habits and lifestyle choices.

The 15 most affordable cities

CityAggregate Home Price (Q1 2024)Household Income (2022)Mortgage PaymentPercent of Income NeededNational Affordability Ranking
Thunder Bay, Ont.$299,300$84,400$1,563.2522.2%1
Saint John, N.B.$267,900$67,000$1,400.0125.1%2
Red Deer, Alta.$392,900$95,900$2,049.8825.7%3
Trois-Rivières, Que.$339,300$74,600$1,771.2128.5%4
St. John’s, N.L.$342,200$71,200$1,786.2830.1%7
Quebec City$366,800$74,600$1,914.1930.8%8
Sherbrooke, Que.$366,900$74,600$1,914.7030.8%9
Windsor – Essex, Ont.$491,100$84,400$2,560.4136.4%13
Gatineau, Que.$438,700$74,600$2,287.9936.8%15

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