The COVID-19 pandemic has paved an unexpected path to homeownership for many young Canadians. Sure, mortgage rates fell to historically low rates, but a severe lack of supply and highly competitive sellers’ markets meant many Millennials and Gen Zers were left watching from the sidelines.
As restrictions loosened and life returned back to “normal”, demand for housing increased, pushing prices up in the process. As of November 2021, the average price for a home in Canada was $720,854, a 19.6% year-over-year increase according to data from the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA).
So what exactly does homeownership currently look like for younger generations?
When it comes to where and how younger generations are choosing to live, it turns out they’re forced to be more practical. Austin D. Titus, real estate broker for Century 21® First Canadian Corp based in London, Ontario, explained while he hasn’t noticed “too much” change in terms of homeownership preferences, he has observed younger demographics are more flexible and understanding of what they can actually afford in current market conditions.
“Often, first-time home buyers or younger generations are less likely to feel comfortable doing renovations and want more of a move-in ready option. I would also say younger generations don’t want much yard work or maintenance,” explained Titus, who added condo living can be an attractive lifestyle for this generation of buyers.
Titus also said as a result of the pandemic, young buyers are looking for homes with additional office or outdoor spaces—a trend that wasn’t as popular before.
Regardless of age, getting into the housing market is a lengthy process requiring a lot of patience, time, and money. But understandably, it can be even more challenging for younger generations if they don’t have adequate savings to compete in today’s market.
Titus says he thinks it’s extremely difficult for younger generations to get into the housing market because they’re dealing with much higher housing prices compared to two or three years ago. Wages aren’t increasing at the same rate as inflation and there are high expectations of first-time home buyers from parents.
“Unfortunately, I also feel buyers are expecting their dream home as their first property,” explained Titus. “In our initial consultation, a lot of what is discussed is actually breaking down the barriers of expectations versus the reality of the market. Parents often put the expectations on their children of what is acceptable versus not in a home and it’s often my job to paint a very different picture.”
Current programs available to first-time home buyers and younger buyers
Purchasing a home can be both exciting and overwhelming. The Canadian government does have a number of financial programs in place to help Canadians during their home buying journey, including incentives for first-time buyers, tax credits, and rebates.
“There are options for the Registered Retirement Savings Plans (RRSP) program where buyers can take from their RRSP and use it as a portion of their down payment,” explained Titus. “This amount currently sits at $35,000, however you must repay it in a 15-year period.”
He also explained first-time home buyers who are permanent residents and Canadian citizens are able to use the land transfer tax rebate, which rebates up to $4,000 of the land transfer tax.
“The $4,000 rebate caps at $368,000. Any amount over that, and you’re left paying the difference,” said Titus.
There is also the First-Time Home Buyer Incentive, a shared-equity mortgage with the Government of Canada that offers 5% or 10% (depending on the type of home) of the home’s purchase price to put toward a down payment. There are stipulations, however, such as the borrower’s household income must be less than $120,000 a year ($150,000 if the home you are purchasing is in Toronto, Vancouver, or Victoria).
How parents are helping their kids
In today’s housing market, many younger buyers might find themselves struggling to afford a down payment and meet strict mortgage requirements. As a result, some assistance from parents has become increasingly common. Having the means to be able to help your children buy their first home is a luxury, but before you sign on the dotted line, consider the best way to do so.
“Parents assisting their kids on the down payment wouldn’t have any tax implications for either party,” said Titus. “Co-signing on the mortgage where the parents would be equally responsible for the mortgage would have the largest impact when it comes to selling the property in the future.”
However, Titus says there are ways in which this can be avoided, and it’s best to have either a REALTOR®, accountant or lawyer advise you on the best route to take.
Parents assisting their children can also consider having a 1% ownership in the property, which would allow them to avoid taking high capital gains. But keep in mind, the first-time buyer incentive gets cut in half if there is a co-signer on the mortgage who already owns a property.
If you’re a parent thinking of using the current RRSP program to help your child, parents aren’t eligible to do so. The current Home Buyers’ Plan (HBP) allows you to withdraw funds from your RRSPs to buy or build a qualifying home for yourself or for a related person with a disability. However, the Canadian Real Estate Association has been advocating for changes to the HBP since 2017, allowing for “intergenerational use of RRSP funds by one child or more for the purchase of a home.” The goal is to help close the gap for young Canadians when it comes to homeownership.
So if you’ve been thinking about entering Canada’s housing market, meeting with a REALTOR® can help you get the answers you need when it comes to programs available and options that would best suit your lifestyle and budget.