Toronto millennials want to be homeowners but only 22% believe they can do it in the city: survey

A new survey released Wednesday found that nearly 3 in 4 millennials living in Toronto say that owning a home is important to them, but less than a quarter believe they will ever be able to afford one in the city.

37% of Toronto millennials say they'd need to relocate to own property, new survey finds

Nearly 3 in 4 millennials living in Toronto say owning a home is important to them, but less than a quarter believe they will ever be able to afford a place of their own in the city, according to a survey released Wednesday.

The survey, conducted in June by polling firm Leger on behalf of Royal LePage, asked 2,003 millennials (defined as residents between 26 and 41 years old) Canadawide about their views on home ownership, the cost of living and remote work. Of those who responded, 403 were in Toronto.

About 74 per cent of respondents in Toronto said owning a home is important to them, but only 22 per cent said they think they'll ever purchase a property in the city. Roughly 37 per cent of Toronto millennials surveyed said they believe they will need to relocate to ever become homeowners.

The results suggest those views may be tied to respondents' stagnant incomes.

"This overwhelming feeling that you can solve problems by relocating is an offshoot of the pandemic," said Phil Soper, the CEO of Royal LePage.

Soper says COVID-19 brought about a work-from-home movement with people choosing to move to other parts of the province — and even other parts of the country. But he says for many others, it's not a solution.

Four in five people surveyed saying if the cost of living was not an issue, they would choose to continue living in Toronto. But nearly half said they do not think their salaries will increase at a rate that would allow them to buy a home in the city.

Answers from respondents in Toronto reflect similar feelings among millennials across the country. Canadawide, 68 per cent of respondents said owning a home is important to them, but only 29 per cent said they think it could happen in their current city or town. About 31 per cent said they would need to move to make home ownership a reality.

Despite recent drops due in part to higher interest rates, the average price to purchase a detached single-family home in Toronto remains well above $1.5 million, according to the most recent MLS Home Price index. The average price of an apartment in the city is nearly $780,000, while the average rent across all types of housing is more than $2,100 per month.

Buying a home still a sign 'you've made it,' broker says

Andrew Ipekian, a real estate broker in the city, says the survey results aren't a surprise. He says many millennials were sold on the idea of owning a home, complete with the traditional white picket fence, as they were growing up.

"Everyone still wants that," said Ipekian.

"And in today's society — especially in Canada — that's when you know you've made it."

Ipekian says people who can work from home can also take advantage of opportunities to live outside of the city, which often comes with more space at a somewhat cheaper price tag.

The survey found that nearly half of Toronto millennials polled would consider changing employers to work remotely full-time, and that 23 per cent find living outside of the city with a remote work arrangement their ideal work and living scenario.

They cite long commute times, high commute costs, and the ability to manage their household as the three main motivators for wanting more remote work.

"The reality is that a lot of people are realizing if they can work from home, why would they live in a shoebox condo?" Ipekian said.

Home hunters share their struggles

Last year, Fiona Lacey lived in a 500-sq.-ft. condo in Toronto with her boyfriend. After the pandemic hit and she started to work primarily from home, she realized things could be better elsewhere.

"I always had dreams of having a backyard and having more space for our hobbies and our interests," said Lacey.

Today, Lacey lives with her boyfriend in Hamilton, and says she doesn't regret the move. She has her own office for work, a backyard for gardening, and loves being able to work on house projects — all things out of reach back in Toronto.

"We knew that Toronto wasn't going to happen for us," said Lacey.

Meanwhile, Bennett Jull moved to Toronto near the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, and has been saving ever since to buy his own home in the city.

But whenever he's come across a a property he likes, he says bidding wars to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars over asking have left him priced out.

"It's 4 to $500,000 more and pretty quickly I'm like, yeah, I gotta see myself out of this one," said Jull.

For him, buying his own place means he can stop paying rent.

"It doesn't make much sense to keep throwing money away every single month if you can put it down on a mortgage," Jull said.

"Hopefully, the market enables people that are young to have that opportunity, and hopefully that comes sooner rather than later for me."

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