Going it Alone: The Single Homebuyer

Going it Alone: The Single Homebuyer

More Canadians are living with their parents as high real estate prices and tough mortgage qualification rules make it difficult for young people, especially singles, to buy a home. Here’s how some young homeowners achieved their goal.

Real estate affordability in Canada is a hot topic these days. Following a decade of house price appreciation in most markets, the federal and provincial governments brought in a variety of measures aimed at cooling things down and reducing household debt. Demand dropped off, but house prices remain sticky.

Buyers now must be able to qualify for a mortgage at two percent more than the offered rate at federally regulated lenders. It’s tough for first-time buyers, and even tougher for singles, who are hoping to get into the housing market.

A recent survey conducted by Leger for Re/Max found that 52 percent of single Canadians said economic uncertainty and expensive home prices are the biggest reasons why they are not buying a home. But 81 percent of the singles who said they want to purchase a home have the financial ability to do so, says the survey.

“It’s concerning to see qualified buyers showing hesitancy toward home ownership,” says Christopher Alexander, executive vice president of Re/Max of Ontario-Atlantic Canada. “Price and economic factors aside, the additional unnecessary layers of government intervention have left many feeling pushed out of the market, or uncertain of it.”

During the last 20 years, the number of Canadian adults who live with a parent has increased, according to Statistics Canada. There were 4.5 million people, or 15 percent of Canadians aged 18 and over, living with a parent in 2017.

Of the population aged 25 to 64, almost 1.9 million people, or nine percent of the population of that cohort, lived with one or more parent in 2017, up from about five percent in 1995.

About three-quarters of those in the 25 to 64 age cohort were employed, which is less than those who did not live with a parent. Statistics Canada says the difference could be because a higher proportion of students still live at home. Many people also are looking after elderly parents or are dealing with their own health challenges.

Culture also plays a role. Statistics Canada says of Canada’s minority groups, 21 percent of South Asians and 19 percent of Chinese aged 25 to 64 lived with a parent, compared to nine percent in the overall population. Multi-generation households are the fastest-growing type of household in Canada. Statistics Canada says they may be on the rise because multi-generational households are common among immigrant populations, who tend to settle in regions of the country that have a high cost of living.

If you are a single who wants to buy a home, a study by Zoocasa says you’ll get the best bang for your buck in Regina. A single buyer earning the median income of $58,823 would have no trouble affording the average home priced at $284,424. The second-most affordable city for singles is Saint John, N.B., followed by Edmonton, Calgary, Lethbridge, Alta., Winnipeg and Halifax.

Not surprisingly, the least affordable cities for singles in the Zoocasa study were Vancouver, Toronto and Victoria. Also not considered affordable for singles were Guelph, Kitchener-Waterloo and London in Ontario; and Montreal and Ottawa.

A report commissioned by the Affordable Housing Office of the City of Toronto says that it takes 11 to 27 years for a median-income renter household in that city to save for a 10 percent down payment on a median-priced home.

How are Canadians saving for a home? A Sotheby’s International Realty Canada report by research firm Mustel Group says 71 percent of “modern family” homeowners (adults aged 20 to 45) used personal savings for their down payment. Twenty percent delayed saving for retirement in order to make their purchase, and 31 percent withdrew money from their RRSP under the Home Buyer’s Plan.

Fifty-two percent received a financial gift, living inheritance or a traditional inheritance. Nineteen percent found a higher-paying job, while 14 percent of families say they took on part-time or freelance work, in addition to their full-time job, to boost their income. Twelve percent say they delayed having a child, and nine percent moved back in with family.

They also made lifestyle choices, cutting down on dining out, vacations and purchases of clothing and electronics.

Is it worth it? Seventy-eight percent of those surveyed say they believe their home will either outperform or match the performance of their financial investments in the next five years, while 48 percent say real estate will outperform financial investments.

“The dream of home ownership remains compelling for today’s young families, but the reality is that many are facing serious obstacles to achieving this given rising costs of living, rising costs of housing and other financial needs, such as saving for retirement,” says Brad Henderson, president and CEO of Sotheby’s International Realty Canada.

“While these are significant challenges without a simple or singular solution, our research reflects strategies from those who have navigated their way and successfully bought a home. There is no doubt, however, that in an environment of higher interest rates and tighter mortgage guidelines, today’s families will continue to confront new challenges as they make home buying decisions in this year’s market.”


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