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Going solo? Best Canadian cities to buy a home on a single income

single woman speaking on the phone in her new home

Buying a house when you’re single is pretty tricky, especially in Canada where market prices are higher than most. However, over the past 35 years, homeownership rates have increased for Canadian singles living alone up to almost 50%. Plus, the number of people buying properties with a partner or spouse has steadily declined as well. 

This shows that joint incomes aren’t needed to purchase a home and financial independence can be anyone’s game when it comes to home buying. 

To support single buyers looking to purchase a home on their own, we’ve ranked the top Canadian cities for buying a home on a single income. By ranking factors like average housing prices for all property types, household income for the greater population and for one-person households, unemployment rates, single population, and population growth rates, we uncovered the best cities for single home buyers based on affordability, level of risk and potential return. 

We’ve also sourced home buying and negotiation tips at the bottom of the post.

Main findings: Best Canadian cities to buy a home on a single income 

table showing the top 10 Canadian cities for buying a home on a single income

We compared average home prices using our most current trends data (from July 2020) for the top 50 most populated cities in Canada (population of 85,000 or more). We removed any cities that did not have current data available on Zolo or via realtor boards to ensure all data compiled was accurate and timely.

We then pulled supportive data points that spoke to all household’s ability to afford average home prices, an individual’s ability to afford a home as a single household and demographics of the city such as single population, employment opportunty and diversity, and population growth. For a more detailed breakdown of our ranking and factors see the methodology below.  

The 5 best cities for single home buyers

These cities had the lowest average home price and high opportunity based on factors such as population growth rate, number of one-person households and a low unemployment rate. We also mention each city’s affordability gap. An affordability gap is a measure of current average housing sale prices, versus what the average household can pay for a home. For the purpose of this study, we are measuring the difference between the income it would require to afford the average home and the median before-tax income of single households. While these factors weren’t used in our ranking methodology, they still speak to a single’s ability to afford a home in each area. Let’s dig into the best cities for single home buyers. 

overhead shot of regina with home price stats for single home buyers

Single prospective home buyers, get ready to flock to Regina! Our findings revealed Regina to be the top affordable Canadian city for buying a home on a single income. With an average home price far below the national average at $290,000, an individual would only have to make $52,000 per year before taxes to afford a home. Census data showed that single households made an average of $44,600, totalling an affordability gap of about $7,400. For reference, to afford a home in Toronto, a single person would have to make $170,000 before taxes. The average one-person household makes roughly $39,560, resulting in an affordability gap of over $130,000. 

Combined with a high population growth of almost 12% and a low unemployment rate of 6%, this Saskatchewan city hits the sweet spot for singles looking to put down roots and purchase a home. 

overhead shot of saskatoon with home price stats for single home buyers

Saskatoon took spot number two as it offers high affordability and investment growth. With an average price of $389,000, it would require singles to make $68,500 in income to afford the average home. The cities’ median income for one-person households is $41,687 meaning the affordability gap in Saskatoon reaches just over $26,000. The Saskatchewan city of 273,010 also offers a notable population growth rate of almost 11% and a low unemployment rate of 6.8%. Singles can enjoy one of the lowest costs of living among major cities in Canada — it’s about 3.51% higher than Regina’s yet almost 7% lower than other metropolitan areas like Toronto. 

overhead shot of calgary with home price stats for single home buyers

For singles more attracted to a bustling city lifestyle, Calgary also performed well in our findings. Singles made more money in this city than non-singles and were favoured by a high population growth rate of 14.6%. Calgary’s number of one-person households was the fourth highest out of the 50 cities at 123,655 and had the third-highest single population at 453,610. A high single population can signify a better quality of life, whereas a high number of one-person households can speak to the ability for singles to afford a home. Calgary also had the third-highest income for one-person households, but with it increased the average price of a home (roughly $467,000). The affordability gap between singles’ average income ($52,765) and income to afford the average price of a home ($83,000) was about $30,235.

overhead shot of ottawa with home price stats for single home buyers

Leaving the prairie provinces, Ottawa ranked fourth in our findings. Ottawa performed well in median household income for singles at $41,026, but ranked lower for affording the average home price ($543,000). That being said, the average price of a home is still roughly 5% lower than the national average with an affordability gap of about $43,000 for singles. 

overhead shot of winnipeg with home price stats for single home buyers

With a population of over 740,000, Winnipeg ranked fifth in our findings. The Manitoban city is known as the “cultural cradle of Canada” due to more than 100 languages and nationalities represented throughout the region. The city offers a low unemployment rate of 6.5% and a population growth rate of 6.3%. The average price of a home in Winnipeg is $353,450 making the affordability gap for the cities’ 268,640 singles around $32,611. 

So what’s causing so many singles to live and purchase property on their own? Due to advances in career opportunities, changes in attitudes toward family structure and increases in financial independence, the typical household is transforming and catering to a more single lifestyle. Let’s explore additional factors below. 

Why more Canadians are living alone

image of a single women carrying a box of plants

More people are living by themselves in Canada than ever before. Below we’ll go over the factors contributing to this trend.  

More Canadians are waiting to have kids and getting divorced

There are more single people living in Canada who are either having children at an older age or previously had a child in a common-law marriage and are now separated. Also, almost half of solo dwellers ages 35 to 64 have been separated or divorced in the last 20 years.

