Sunday, February 23

The Income You Need to Purchase a Home in Canada’s 25 Largest Cities

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What income and down-payment do you need in order to buy the average home in a major Canadian city?

The average detached house in Canada costs $498,943 and you’ll need a down-payment of $24,947 and a household income of at least $97,000 to buy it.

However, the average isn’t representative of most Canadian cities. Furthermore, there can be huge price discrepancies within cities, depending on what neighborhood you choose. Nevertheless, it’s interesting to see the huge variation in home prices across Canada, depending on the province or population size. 

The table below lists the minimum down-payments and approximate household income you need to afford the average detached house in Canada’s 25 largest cities:

Downpayment and Household Income Required to Purchase a Detached Home in Canada’s Top 25 Largest Cities

Rank by Population SizeCityAverage House PriceMinimum Down Payment RequiredHousehold Income Required with Minimum Down Payment
1Toronto, ON$800,900$55,090$165,000
2Montreal, QC$367,800$18,390$75,000
3Vancouver, BC$995,200$74,520$200,000
4Calgary, AB$419,900$20,995$85,000
5Edmonton, AB$323,000$16,150$65,000
6Ottawa, ON$428,200$21,410$87,000
7Quebec City, QC$280,580$14,029$57,000
8Winnipeg, MB$304,605$15,230$62,000
9Hamilton, ON$607,600$35,760$122,000
10Kitchener, ON$520,750$27,075$105,000
11London, ON$405,551$20,278$82,000
12Victoria, BC$699,600$44,960$140,000
13Niagara, ON$416,700$20,835$85,000
14Halifax, NS$309,101$15,455$63,000
15Oshawa, ON$503,000$25,300$102,000
16Windsor, ON$335,253$16,763$68,000
17Saskatoon, SK$291,300$14,565$59,000
18Regina, SK$269,400$13,470$55,000
19Barrie, ON$474,400$23,720$96,000
20St. John's, NL$282,219$14,111$57,000
21Abbotsford, BC$546,000$29,600$110,000
22Kelowna, BC$507,700$25,770$102,000
23Sherbrooke, QC$247,998$12,400$50,000
24Trois-Riviere, QC$190,689$9,534$39,000
25Guelph, ON$553,100$30,210$111,000

The data in the above table was retrieved from the Canadian Real Estate Association National Price Map for July 2019 and will be updated each year. For cities that were not listed on CREA, I used Zolo.

About the numbers

House prices are changing dramatically each month in some of the cities listed above, so the data in this table can become of date quickly. Furthermore, you will always be able to find houses in your city that are priced higher and lower than the average prices listed in the table above because that’s how averages work.

Looking at my own city in the above, I would say these numbers err on the low side, particularly because they include all properties from one-bedroom condos to seven-bedroom mansions. Knowing this, I would guess the average price of the home you’re looking for is probably priced slightly higher than what’s listed above!

What is affordability anyway?

How much house you can afford is determined by your income. Unfortunately, it’s generally pretty easy to get more house than you can *actually* afford.

Calculating the income you need to purchase a home only takes into consideration the mortgage payment, estimated utility costs, and estimated property tax. However, if you have other financial obligations like a car payment, student loans, or credit card debt, the carrying costs of those will be taken into account and reduce the mortgage you qualify for. 

It’s worth noting, though it’s often forgotten, that your mortgage payment isn’t the only financial obligation of homeownership. Once you put down roots in real estate, you’ll need to tend to them. This means expenses like repairs and maintenance, which you should typically estimate as 1% to 3% of your home’s value each year. 

I used RateHub’s Mortgage Affordability Calculator to determine the household income required to purchase a home at the average price listed in the table. This calculator estimated property taxes and heating costs but left out condo fees and other expenses. As a result, the household income required is probably underestimated! 

I did NOT include things like land transfer taxes, realtor inspections, or home inspection fees, which vary by province and can add thousands of dollars to your initial purchase price.

Saving a Downpayment to purchase a home in Canada

The minimum down-payment for a home in Canada must be at least 5% of the home’s value, but this isn’t always true. For houses less than $500,000 in price, you need a down-payment of only 5%.

For houses that cost more than $500,000, you have to put 5% down on the first $500,000 plus 10% of any amount above $500,000. For houses over $1 million, a 20% down-payment is required. You can read more about Canada’s down-payment rules here.

When it comes to saving a downpayment for a home, you want to earn the highest return on your money for the least amount of risk. Your house downpayment is not something you want to gamble in the stock market, so a high-interest savings account is the best place to stash your cash. EQ Bank offers one of the highest interest rates on your savings. Tangerine Bank is also a great place to keep your money, particularly if you’re saving your downpayment in your Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) with the intention to take advantage of the First Time Home Buyer’s Plan

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While I used the minimum down payment in the table, I strongly encourage you to purchase a home with at least 10% down. Ideally, you want to put at least 20% down when you buy. I also strongly discourage you from purchasing a home at your max affordability based on your income.

