Housing is expensive but worth the anxiety say the four in 10 Canadians who have felt house poor in the past or are currently experiencing the pain of spending 30 to 40 per cent of their household income on their mortgage and shelter-related expenses such as taxes, utilities and maintenance.
An Ipsos poll for RBC found that nearly half of Canadians, 47 per cent, believed the stress was worthwhile with 66 per cent indicating that it still makes more sense to own than rent.
For the first time in five years, the poll found that Canadians see the housing market as balanced between buyers and sellers. But that varies across the country, with residents in the less affordable markets in Ontario and British Columbia still viewing sellers as having the upper hand, said Nicole Wells, RBC vice-president of home equity financing.
The poll reveals that one of the biggest changes in home ownership is the number of buyers who are choosing to go it alone — 32 per cent, compared to 28 per cent who are looking for assistance from their families.
“There’s a surge in solo homebuyers across Canada. A lot of people are … going it by themselves. That shocked me a little bit,” said Wells.
The number of consumers buying with a spouse or partner has been declining, to 42 per cent his year, down from 49 per cent in 2017.
But she said there are more consumers looking at alternatives, such as purchasing with family members or friends, in which case Wells advises them to get independent legal advice.
The poll shows that 47 per cent of prospective buyers plan to put 15 per cent down on their home purchase. That is up 10 percentage points from 2018. Only 16 per cent said they would put down 5 per cent.
Wells said some first-time buyers are able to do that with loans from parents or by taking out money from their registered retirement savings plans. The federal budget just raised the amount consumers can borrow from their RRSPs to $35,000 from $25,000.
Some buyers are taking more equity out of their homes toward moving up than they might have been planning, while others are delaying renovations to save, she said.
The findings come a few days after Toronto Real Estate Board statistics showed sales and home prices in the region were flat in March, with a shortage of new listings coming on the market and an average sale price of $788,335 across all categories of houses and condos.
Vancouver experienced its lowest March sales in more than 30 years.
Among the 2,223 Canadians polled by Ipsos, 54 per cent said they expect home prices to drop. In Ontario, 58 per cent said they expect prices to fall.
Fifty-six per cent of Canadians said they would wait a year to buy a home and, among those respondents, 45 per cent indicated they would be willing to wait two years or longer. Respondents aged 18 to 34, the most likely to be first-time home buyers, were the most likely to indicate they would wait to make a purchase.
Those younger buyers were also most likely to be concerned about rising interest rates, according to the online poll conduced in January and February. The results are considered accurate within 2.5 percentage points 19 times out of 20.