Where to buy real estate now: How we found the best deals in Canada

By- Romana Updated: October 12th, 2019 Subject: Real Estate Content Publication: Globe & Mail

Choosing where to buy a home is a very personal decision, but gut feeling alone shouldn’t guide the biggest financial decision of your life. Whether you’re moving to be closer to closer to your job, have access to better schools for your kids, or you’re an income property investor looking to purchase where there’s maximum upside potential, it’s important to have some knowledge of how the homes in the neighbourhood you pick are likely to appreciate over time.

Affordability is important, but over the past few years most real estate markets in Canada have been a nail-biting, chart-defying nightmare for many buyers. Prices kept climbing, with home sales reaching their peak in December 2017; that was followed by rapidly decreasing sales activity and falling home prices—yet getting into the market still feels out of reach for many buyers.

Our annual report on real estate gives you the hard numbers to help guide your decision. We used data from Statistics Canada and the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) to analyze the real estate markets in Canada’s largest 35 municipal areas. In addition, we examined 1,726 neighbourhoods in 54 of Canada’s larger cities, based on three criteria:

  1. Value. Affordability is a tremendously important consideration—and increasingly hard to find, particularly in more volatile markets like Toronto and Vancouver. That’s why we also take into consideration the relative value of each neighbourhood and how pricing compares with surrounding neighbourhoods and the overall region.
  2. Momentum. Whether you’re looking for your first home, your next family home or for an income property, it’s important to think about how homes in the neighbourhood you pick are likely to appreciate over time compared to competing communities. This momentum helps us identify neighbourhoods that have the likelihood of strong future appreciation, particularly given that houses in neighbourhoods with consistent, strong, upward appreciation tend to hold their value even during the downturns.
  3. Expert insight. To ensure we’re identifying desirable neighbourhoods, we consulted an extensive panel of real estate agents. In our survey, we asked them to assign a grade to each neighbourhood.

The result is a ranking of the best Canadian neighbourhoods in which to buy a single-family home right now. Whether you want the convenience of downtown living, the larger footprint of the suburbs or the peace and quiet of the countryside, our rankings will help get you the best bang for your buck.

How we did it

To identify the top neighbourhoods, we start by looking at value, using average housing prices provided by local real estate boards. To be clear, when we say value we aren’t simply looking for the cheapest areas, as low  prices alone could be indicative of neighbourhoods mired in social problems, or communities that lack amenities and offer little in the way of a return on your investment.

Instead, we’re looking for relative value—when a neighbourhood is more affordable than other areas nearby. We measure this by comparing the average home prices in each neighbourhood to prices in the surrounding area, the metro district (where applicable) and the greater municipality.

Next, we scour each market looking for areas where homes are appreciating faster than in other parts of the city. We examine this data based on one-, three- and five-year trends; the aim is to find signs of sustained price gains, which can indicate an area with greater demand. The stronger the overall appreciation, the higher these neighbourhoods ranked in our list.

Finally, to ensure we’re identifying desirable neighbourhoods, we consulted an extensive panel of real estate agents and other experts. They were required to complete an extensive survey, where they were asked to grade and, at times, assess each neighbourhood.

Our ranking of the top 35 cities takes a broader view of the economy and rental market, in addition to value and momentum. We incorporate data from a variety of sources, including the Canadian Real Estate Association, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, the Québec Federation of Real Estate Boards, and various other real estate boards and associations.

We consider factors such as the ratio of average income to average housing prices and the local unemployment rate. The top-ranked cities have strong economies, solid rental markets, good value for your dollar and robust price appreciation.

While you’ll still have to do some of your own research to find neighbourhoods that meet your needs, we hope this report will narrow your search area and, ultimately, help you find and buy your dream home.

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