Most people think the Canadian housing market is balanced

by Steve Randall on 09 Apr 2019

The share of Canadians who believe the housing market is favouring sellers and those who think it favours buyers is aligned.

Just 2 percentage points divide the two opinions, making it the first time in 5 years that a balanced market is perceived according to a survey by RBC.

Roughly a third of respondents fall into each group: those who say it is now a buyers’ market (36%) and those who say it’s a sellers’ market (34%).

But those who are buying are not the traditional partner/spouse couples with 28% of potential buyers saying they intend to do so with family members and 32% buying solo.

In 2017, 49% of buyers intended to do so with a partner or spouse, now it’s just 42%.

"We're seeing a fundamental contrast in who's at the buying table," said Nicole Wells, Vice-President, Home Equity Financing, RBC. "There is a surge in confident, in-control solo home buyers and, on the polar opposite end, those who are saying they can't do it alone and need the assistance of family."

Most people won’t overstretch their budget

A small majority (51%0 of respondents said they were not prepared to overstretch their budget when buying a home, essentially making themselves “house poor” by spending 30-40% of their income on homeownership.

However, RBC found that 47% of respondents said that the potential stress of being house poor is worth risking in order to own their own home.

"While many Canadians tell us that house poor may be a reality, it doesn't have to be. It may require more effort or time upfront, but being more prepared in the home-buying journey can help bring it all together," says Wells. "Let's face it, the white picket fence or pride of your name on the deed is a rite of passage and doing it responsibly means there's still money for the extras in life."

Fifty-six percent of respondents said they think waiting until 2020 to buy would be a good idea and 45% of those are prepared to push the purchase out two years or more (highest among 18-34 year olds, 55%).

Down payments and interest rates

Asked about down payments, 47% say they plan to put more than 15% down, that’s up 10 percentage points from 2018; while just 16% say they will put down only 5% of the purchase price.

Almost three quarters of first-time buyers say they are concerned about interest rate hikes, compared to 59% of all respondents.

More than half of first-time homebuyers (56%) say they may actually buy sooner because of where interest rates are now and concerns of further hikes.

Other findings

  • Eight-in-10 Canadians say a home or condominium purchase is still a good investment (81%).
  • Canadians feel it makes more sense to buy than rent (66%).
  • Canadians are well positioned to weather a potential downturn in housing prices (71%) or an increase in interest rates (63%).
  • Affordability (21%) and being in a safe neighbourhood (20%) top the list of what Canadians must have, while buying in 'the right' neighbourhood is less of a concern (6%, steady decline since 2015).
  • Canadians are most willing to sacrifice the conveniences of being close to a major highway (16%), dining and entertainment (13%), good schools (11%) and public transit (10%).

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