Pursuit of higher education is changing family structure 

Another factor comes from a more flexible attitude towards family structure. A report by Statistics Canada highlighted a change in society, as fewer singles define adulthood with marriage, especially as more young people pursue higher education. Among women ages 25 to 34, more than three-quarters (77%) of those who live alone have a university degree, compared to 67% of those who live with others, the report found. The study also found a correlation between higher education, getting married and starting families at later ages. 

There’s no doubt that these trends have impacted the housing market. We’ve seen a spike in solo dwellers residing in condominiums coincide with the rising demand for individual living quarters. That being said, from townhouses to condos, there’s no reason to avoid purchasing any type of home if the investment has potential and the price is right. 

How singles can get the most bang for their buck

two women negotiating the sale of a home

Approaching the buyer’s table can be difficult for many, but those wanting to buy a home on a single income can face even more obstacles. To empower singles when they do decide to negotiate, finance and real-estate expert Romana King has provided three tips singles can use to become savvier home buyers and get the best price when they enter the negotiation process.

1. Turn up the pressure 

Emotions help get sales, which you and your agent can use to your advantage. In a competitive market, make a solid, official offer on a tight deadline. 

That means writing up a formal offer with a price and terms that align with the seller’s expectations. But rather than ask for a reasonable time frame to discuss the offer, such as 24 or 48 hours, only provide a short window, such as four hours to either accept or reject your offer before it becomes void. 

King tells us that “This tight timeline forces the seller into emotional territory and minimizes the amount of time for other competitive offers to come in, which could work in your favour if the offer is in-line with the seller’s expectations.”

That being said, this tactic should not be used if you plan to lowball or try and get the lowest negotiated price. But it does work if you’re in a competitive market and want to restrict the impact of a potential bidding war.

2. Bait and switch 

Another negotiation tactic in less competitive markets is the bait and switch. Start low, and by repeatedly submitting offers a bit closer to the seller’s expected sale price, you can prime the seller to psychologically accept a lower offer.

According to King, “When submitting a formal offer, don’t be afraid to shave $50,000 or even $100,000 off your price. Just try not to make it too obvious.” 

It’s almost certain that the seller will reject your offer, which is fine. After a short period of time, write up another offer, only a bit closer to the seller’s expected sale price. Repeat this process until you come to your max price or the seller agrees to move forward with your offer. 

3. Offer more, ask more 

In competitive markets, it’s hard to get the best price, so consider the overall cost of buying, not just the purchase price.

For example, let’s assume the condo you want to buy is $425,000 and you know there are three other bidders. Your agent is confident that the condo will sell for $435,000 in the current seller’s market, but $435,000 is your maximum budget for the entire purchase, which includes property price, closing costs and property transfer tax. 

King recommends making a very competitive offer, but asking for “rebates.” In this example, you could offer $440,000 but ask the seller to cover your closing costs and property transfer tax. The seller may be emotionally drawn to your higher offer and agree to the sale but you still stick to your home buying budget because your overall final cost is $431,300 — since $440,000 minus the property transfer tax of $6,700 and closing costs of $2,000 equals $431,300, a full $3,700 below your max budget.

Now that you are equipped with the insight into areas that are best suited for your budget as a single buyer, check out these cities’ listings to begin your home search today! 

Methodology 

We compared a sample of 50 Canadian cities (top 50 most populated cities in Canada over 85,000 in population) across a total score of seven relevant metrics. Each metric was graded on a 50-point scale, with a score of 50 representing the most favourable conditions for buying a home on a single income. We assigned each metric a weight to calculate each city’s overall score and used the resulting scores to rank-order the cities in our sample. 

To begin the study, we compared average home prices using Zolo’s most current trends data (July 2020) for the city sample. We removed any cities that did not have current data available on Zolo or via realtor boards to ensure all data compiled was accurate and timely.

We then pulled supportive metrics that spoke to an individual’s ability to afford average home prices by total area, population of one-person households, job availability and diversity, and growth opportunity of the city. The weights for these factors are as follows:

  • Average home price – Weighed 20% 
  • Population growth rate – Weighed 20% 
  • Median after-tax total income of one-person households -Weighed 15%
  • Unemployment rate – Weighed 15%
  • Median after-tax income – Weighed 10% 
  • Number of one-person households – Weighed 10%
  • Single population – Weighed 10% 

We assigned the lowest weight to a cities’ single population, number of one-person households, and median after tax income of the entire population as these factors speak to the social aspect of the city, number of current one-person household’s ability to afford property in the area as well as the affordability of the city as a whole. 

Median after tax income of one-person households and unemployment rates were weighted second highest as these factors speak to current one-person households ability to afford the cost of average home prices, as well as single home buyers are interested in purchasing a home where there is wider job security and diversity to afford home payments. Download the study to see how the 50 Canadian cities in our sample performed.

Sources: Zolo | Statistics Canada | Royal Bank of Canada | CBC

Image of Alyssa Davies

Alyssa Davies

Alyssa is an award-winning personal finance blogger and founder of MixedUpMoney.com. She writes about being a mom, overcoming personal debts, and how to get away with affording your ridiculously expensive latte habit. A new homeowner, Alyssa brings her real-life knowledge of the Canadian real estate market and smart money matters to this growing brand.