News / Vancouver

Even outside Vancouver and Toronto, Canadians feel real estate squeeze: poll

Fifty-six per cent of Canadians say housing prices in their neighbourhoods are unreasonable, results of a new Angus Reid Institute poll show.

A house sold in Vancouver's heated real estate market.

Jennifer Gauthier/Metro file

A house sold in Vancouver's heated real estate market.

Nearly half of people living in urban Canada say they feel squeezed by the cost of real estate, even in cities where prices pale in comparison to Vancouver and Toronto’s sky-high markets, results of a new poll show.

Fifty-six per cent of Canadians, including those living in smaller real estate markets say housing prices in their neighbourhoods fall outside of what’s “reasonable,” according to a new Angus Reid Institute poll.

While previous polls have focused on real-estate markets of the country's two most expensive cities, Vancouver and Toronto, this is the first to look at housing prices in smaller urban centres, said Shachi Kurl, executive director of the Angus Reid Institute.

“What we find there is that, OK, it’s not quite as bad as it is in Vancouver, but there is still a tension point,” Kurl told Metro. “Just because things may be perceived to be more affordable or more reasonable in other markets, doesn’t necessarily mean that that correlates to people feeling very comfortable. Even in smaller cities where we don’t talk about these issues, there is a pressure.”

In Edmonton, Calgary, Winnipeg, Montreal and Halifax, no fewer the 45 per cent of respondents view prices as either “high” or “unreasonably high,” poll results show. According to January data from the Canadian Real Estate Association, the percentage of people who feel that way also roughly mirrors the actual average cost of a home in each city.

Canadians are divided, however, as to whether real estate costs in their cities are understandable.

In Calgary, where the recent economic downturn has slowed new construction and left analysts warning that a market correction may be underway, nearly half of respondents said real estate prices were “unreasonably high” or “high, but understandable given the area.” Meanwhile, fewer than one-in-10 (nine per cent) of respondents said prices are “maybe a bit low” in Calgary.

When asked if governments should become more involved in the real estate sector, two-in-three Canadians (66 per cent) agreed that governments have a greater role to play.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, that number is highest in British Columbia, the country’s most expensive real-estate market, where nearly three-quarters (74 per cent) of residents say government should intervene.

Earlier this month, the federal government introduced new mortgage rules that require homebuyers to put down larger down payments for properties over $500,000. The changes are intended to temper some of the country’s heated real estate markets, especially targeting markets like Vancouver and Toronto where there are more properties worth $500,000 or more, according to the government.

While it remains to be seen if that actually happens, the poll results reveal that seven per cent of Canadians say the new rules would make them less likely to buy property this year.

Extrapolating responses against population, the results could represent more than 500,000 people who live in either Metro Vancouver or the GTA.

When it comes to so-called “shadow flipping,” two-thirds of Canadians (65 per cent) view the practice as “unacceptable.” The controversial practice, which has made headlines in recent weeks, involves brokers reselling a property multiple times at higher prices before a deal closes.

Older Canadians aged 55 and older, as well as B.C. residents, were most likely to describe shadow flipping is “entirely unacceptable” and a “dishonest scam,” at 41 per cent and 45 per cent, respectively.

Meanwhile, younger Canadians are roughly evenly split on the acceptability of shadow flipping, with 52 per cent believing it’s wrong.

“Some of that might have to simply to do with the fact that they may have less skin in the game,” said Kurl. “(Shadow flipping) driving up costs even further is a part of the problem for younger people who would like to buy into the market, but it’s certainly not the only barrier to accessibility.”

The online survey of 5,867 Canadian adults who are members of the Angus Reid Forum was conducted between Feb. 2 and 10. The survey has a margin of error of 1.3 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. Another survey of 1,513 Angus Reid Forum members was conducted Feb. 15 and has a margin of error of 2.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

Both surveys were self-commissioned and paid for by Angus Reid Institute.

See the full survey results here.