Too many young people rush into homeownership and end up with mortgage payments that prevent them from making progress with other financial goals, like saving for retirement. Strangling your cashflow just so you can become a homeowner will ruin your ability to save and that leaves you financially vulnerable to catastrophe, no matter how beautiful your granite countertops are.

Final thoughts on buying a house in Canada

Low house prices in a particular city do not mean you should buy a home because “it’s such a great deal”. High house prices in a particular city do not mean you should buy a home because otherwise “you might get priced out of the market”. What constitutes a good buying opportunity when it comes to Canadian real estate is complicated and intensely personal, and cannot be deduced from a single table!

Hope you found this post interesting and useful!

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Money After Graduation Inc. is a financial literacy website dedicated to helping Millennials and Gen Z pay off debt, invest in the stock market, and afford the life they want!

20 Comments

  1. This is so fascinating Bridget, because my partner and I are looking at a place in Ottawa for around the median price, and seeing that $75,000 is the income recommended for that purchase actually makes me want to crawl out of my skin – we make significantly more than that and I’m still resorting to calculators to reassure me that we’re not overbuying (and yes, we’ll be putting 10% down!) By every measure and “standard” rule we’ll be within our affordable range, including the 3x income rule, but it’s still on my mind. Awesome post!

    • ughh I know, the income required for the amounts is pure insanity. Canada loves to lend money to keep the housing inflated as long as possible.

      I think the numbers also look worse because they are bare, bare minimum. Essentially assuming you have no student loan payments or car loan payments, etc. and you can put absolutely every free penny towards your mortgage.

      On an unrelated note I was impressed with the affordability of Ottawa! And Montreal! For the size of those cities, houses look very affordable (comparatively, of course)

  2. It’s interesting to see the numbers. I really want to make a move to BC but I may be holding off now. I’m surprised that the median number in Newfoundland & Labrador is so low but I imagine that’s the price of smaller communities bringing the average down. In the larger towns and the cities, what I want would cost about $200,000 in the U.S. and a minimum of $400,000 in St. John’s.

    I may just rent forever.

  3. Thanks for sharing this. It’s super interesting to look at!

    I didn’t realize that Victoria was so high on the list… I knew it was expensive, but assumed that there were more up there with it… Thankfully it is well below Vancouver’s craziness!

  4. This is super interesting. I’m glad I live in Montreal, prices are not as crazy here. Personally, I am interested in buying a small rental property, like a duplex or triplex, and living in one unit while renting the other(s). How would that affect the income I need to afford such a property, since the rent would offset part of the mortgage cost? That would be an interesting article to me, if you have any expertise in that area.

  5. Interesting thought. I did a similar analysis with median income and home prices in Ontario to see how many people actually live in the affordability range of housing being 30% or less of income and it was kind of scary. For instance, in Toronto for a new house/condo being built, the median price is $625,990, that requires a monthly income of $9759 per month to meet the 30% requirement. How many people actually take home that much? Not many when the median income is $61k. Then, Oakville, the median single detached home is $975,000, the monthly income needed for that house to be 30% of income is $15,199 per month or $182,388 per year…the median income is only $107k…the place that is still a “city” that is the most affordable is North Bay…lol!

    • And because I saw someone mention Ottawa, median new home price is $466,900, you’d need a monthly income of $7,279 in order for housing costs to be 30% of your income, that’s $87,348 a year. In Ottawa though, that’s nearly on par since the median household income is $84k.

  6. Bridget – Considering the skyrocketing prices of homes in Canada, does it make sense to rent a place forever? I agree that if you keep renting the money goes to pay some one else’s mortgage, but considering the way it’s ballooning (despite AB’s economy in shambles; prices showing no respite) is renting a better option?

    Also why is that the same type or a bigger house in the US is far lower than Canada? I agree that our dollar is 30% lower than USD, but it does not mean that housing should be 2 times greater than the US?

    Would be interested in knowing your opinion.

  7. Bridge this is super depressing. You prompted me to look up the prices in Australia, and then I realized it wasn’t much better in here! What’s scarier is when you do a time series of median household income vs median price.

    Millennials really have been elbowed out of property ownership.

    Sydney $1,025,478
    Melbourne $718,000
    Hobart $392,000
    Canberra $593,000
    Brisbane $490,000
    Darwin $608,750
    Perth $535,000
    Adelaide $430,000

    Looks like it’s the gypsy millennial life for me!

    • Aren’t the above figures in Australian dollars Chris? Regardless partly its because of the “big city” charm and Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Brisbane being listed in one of the “top cities” of the world (in one magazine or the other).

      This is just insane and things were far better before this globalization and no wonder Brexit spoke the minds of the British. One day it may happen with the other parts of the world, not sure when…

    • I used RateHub’s calculators! Generally banks and mortgage lenders will calculate your mortgage payment at around 1/3 of your net income. Many lenders try not to have your total debt payments (mortgage, student loans, car payments, etc) be more than 45% of your net income (which is crazy IMO but that’s another post in itself!)

  8. It’s just as challenging here in the U.K, this is what I hear from clients. It’s time for the mortgage companies think of new mortgage models with much longer terms and succession options.