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Here's What Kind of House $500,000 Gets You Across Canada

Spoiler alert: pretty tight quarters if you’re in Vancouver and Toronto.

by Anne Gaviola
Mar 21 2019, 5:27pm

All photos via Point2 Homes

With an average income of $44,200 CAD, a typical millennial has a maximum home-buying budget of about $324,027. That’s not a lot when you consider that the national average price for a home is $468,350 (it drops to a more feasible $371,000 if you exclude Vancouver and Toronto, which are the two most expensive markets by a long shot).

With that in mind, we wanted to check out how far the same budget––of half a million dollars––goes in different cities across the country. We settled on $500,000 because it’s a nice even number, and it’s realistic for an average household of two millennials.

There’s a big difference between what you can get in the priciest city, which is Vancouver, and one of the cheapest. For example, you can purchase a square foot of living space in Windsor, Ontario, for a fraction of what it would cost you in a sought-after Vancouver neighbourhood. In fact, seven of Canada’s top ten most expensive neighbourhoods are in the Greater Vancouver Area.

There are cost savings to be had the farther you move from the downtown core as well in most major cities. To keep things consistent though, all of the places included are in residential areas, as opposed to very remote middle-of-nowhere locations.

For a true apples-to-apples comparison, this list, compiled with the help of real estate portal Point2 Homes, highlights houses (as opposed to condos) in these Canadian cities that won’t break a budget of half a million dollars:

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One-bedroom townhouse in Vancouver

Vancouver

Getting much of anything for $500,000 in Vancouver is an impossible dream, so sticking to the budget means cutting back on space––cue this 553-square-foot one-bedroom townhouse in the popular Hastings area. Don’t worry though, according to the ad, this ground-level home “feels big after clever renovations” and comes with underground parking and a “huge storage locker” for extra space.

Another bonus to having minimal square footage is that it keeps maintenance fees low. We checked and monthly fees are $166.70, or about $2,000 a year, which isn’t bad for Vancity.

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Five-bedroom house in a Calgary suburb

Calgary

You can buy yourself a “typical” home in Calgary for $450,000, so half a million gets you a two-storey house in Cedarbrae, which is a residential neighbourhood Southwest of the core (it’s described as “conveniently located close to downtown but far away enough to keep prices down). Calgary has the highest home ownership rate among young households in Canada (aged 35 and under) and a lot of the real estate marketing is targeted at millennial families looking for an active lifestyle.

This particular home has five bedrooms, 3.5 baths and more than 3,700 square feet of living space (that’s more than six times the amount of house you can get in Vancouver). The ad says that “the moment you step inside this home you’ll be impressed with the layout and high-end finishings.” Some of that impressive stuff includes a “luxurious steam shower perfect for unwinding.”

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Three-bedroom detached house in Edmonton

Edmonton

The average price of a home in Alberta’s capital city is $340,000 so half a million goes a long way here. This three-bedroom, three-bathroom detached home features 2,272 square feet of living space with a bathroom reminiscent of a spa and extras like a fireplace. It’s worth noting that Edmonton saw the biggest price drop in a decade among major Canadian cities––it’s the first time we’ve seen prices go negative like this since 2009. So it might be a good time to get into the market if you believe this trend isn’t here to stay.

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Five-bedroom house in residential Saskatoon neighbourhood

Saskatoon

With the average home selling for $210,000 less than our $500,000 budget, your mortgage dollars go a lot farther in Saskatoon as well. This two-storey, five-bedroom, three-bathroom detached house has a total living area of 1,351 square feet. You also get a backyard, covered deck with glass railing and patio which leads to a private garden. So what’s the catch? Well, you have to live in Saskatoon.

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Open-concept main floor in a Winnipeg newly-built home

Winnipeg

The overall cost of living in Winnipeg is estimated at about 35 percent less than Toronto, which adds up really quickly, and housing is a big factor. Homes go for $320,000 on average in Winnipeg, so adding $160K can get you into this newly-built detached property which offers 1,876 square feet of living space divided up on two floors, with 3 bedrooms, 2.5 baths and an open concept main floor.

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View of the CN Tower from outside a Toronto townhouse

Toronto

If you want a ton of extras, and you only have half a million dollars to spend, then the 6ix isn’t the city for you. The average home price is about $780,000 so, much like in Vancouver, space is at a premium. Listed at $499,800, this townhouse condo is doable. It’s a one-bedroom, one-bathroom townhouse all tucked into 670 square feet. Plus, according to the ad, it offers breathtaking views of Lake Ontario.

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Four-bedroom home in the Ottawa suburb of Orleans

Ottawa

The nation’s capital is one of the top three major cities in Canada that saw steady home price gains in the last year, and they’ve climbed steadily which means industry watchers aren’t calling it a bubble.

Even though the average home goes for $430,000 in the nation’s capital, $500K in the suburbs gets you four bedrooms, four bathrooms and extras galore. This two-storey detached home uses the word “large” four times in the descriptive paragraph, so buyers understand what a big, big deal this place is. Plant and nature lovers would probably be into the backyard which boasts “many fruit trees, shrubs and perennials.” Plus, if stairs aren’t your thing, there’s a lift (infer what you will about this home’s target demographic).

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Seven bedrooms and three living quarters in one Montreal house

Montreal

If you’re ready to move to Montreal, why settle for just one home when you can, for half a million, get the equivalent of three homes rolled into one––all under the same roof! You have the option to live with extended family or form a commune with 10 of your closest friends and their friends. It’s a bit of a head-scratcher that this seven-bedroom abode only has two bathrooms (one of the homes doesn’t get a loo apparently), but that’s nothing a little renovation can’t fix. If you want to forego this unusual three-in-one home option, the average dwelling in Montreal will set you back less than $350,000.

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Three-bedroom modern style detached home in Halifax

Halifax

This home offers a unique mix of urban and rural. According to the ad, it’s 10 minutes from downtown and across the street from the 5,000-acre Long Lake provincial park, which is one of the city’s top swimming/kayak/canoe/paddleboard destinations. This 2,500-square-foot three-storey home has three bedrooms and four baths. Because the median home in Halifax sells for $310,000, for about $200K more you get something that boasts “urban convenience along with all the perks of living in the wilderness.”

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Detached home on large lot in St. John's, NL

St. John’s

When it comes to maximum square footage for your mortgage buck, no other city on this list can touch St. John’s, Newfoundland. Half a million dollars is more than double the average home price, so for that kind of money you get 3,000 square feet of living space with all the bells and whistles: three luxurious bedrooms, four baths, fireplace, backyard, deck and garden.

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