Rights & Money

House Prices Still Rising

Do you know what your house is worth?

By Olev Edur

Images: iStock/Si-Gal.

What’s your house worth these days? And an equally important question for some: How much would it cost to buy anew if you were to move elsewhere in the country? And where might those prices be heading?

Currently, prices vary enormously across Canada depending on city and property type. If you own a two-storey house almost anywhere in urban Canada, it’s probably worth $300,000 or more—a heck of a lot more in Toronto, Calgary, and most cities in British Columbia. If so, you should have no problem finding less expensive properties almost anywhere you look.

Nevertheless, when it comes to selling a house and downsizing into a condo or bungalow in the same city, you may have trouble saving any money on the move. There are sizable costs involved in any sale and purchase, and the difference in prices may not be enough to generate a surplus of cash, especially if you’re hoping to move closer to a city centre, where prices are highest.

There are other pricing anomalies across the country. A condo in Halifax, for example, is worth more than a two-storey in Charlottetown or Saint John, NB; a condo in Victoria costs almost as much as a two-storey house in Kelowna, BC.

Prices vary within cities, too, sometimes even from one street to the next, and the same can be true for smaller towns. Plus, some of those low-cost locales are quickly rising in price.

Rudy Chong, the owner and manager of Royal LePage Prince Edward Realty in Charlottetown, says that his city’s double-digit price growth has been driven largely by influxes of people from across Canada and beyond. “More and more people, a lot of them seniors, have been coming here from Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, Montreal, and even from overseas,” he says. “It’s the affordability that draws people, and it is still affordable here, even with the recent increases,” Chong adds.

“And there’s still a big difference between the city and the smaller towns on the island. A house that might cost you $230,000 in Charlottetown would cost $160,000 to $170,000 in Montague [roughly 40 kilometres (25 miles) to the east]. The pricing outside of Charlottetown is more normal.

“There are two forces driving up prices in Charlottetown: supply and demand, and speculation,” Chong says. “Construction is picking up to meet the demand—we’re seeing the same record pace of building permits as last year—but there’s a shortage of tradespeople, so prices keep going up.”

The story is similar in Kingston, ON, where some prices rose by double digits for the year through May 2018.

Speaking to The Kingston Whig-Standard earlier in the year, Bob Armer, the manager of Royal LePage ProAlliance Realty in the Kingston area, said booming prices there stemmed from a combination of new investment in manufacturing facilities, bolstering an already strong local economy, and an influx of investors from the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).

For the rest, along with this past summer’s release of second-quarter house prices, Royal LePage forecasts that prices in most areas will continue to grow moderately—low- to mid-single digits—with a few localized exceptions. “When you add an inflow of baby boomer retirees who are drawn to the same smaller cities for their charm and quiet appeal, it’s not surprising that home price appreciation rates in Windsor, Belleville, Niagara, and Kingston are among the highest in the country, noticeably outpacing those being seen in the GTA,” said Phil Soper, the president and CEO of Royal LePage, at the time the mid-year data was released.

Soper acknowledged that “there is a cloud of uncertainty hovering over our economy and business environment” as a result of rocky NAFTA negotiations, but, he added, “notwithstanding the economic drag that difficult American trade negotiations are creating, the national housing market is expected to remain in a long-term expansionary cycle, albeit at a slower pace than we have witnessed over the past couple of years.”