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Houses Under $500,000 a Disappearing Breed

June 24, 2021
5 mins
Beautifully decorated interior of home

Remember when half a million bucks used to be a lot of money?

For those who didn't get the memo, apparently it has stopped being a lot of money for house shoppers in Canada.

You can still buy an average home in Canada for a half-mil, if you time travel back to March 2016. That's the last time the national "benchmark" detached dwelling cost that much. Since then, it's smashed the $500k barrier and zoomed another 62%.

Benchmark home price.png

Where Do You Live if $500k is Your Breaking Point?

Here’s a sample of what you can buy if you are bargain shopping at $500,000 (see link).

If you like the Maritimes, the Prairies or smaller pockets of Quebec and Ontario, you’re "living large."

If your livelihood happens to be in the GTA or GVA, sorry about your luck.

Even a prototypical 'burb like Milton, ON — 45 minutes from downtown Toronto on a good day — returns the dreaded “No results” when searching for that $500k unicorn on Realtor.ca.

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Today's Featured RatesUpdated 13:12 ET on Jul 23, 2024

Rates are based on a $300,000 mortgage.

card image
3.60%
Term
3 Yr Variable
Loan to value
80.01% to 95%
Insurance
Insured
Rate held until
Oct 23
card image
1.99%
Term
5 Yr Variable
Loan to value
80.01% to 95%
Insurance
Insured
Rate held until
Nov 22
card image
1.67%
Term
5 Yr Fixed
Loan to value
80.01% to 95%
Insurance
Insured
Rate held until
Sep 08

If you want to drive (or Go Bus and then Go Train) a little further — from Cambridge, Ontario, for example — your dollars go further. House listings actually appear on Realtor.ca at that price point. But if you’re working down in the big city, you better enjoy 1.5-hour commutes.

“Drive till you qualify” has been a mortgage industry mantra for years. But to know how far you need to drive, you must first know what you qualify for. That’s a number best provided by a professional mortgage broker or lender advisor, but here’s a quick mortgage affordability calculator to give you a sense.

Quick example: $100,000 of household income and no other debts will get you close to that mystical $500,000 price point for a single-family home, assuming you have the minimum 5% ($25,000) down payment. (By the way, only about 29% of Canadian families earn that much, and only 16% of individual earners.)

If you’re an average Canadian family whose bread winner(s) can work remote, your best shot at a half-mil house may be in a small town. Check out the best such towns in RATESDOTCA’s 2021 Livability Report.

If you have to clock in at a business-place each day, and you don't have a ton of assets, your options are more limited — even with a six-figure income and minimal debt. That is, unless you have the great equalizer: well-off generous parents.

Rob McLister

Rob McLister has been informing mortgage consumers and professionals since 2007. In that time, he’s written more than 2,500 mortgage stories for publications ranging from the Globe and Mail — where he presently serves as mortgage columnist — to the National Post, Maclean’s, Canadian Mortgage Trends and RateSpy.com. Regularly quoted throughout the media, Rob is a committed advocate of greater transparency in the mortgage industry. He’s also been a vocal consumer advocate for more sensible mortgage regulation. In 2011, he launched two mortgage fintechs: mortgage comparison website RateSpy.com and digital mortgage broker intelliMortgage Inc. The former is the go-to source of Canadian mortgage news and the only site comparing all publicly advertised prime mortgage rates. The latter is Canada's leading online mortgage provider for self-directed borrowers. Both companies were acquired in 2019 by RATESDOTCA Group Ltd.

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