Single Women Boost Canada's Housing Market

Written by Posted On Wednesday, 16 May 2007 17:00

Thirty per cent of single, never-before-married women own their own home in Canada, according to a new survey by Royal LePage. Sixty-four per cent of divorced or separated women are homeowners, and 64 per cent of widowed women own their own houses.

"There has been a shift in mindset whereby women have distanced themselves from the traditional notion that you must first find Mr. Right and then together you buy a home," says Lisa da Rocha, a vice-president with Royal LePage. "Our findings reveal that 66 per cent of women who intend to purchase would not find the process of buying a home on their own intimidating."

Genworth Financial Canada reported in March that 83 per cent of renters, male and female, say waiting to get engaged or married before becoming a homeowner is not a factor in their decision-making process.

In a Genworth report, Melissa Cassar, 28, of Toronto said, "My parents suggested to me that maybe I should wait at least until I am engaged. But I don't feel that way, and neither do many of my friends. It's a good investment, the market is strong and interest rates are affordable. I'd rather be paying my own mortgage, as opposed to my landlord's."

The Royal LePage survey found that of the single, never-before-married women who are not yet homeowners, 31 per cent plan to buy within the next three years. More than half of this group is looking for a property in the $150,000 to $350,000 price range.

Across the country, most women are looking for condominiums that offer security and a maintenance-free lifestyle. But 25 per cent of them say they are looking for a "fixer-upper" and that they plan to do the fixing themselves, rather than hiring a contractor. The report says women in Toronto, Halifax and Regina are more likely to take on renovation jobs than women in other cities.

"Single women now play a significant role in the housing market," says da Rocha. "Today's woman is much more financially astute than her counterpart a decade ago, and is well-versed in real estate as a long-term investment."

In a similar survey in 2004, Royal LePage asked potential first-time buyers if they would forgo a wedding reception in order to put a larger down payment on their home. At that time, 30 per cent of women and 15 per cent of men were "very likely" to do so. In this year's survey, 34 per cent of women and 27 per cent of men said they were very likely to go without the reception.

BMO Bank of Montreal says that while many young people say they are living with their parents while saving for a house, many may have unrealistic expectations based on their current finances. It says its research found a considerable gap between potential first-time buyers' expectations and their realities when it came to planning and saving to buy a home. "We found that, although most young Canadians would like to purchase a home within the next few years, most do not have a practical plan to get there," says Cid Palacio, vice-president, BMO Bank of Montreal.

According to the BMO survey, Canadians between the ages 21 and 34, on average, have been saving for their down payment for only 1.6 years, yet expect to take only a total of 3.8 years to save enough to commit to a purchase.

"On average, young Canadians told us they expected to be able to amass a down payment representing 15.4 per cent of the cost of a new home by the time they are ready to make a purchase," says Palacio. "I'm concerned, however, that these expectations are unrealistically high given their low savings rate and the increasing cost of housing in markets across the country."

She says more young Canadians need to sit down with a financial planning professional to develop a realistic game plan, "if they are going to shorten their stay with their parents and make their home ownership dreams a reality."

The good news for Canadian first-time buyers of both sexes comes from Century 21 Canada . It says Canada has six of the 10 least expensive housing markets for first-time buyers who work in downtown business districts.

The survey looked at the price per square foot of typical entry-level homes chosen by first-time buyers who work in the downtown cores of cities around the world. The 10 least expensive markets are St. John's, $55; Quebec City, $93, Istanbul, $94; Halifax, $97; Charlottetown, $104; Sydney, Australia, $105; Bogota, $114; Mexico City, $119, Moncton, $127; and London, Ont., $132.

The most expensive cities surveyed were Paris, $1,051; Moscow, $688; Seoul, $630; Vancouver, $577; London, England, $532; Calgary, $500; Athens, $375; New York City, $375; Tokyo, $325 and Edmonton, $322.

Toronto ($209) and Montreal ($276) ranked in the middle of the pack of the 31 cities surveyed.

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Jim Adair

Jim Adair has been writing about Canadian real estate, home building and renovation issues for more than 40 years. He is the former editor of Canada’s leading trade magazine for real estate professionals, as well as several home building, décor and renovation titles. You can contact him at [email protected]

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