Comparisons of what kinds of residential properties Canadians could buy at the same price in different parts of the country used to reveal sharp regional differences. The same asking price would get buyers a mansion in some provinces and smaller towns or a condo the size of a shoebox in pricey markets like Vancouver and Toronto.
But after the pandemic-fuelled housing boom that swept much of the country in the second half of 2020, a cross-country comparison reveals the bucks goes a lot less far than it used to across Canada.
The national average sale price of a home in Canada was up a whopping 25 per cent in February compared to the same month in 2020, just before the start of the COVID-19 health emergency, according to the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA).
And sales activity last month was strong across the country, including in places like Calgary, which had its best February since 2014, before the oil-market crash.
No matter where you live in Canada, if you are hoping to buy in the upcoming spring housing market, “be prepared for bidding wars,” says Romana King, director of content at Zolo, an online real estate marketplace.
Buyers should come prepared, King adds.
“Know (the neighbourhood you want to buy in) really well, know what’s selling, how fast they move, know how much they’re selling over the list price,” she says.
You should have your finances in order, with an actual commitment from a mortgage provider to loan you money, which requires a more thorough process than the quick approval that borrowers can sometimes get online, King says.
Having your ducks in a row will allow you to swiftly make a strong, credible offer when you see something you like, King says.
“Don’t incrementally move up,” she says. “Go in with your best offer.”
At the same time, though, you don’t want to go overboard. There’s nothing worst than winning a bidding war only to be hit by buyer’s remorse because you spent too much.
“You should be buying based on your personal financial budget, not on the top price your bank told you can buy at,” King says.
Your bank’s lending limit doesn’t take into account a variety of costs — from pet food to child care costs — that might impact your cashflow, she adds.
Once you’ve figured out what you can comfortably afford, aim for listings that are around $100,000 lower than your maximum so you have room to bid up without overstretching yourself, King suggests.
If you’re sitting at the other end of the real estate transaction, it’s hard to go wrong these days as a seller, King says. But if you want to put your property up for sale in time for the spring market, you should hurry up, she says.
This isn’t the time to start significant renovations, even if you think they’re going to increase the home value, she adds.
“Do not renovate the kitchen if you want to list in March or April because it’s going to take a month or two … and at that point, you’ve missed the market,” she says.
On the other hand, if you’re selling your principal residence, you might want to give yourself plenty of room to find a new house once you’ve closed the deal with a buyer, King says. A closing date that’s between three and six months away “gives you more of a cushion to actually find a place in a very hot market.”
Here’s a look at what Canadians can buy for $500,000, $1 million and $1.5 million and up in big cities across Canada:
Address: 2516 Poplar Street
Asking price: $549,900
This single-family home in the city’s west end features three bedrooms in the upper level and a complete bedroom suite in the basement. This is an older home — built in 1937 — but has upgrades including ductless heat pumps and a two-tiered deck. The tree-lined residential neighbourhood is located off Quinpool Road.
Address: 2224 Purcells Cove Road
Asking price: $995,500
This single-storey home, which includes 40 feet of ocean waterfrontage on Halifax’s Northwest Arm, is described as an “urban cottage in the city.” The four-bedroom, three-bath ranch is in a picturesque area that includes the Royal Nova Scotia Yacht Squadron and is just a 10-minute drive from the city centre.
Address: 6435 Coburg Road
Asking price: $1,839,900
This 5,000-square-foot home in Halifax’s exclusive south end is finished on four levels and includes five bedrooms and four baths. The lower level is equipped for a home business, and appears to be used as a physiotherapy clinic. The home includes two games rooms, a hot tub room, and a large covered deck.
Address: 3534, Rue Dorion
Asking price: $499,000
This ground floor apartment of a triplex in the popular Plateau-Mont-Royal neighbourhood has a renovated bathroom, three bedrooms and an unfinished basement. It gives way to a green alleyway and a large balcony. This home is located on a residential street and a few minutes by foot to the sprawling Lafontaine Park.
Address: 4337 – 4339 Av. Wilson
Asking price: $998,000
This semi-detached duplex in Montreal’s west end consists of two spacious dwellings in the building, which has undergone several renovations over the past 20 years. The property still has some of its original woodwork. It also has a private backyard. It’s located near the Monkland Village in the sought-after Notre-Dame-de-Grâce neighbourhood.
Address: 2945, Rue Hill Park Circle
Asking price: $1,595,000
This renovated townhouse sits on a quiet street nestled up high in the city’s central Ville-Marie borough, right next to Mount Royal and not far from downtown. This three-bedroom, three-bathroom home also has two indoor parking spots and a massive rooftop patio overlooking the city.
Address: #519 -1 Market St.
Asking price $485,000
A condo located in downtown Toronto, near the waterfront and attractions such as the St. Lawrence Market. The property has studio layout with one bathroom and has monthly maintenance fees of about $221.
Address: 130 Russett Ave.
Asking price: $989,800
This single-family semi-detached home is located just west of Toronto’s downtown. The four-bedroom, three-bathroom property may not look like much, but is advertised as having “great potential.”
Address: 1393 Dundas Street
Asking price: $1,680,000
A three-storey single-family freehold townhome located in Toronto’s Little Portugal neighbourhood. It has three bedrooms, four bathrooms, and a finished basement.
Address: 52 27 Avenue SW
Asking price: $499,900
This two-bedroom, single-bathroom single-family home is located in the inner-city community of Erlton. The home, built in 1911, is 960 square feet and near a park and playground. There is no garage but street parking is available.
Address: 1801 13 Street NW
Asking price: $999,900
This home, in the northwest community of Capitol Hill, is 2,616 square feet and includes four bedrooms total, four bathrooms and a detached garage. Built in 2013, the house has shaker-style white cabinetry, a large kitchen island, walk-in closet and a wet bar.
Address: 4109 16A Street SW
Asking price: $1,500,000
This newly-built three-storey single-family home in the inner-city community of Altadore has three bedrooms and six bathrooms. It includes high-end finishings, four fireplaces, hardwood floors, air conditioning, a fully finished basement and a wet bar. The home, built in 2020, is 2,878 square feet and comes with a detached garage.
Address: #304 – 1717 Haro Street, Vancouver
Asking price: $499,000
At just a shade under $500,000, this one-bedroom, 650-square-foot condo in the West End is centrally located and walking distance from Vancouver’s crown jewel Stanley Park. The upper corner unit in a building built in 1977 is described as ideal for first-time buyers.
Address: 4931 Killarney St., Vancouver
Asking price: $1,080,000
This front unit of a duplex is located on a quiet street in East Vancouver. The 1,100-square-foot, two-bedroom unit was built in 2015 and is close to a school, park, SkyTrain, and stores and restaurants in Norquay Village.
Address: 3177 Rupert Street, Vancouver
Asking price: $1,575,000
Throughout the 1960s to 1980s, boxy two-floor houses popped up across the city, so much so that they became known as Vancouver Specials. While built in 1992, this two-level home features all the earmarks of a Vancouver Special, including a pitched roof and a multi-coloured brick ground-floor exterior.
This 2,115-square-foot home in East Vancouver has six bedrooms — three on the top floor and another three in the rental unit down below. The house is located close to a park and is a 15-minute walk from the SkyTrain.