Home Buying

5 hottest small-town real estate markets in Canada

If you're a real estate investor or are planning to move to a new city in Canada — consider these 5 hot markets located in the not-so-big urban centres across Canada
small-town real estate

If you are currently on the hunt for the perfect new real estate investment or want another property to buy, then small-town real estate markets might not be your best bet. And if they’re not on your radar, maybe they should be. With the ongoing shortage of affordably priced listings in the big markets of Toronto, Vancouver and Calgary, many prospective homebuyers are looking at smaller markets across the country hoping to find their forever homes (or a home that offers good cash flow).

Before you buy, it’s always a good idea to learn more about your potential new city, so take a look at five of the hottest small-town real estate markets in Canada.

1. Guelph, Ontario

guelph-ontario-real-estate-market. small-town real estate
Allen Gathman

According to MoneySense, Guelph was at the top of the list for the small-town real estate as the city with the most attractive real estate for buyers in Canada in 2017. As a result, displaced Toronto buyers started knocking on Guelph’s doorstep, where the cost of living made and the average home price of $441,000, left no doubt of the city’s affordable real estate market.

Guelph is home to 131,794 people and has a minuscule unemployment rate of 3.8%. The cities top employers include Linamar Corp. Cargill Meat Solutions, Upper Grand District School Board and the University of Guelph. Guelph also offers residents critically-acclaimed restaurants and accommodations, entertaining and educational activities, and a wide variety of shopping. In February 2018, the city won a Sustainable Community Award for the Guelph Innovation District secondary plan, which includes a 436-hectare integrated mixed-use community with housing, commercial and recreational spaces connected to the downtown and University of Guelph communities.

2. Kelowna, British Columbia

kelowna-hot-real-estate-market. small-town real estate
Stuart Madden

With a population of 129,500 and growing, Kelowna is the most abundant city between Metro Vancouver and Calgary. According to the Western Investor, there were more new builds in Kelowna in 2017 than in any area outside of the Lower Mainland, including Greater Victoria, which has three times the population of Kelowna. Not only does Kelowna have the largest and most comprehensive hospital in the southern interior of B.C., University of British Columbia Okanagan and Okanagan College, but it is also home to a $1.3 billion tech industry that involves more than 200 companies.

When you combine the professional opportunities with the temperate climate, lakeside attractions, vineyards, symphony orchestra, museums and numerous art galleries, it’s no wonder 94% of citizens rate the overall quality of life in Kelowna as very good or good. That’s why Kelowna makes it second on the list for small-town real estate markets in Canada.

3. Lethbridge, Alberta

nikka-yuko-japanese-garden-lethbridge. small-town real estate
Dave Bloggs

Lethbridge was another city that ended up on Western Investor’s annual take on the top five places to purchase real estate investments in the coming year. Lethbridge was recently named as having the strongest municipal economy in Alberta in 2017 by Avison Young. Known as the commercial, financial, transportation and industrial centre of southern Alberta, Lethbridge is home to 92,000 Canadians, and expansion projects are drawing new residents to the area. Lethbridge’s latest community development includes the Crossings, which is 60 acres of mixed-use land in west Lethbridge. The development has plans to host large retail footprints.

Education wise, Lethbridge is one of only a few cities its size to be home to two post-secondary institutions — Lethbridge College and University of Lethbridge. As far as employment, half of the workforce is employed in the health, education, retail and hospitality sectors. The city offers more than 70 parks, 140 km of walking and running trails, playgrounds and sports fields throughout the city. Not to mention, Lethbridge enjoys more than 320 days of sunshine per year. We think we’ll be able to get on board with that healthy dose of vitamin D.

4. Brantford, Ontario

downtown-brantford-ontario. small-town real estate
Jeff Hitchcock

Sitting right below Toronto in the Money Sense rankings, Brantford rang in the third spot for being an attractive city for anyone interested in buying real estate. Historically, Brantford has struggled in the wake of the Great Recession, but are now thriving. Located in southwestern Ontario, Brantford is a vibrant community with a population of approximately 96,689 people. In the past year, the city grew its number of jobs by 10.3 percent.

Because they are home to multinational companies, a diversified manufacturing sector, a growing post-secondary education community, and rapidly expanding commercial and service industries, Brantford now has an unemployment rate of only 4.7%. If you’re looking for some fun historical facts about your potential new city, Guelph is known as the Telephone City, the community that Alexander Graham Bell first conceived the idea for the telephone. Brantford offers museums and historic sites, trails throughout the city, and a rich, diverse range of cultural resources which will give you a lot of great places to explore during your tour of the real estate market.

5. Windsor, Ontario

windsor-real-estate-market. small-town real estate
Jim Cagney

In the late 2000s, Windsor was walloped by the global financial crisis as they sit just across the river from Detriot, Michigan. However, the city bounced back and has had a remarkable turnaround. According to Statistics Canada, between April 2016 and April 2017, Windsor’s home prices increased by 6.5%. Not only have home prices gone up, but the unemployment rate has also decreased significantly, going from 8.9% to 5.4% in just one year. Windsor is known as the “Automotive Capital of Canada,” and the city marked its milestone 125th birthday in 2017. The revitalization of the town is taking place with young artists and creatives flocking to popular areas. In addition to being one of Canada’s most affordable urban markets, Windsor offers world-class entertainment, fascinating historical and cultural landmarks, and unparalleled waterfront parks and gardens.

With the average price of a single-family home in Toronto or Vancouver well above $1 million, these alternatives offer the best-value in small-town real estate markets and also come with the always loved small-town charm.

Kelsey Allen
Kelsey Allen

Kelsey Allen is a freelance writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. To see more of her work, visit kelseydallen.com.