What if the circumstances of the pandemic have actually presented an extraordinary opportunity for people to purchase homes? For many living in big cities, homeownership is a tough goal to reach with housing prices higher than ever.
Cities like Toronto, Vancouver, and even Ottawa boast price tags that are not friendly to most first time homebuyers.
Millennials have a significantly lower rate of homeownership than baby boomers did by the age of thirty. The cost of living has increased exponentially and the living wage has not risen to meet it, though that varies greatly depending on where you are located. Young professionals start in a poor position with critical debt in the form of student loans, bills stack up, rent rates increase, and by the time you’ve saved for a down payment the prices have increased again — adulthood is just a nightmare.
But now we’re in quarantine.
Considering how hard it is to rent under normal circumstances, it doesn’t seem like a pandemic would be the ideal time to shop for houses. Especially if you are thinking about purchasing a home for the first time or were laid off due to the business closures, COVID-19 may have delayed your plans — or even halted them altogether.
Those who held on, or grasped new opportunities, during these tumultuous times have an ace up their sleeve that makes homeownership attainable and completely within reach: remote work. If there’s one thing we didn’t expect in 2020 it was an immediate shift to digital for almost every industry. While e-commerce and virtual office space are not new concepts and have seen steady growth over the last decade, COVID-19 thrust unsuspecting businesses into the online space and created a new normal, working remotely and telecommuting.
The unexpected benefit of remote work is that you can do it from anywhere and as the famous quote goes, “Location, location, location.” Opportunities abound in other-town Canada for the professional tied to their laptop! We’ve compiled a list of our top five cities for first-time buyers, right-sizers, and those who just simply want a change—all fueled by the premise of accessability, a powerful internet connection, and the best part, affordable housing.
If you’re willing to make the move, these charming municipalities might be for you:
1. Edmonton, AB
Topping the list is the home of the largest mall in North America, Edmonton, AB. The city is undergoing a recession because of changes in the oil industry, so the market price for homes in the area is set quite low compared to 2015. Homes that would’ve sold for $300,000 a few years ago are selling for approximately $240,000 now. With a population of over 981,000 and a booming tech sector (ranking among the top 10 in all of Canada), it’s a major city with tons of amenities, business opportunities, and access to high-speed internet. Perfect for the remote worker who appreciates a modern and urban lifestyle.
2. Penticton, BC
Canada is known for being two things: polite, and cold. Luckily, if you live in Penticton, BC, you can skip the chill and stay outdoors all winter. Smack in the middle of wine country, this cozy small town boasts several beaches and countless vistas of rolling mountain ranges. Although not as popular as neighbouring Kamloops and Kelowna, it makes a great destination for outdoor enthusiasts. Penticton is all the luxury relaxation of Victoria for a much more affordable price tag. A home office complete with modern amenities tucked away in a quaint vineyard — who could ask for more?
3. Annapolis Valley, NS
This hidden corner of Nova Scotia has become a secret hub of activity for young folks and their families. Home to Acadia University and nestled along the Bay of Fundy, the Annapolis Valley has an eclectic flare but maintains its small-town vibe. Whether you’re looking in Kentville, Wolfville, Greenwood, or one of the other valley towns, you’re bound to find the perfect place to call home. Not only has the super low cost of housing made Annapolis Valley one of the top spots for first-time buyers, but its proximity to Halifax (about an hour), low crime rating, and bountiful small-business opportunities are incredibly welcoming for newcomers. If you’re thinking about investing in a mortgage for the first time, and a cozy spot by the ocean sounds like the life for you, Annapolis Valley is calling!
4. Chambly, QC
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to have a really cool, rich neighbour who invites you to all their parties? That’s what it would be like to live just on the outskirts of Montreal (you got it, your cool, rich party friend!) in Chambly, where beautiful starter homes begin in the $200,000. It’s a great place to start a family, with lots of schools and hospitals nearby. Perfect for those working in education and healthcare, or staring at your computer screen in your home office all day. Home to farmers’ markets, unique eateries, and Montreal speed Wifi, there are plenty of opportunities in this quaint little town. French not your forté? Pas de problème! Chambly speaks both of Canada’s official languages, so you can leave that French-English dictionnaire at home — your old home!
5. Quinte West, ON
Finishing off our list is natural haven Quinte West, ON. Nearby bustling Prince Edward County and an hour and a half outside of Toronto, it manages to maintain its small-town vibe with the added bonus of a short commute to major cities. With starter homes selling under $300,000 and over 20% appreciation in property values since the beginning of the pandemic, the potential for first-time buyers to buy low and sell high is enormous! Its artisan stores, niche shops, and unique wine and food culture have made this gem prime real estate for many Torontonians escaping the busy city and those looking to settle into a stable and vibrant community.
The bottom line is, if you are thinking about buying a house, now might be the best time to do it. If you have been stuck renting in big cities and you’re mulling over a mortgage, consider this: on a $300,000 home, a mortgage is about $1,300 depending on your interest rate. Most one-bedroom apartments in major cities cost around the same to rent per month. Upgrading to a house in a smaller town could prove easier on you — and your wallet.
And to think, all it took to make housing affordable for millennials was a global pandemic.
Stay safe and stay healthy, but weigh the option of homeownership before you miss the boat on this interesting time in the market.