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How the pandemic pushed Canadian millennials to home ownership

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WATCH ABOVE: The COVID-19 pandemic is having an impact on the housing market with pent-up demand pushing Canadian home prices higher. – Dec 14, 2020

Nearly 48 per cent Canadians aged 25 to 35 currently own their home, and a quarter of these homeowners purchased a property during the coronavirus pandemic, according to a recent demographic survey by Royal LePage.

The pandemic has steered young Canadians along “a path to home ownership,” Phil Soper, president and CEO, Royal LePage, told Global News Thursday.

“As mortgage rates fell to historically low levels and the competition for entry-level housing lessened, young people saw a window of opportunity and went for it,” he said.

Read more: ‘We haven’t seen anything like this before’: pandemic boosts Canadian real estate

Even among non-homeowners, 84 per cent strongly intend to invest in a home in the future, with 68 per cent planning to make the move in the next five years, the survey shows.

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Soper noted that measures necessary to prevent the spread of COVID-19 may have driven “many of our younger Canadians to buy” even as the health crisis “dissuaded” many of the older homeowners from selling.

“The living situation for some young people sharing with parents, siblings or roommates became uncomfortably crowded with work-from-home becoming a day-to-day reality. The opportunity, therefore, of owning 500 sq-ft worth of personal space was more than viable to most in the current market scenario,” he said.

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Despite the economic challenges associated to the pandemic, Canadians aged 25 to 35, have shown a healthy personal outlook, according to the survey.

While nearly 92 per cent of those charted agreed that owning a home is a good financial investment, 40 per cent said that their savings have grown since the onset of the pandemic.

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According to Soper, “no dining out, no concerts with friends or winter escapes to the sunny south” are liable for this actuality.

“The pandemic has restricted millennials in so many ways. With outdoor spending limited, savings have soared,” said Soper.

“All the unspent money,” he added, “have found its way into real estate investments.”

Read more: Coronavirus: Montreal real estate continues to exceed expectations

Furthermore, this young group has had no problem adjusting to the boosted use of virtual tours and electronics contracts set in motion by the ongoing pandemic, Soper noted.

“Younger buyers are extremely comfortable with online research, even when it comes to investing in a home, unlike older investors,” said Soper.

Older people are opting to “wait it out” and delay their “desire for a housing upgrade until the medical crisis is under control.”

A look at the regional markets

Historically low interest rates are making it more attractive for young people to invest in housing across all markets.
In Ontario, 44 per cent of residents aged 25 to 35 own their home and of them, 26 per cent purchased a home since mid-March of last year.
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Most seem interested in taking advantage of some extra savings and low borrowing costs, to invest in a property that has appreciation potential. 

“Most of my 25- to 35-year-old clients have fit into one of three distinct buying scenarios over the last year: the softer condo market and low interest rates allowed renters to become owners; move-up buyers who had purchased a condominium a few years ago were able to turn that equity into a down payment on a larger property in the suburbs; or they’ve left the city altogether for a significantly larger space in more affordable places like Hamilton, Guelph, or even cottage country,” said Tom Storey, real estate agent at Royal LePage Signature Realty in Toronto.

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Coronavirus: Real estate market in Ontario’s cottage country experiencing boom – Jul 23, 2020

Ottawa too has seen its housing market appreciate over the last few years, due in part to increased demand from both local and out-of-town buyers, many in the age range of 25 to 35.

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In Quebec, demand from buyers aged 25 to 35 has flooded the suburban real estate market over the past year, spurred by low interest rates, the ability to work distantly and the aspiration to invest in long-term quality of life.

Of the young Quebec homeowners, 18 per cent purchased a home since mid-March of last year, while 28 per cent of homeowners located in Montreal have purchased a home since the onset of the pandemic, the highest rate among the cities surveyed.

In British Columbia, 49 per cent of residents aged 25 to 35 own their home with 27 per cent having purchased a home since mid-March of 2020.

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New survey finds housing prices holding strong in Greater Vancouver despite pandemic – Jul 9, 2020

“Younger buyers have a positive association with home ownership. They see the value in it and they’ve done the math. Currently, a monthly mortgage payment can equate to little more than renting,” said Adil Dinani, sales representative at Royal LePage West Real Estate Services in Greater Vancouver.

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At 56 per cent, Alberta records Canada’s highest home ownership rate among those aged 25 to 35, of which 24 per cent purchased a home since mid-March of last year.

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While Alberta’s housing market has persistently been stable over recent years, the COVID-19 pandemic seems to have further enthused activity among younger buyers. Thirty-seven per cent of Albertans in this cohort say they’ve seen their savings grow since the beginning of the pandemic.

Read more: Coronavirus and the housing market: Is this a good time to buy?

In the Prairie provinces, 53 per cent of residents aged 25 to 35 have their own home, out of which, 32 per cent purchased a home since March 2020.

In Atlantic Canada, meanwhile, 48 per cent of residents in the surveyed age group own their home. Of this, 42 per cent have purchased a home since mid-March of last year, the highest of all regions surveyed.

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“Within one month of the start of the pandemic, buyers in this age group came out in droves,” said Will Campbell, sales representative at Royal LePage Atlantic in Halifax.

“This market is challenging due to a lack of supply. However, young buyers are determined to make a purchase, even if they have to be flexible on location.”

What does this mean for the spring market

Going by the present trends, Soper is anticipating a healthy housing price growth in 2021 across the Canadian market.

There is a “clear imbalance” as of now, owing to the rising demands for buying a home among younger Canadians and the reluctance of the older population towards selling, Soper noted.

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Housing demand rising to levels not seen in nearly a decade – Feb 17, 2021

The ongoing housing supply shortage is likely to continue well into spring or at least until “more vaccination is underway, and older people are comfortable getting back into the market,” he said.

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This will put a “very significant upward pressure on prices,” he added.

“We can expect a 10-20 per cent increase in the price of detached homes overall,” Soper said, adding, “There could also be rising demands for recreational housing, investment in cottage country properties as we move further into summer months.”

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