How Much Home Can $1M Buy In Major Real Estate Markets Across Canada

Photo by Tierra Mallorca on Unsplash

In examining what a budget of approximately $1 million – give or take $50,000 – can buy in Canada’s major housing markets, Royal LePage® determined in a new report that the average home in Canada valued between $950,000 and $1,050,000 in December of 2023 had 3.2 bedrooms, 2.1 bathrooms and 1,760 square feet of living space, inclusive of all property types.

Nationally, what $1 million can buy in Canada’s real estate market remains largely unchanged year over year, as a result of a major slowdown in activity and only modest property price growth. By comparison, in December of 2022, a home worth approximately $1 million had on average 3.2 bedrooms, 2.6 bathrooms, and 1,763 square feet of space.

“Depending on the market that you are shopping in, a $1-million home can mean something very different. In Calgary, a budget of $1 million is considered the move-up price point for existing homeowners. In Vancouver, the same amount is often the starting point for entry-level buyers,” said Karen Yolevski, COO, Royal LePage Real Estate Services Ltd. “Years ago, a $1-million budget could buy a generous amount of square footage and access to sought-after neighbourhoods in almost any market. Over time, however, we have watched the purchasing power of $1 million vary more widely between cities. These days, this budget can buy a luxurious detached home in one location, or a two-bedroom condominium in another.”

Unsurprisingly, for buyers shopping in the $2-million range, a larger budget buys significantly more space. The average home in Canada valued between $1,950,000 and $2,050,000 in December of 2023 boasted 3.7 bedrooms, 2.6 bathrooms and 2,501 square feet of living space, inclusive of all property types.

Higher interest rates, down payment rules add extra hurdles for buyers

Home prices have flatlined over the past year, a symptom of sidelined buyer demand as consumers face more strenuous mortgage qualification standards and rising borrowing costs. The Bank of Canada’s key lending rate currently sits at five per cent, its highest level in more than two decades. A comparative shortage in housing supply has continued to keep prices stable despite decreased activity. While the central bank is expected to make its first cut to interest rates later this year, borrowing costs will remain well above the ultra-low levels seen at the start of the pandemic for the foreseeable future.

“While on paper a budget of $1 million will get you a similar-sized home today compared to a year ago, monthly carrying costs have increased significantly as mortgage payments have continued to rise from historic lows. Regardless of budget, many buyers in today’s market are facing affordability challenges, forcing compromises to be made on location, property type and size,” said Yolevski.

When buying a home priced at $1 million or more, Canadian mortgage lenders require a minimum down payment of 20 per cent of the purchase price, equal to at least $200,000. Mortgage insurance, which is mandatory for homes bought with less than 20 per cent down, is not available to properties sold over the $1-million mark.

“The greatest barrier to entry when buying a home is often the down payment. For first-time homebuyers living in communities where entry-level homes start at $1 million or close to it, getting a foot on the property ladder can be a considerable challenge. This is why it’s become increasingly common for parents and family members to step in with financial assistance.”

Elevated interest rates, which have forced homebuyers to pass the mortgage stress test at higher qualification thresholds – given that rates have exceeded the 5.25 per cent minimum – have curbed the amount of money banks are lending to clients, making it more difficult to obtain the necessary financing in high-priced markets.

More than half of Canadians believe a $1-million budget is enough

There remains a stark discrepancy between how far a budget of $1 million will stretch in various regions across the country. Buyers located in some of Canada’s large urban centres often find themselves making more concessions on the type of home they can afford, even with a seven-figure budget, compared to those shopping in smaller, more affordable locations.

According to a recent Royal LePage survey conducted by Leger, two thirds of Canadians (64%) believe that $1 million in today’s real estate market is a reasonable budget to afford a home that meets their household’s needs. This includes 22 per cent who say $1 million is ‘adequate’ and another 41 per cent who say it is ‘more than enough’ to afford a home that meets their household’s needs in their current city or region. Meanwhile, 22 per cent say it is ‘not enough’.

Canadians residing in the country’s most expensive provinces are much less likely to feel that a $1-million budget is enough for a home purchase in their respective marketplace. Forty-five per cent of British Columbians and 31 per cent of Ontarians say that a budget of $1 million is ‘not enough’ to afford a home that meets their household’s needs in their current city, much higher than those living in Alberta (12%) and Quebec (8%).

“Finding employment has historically been one of the primary drivers for Canadians relocating to regions outside of major cities. Now, as housing affordability remains front and centre for many, we are seeing families move to new locations specifically to find a home within their budget, and prioritizing employment second,” said Yolevski. “The increased flexibility that the remote work movement has afforded many people makes this possible. We saw this phenomenon play out during the height of the pandemic, as the mass adoption of remote working enabled Canadians to migrate across the country.”

Of Canada’s three most populous provinces, Quebec residents are the most likely to agree that $1 million is a healthy sum for a home. Fifty-nine per cent of respondents in Quebec say that a budget of $1 million in today’s real estate market is ‘more than enough’ to afford a home that meets their household’s needs in their current city or region, and another 21 per cent say it is ‘adequate’. This is compared to respondents in Ontario and British Columbia, where 30 per cent and 18 per cent, respectively, say a budget of $1 million in today’s real estate market is ‘more than enough’ to afford a home that meets their household’s needs in their current city or region; and 24 per cent and 25 per cent, respectively, say it is ‘adequate’.

“Many buyers are expected to come off the sidelines this year as interest rates begin to come down. This increased activity will undoubtedly put upward pressure on property prices, perpetuating affordability challenges even as monthly carrying costs are reduced,” added Yolevski. “Without a significant increase in supply, especially in cities like Toronto and Vancouver, the standard for a $1-million property will continue to evolve away from large homes.”


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here