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Canada Housing Market: Features home buyers really want in 2023 (+ infographic)

Interest rates are now more than double what they were a year ago, but buyers are keen to plunge into Canada's housing market. Here are the home features buyers really want and the housing market demographic trends sellers need to consider.

Buying a home in Canada is hard. It’s hard to save up the down payment; it’s hard to choose the right mortgage and it’s hard to find a property that matches your needs and your budget. Despite these hurdles, the demand to get into Canada’s housing market has softened for only a few brief moments over the last decade.

A new study from Finder sheds insight into Canada’s housing market, and the market trends and preferences of home buyers that drive the nation’s real estate market. The results from the Finder: Consumer Sentiment Survey Q2 (Finder: Consumer Sentiment Survey Q2) shows that 31% of respondents plan to buy a home in 2023 and another 15% plan to buy a home in 2024.

Compared to the demand of would-be home buyers in 2021, when pandemic restrictions were in full force, and demand to become a property owner appears to have grown slightly. Almost a third of Canadians plan to buy a home in 2023 or 2024, up slightly from the 30% of respondents who planned to buy a home in 2021. according to survey results from the Finder: New Home Wish List survey. This is surprising given the persistently high property prices and rising mortgage rates of the last 12 months.

Canada’s Housing Market: What buyers want?

Given the consistently competitive real estate marketplace, buyers need to prioritize their wants and needs. On the other hand, sellers and home builders need to stay competitive. A key way to do this is to be aware of changing preferences and to highlight the most desirable features to buyers, based on these wants and needs.

To help determine the most desireable home features, the Finder: Consumer Sentiment Survey Q2 asked more than 1,010 Canadians about their home buying intentions and their housing preferences.

According to survey results, the desire for larger living space has dropped dramatically since the height of the pandemic. Back in 2021, almost half of Canadian home buyers (48%) wanted a property with larger living space. These days, 26% of home buyers want a larger living space, while 27% want a spacious backyard or outdoor space.

Canada’s Housing Market: What different generations of home buyers want

However, there were definitely generational differences when it came to the most desirable features sought after by home buyers.

For instance, Gen Z home buyers (between the ages of 18 and 28) preferred larger living space (14%) and an updated style or look of a home (13%).

Millennials wanted spacious backyards or outdoor space (15%), followed by larger living space (13%) and a garage or driveway (13%).

Gen X home buyers (those between the ages of 47 and 58) want spacious backyards or outdoor space (13%), followed by larger living spaces (11%) and close to amenities, such as stores, schools and community centres (10%).

Baby boomer home buyers had a strong preference to easy access to amenities (15%), following by a three-way tie between a spacious backyard or outdoor space (10%), proximity to transit and highways (10%) and access to green space, such as ravines, parks and dog parks (10%).

When it comes to the most desirable features of a home, men and women agreed on a lot, but not all.

For instance, men and women agreed that a spacious backyard or outdoor space was at the top of their house-hunting list (27% and 27%, respectively). Men and women also agreed that a dedicated home office space was important (10% and 11%, respectively), but women placed more importance on the look and style of a home (25%, compared to men at 18%), while men favoured a driveway or garage (26%, compared to women at 19%).

Canada’s Housing Market: Regional preferences for housing features

How desirable each housing feature or amenity is for a buyer appears to be influenced by geography.

  • The top three features Ontario home buyers are looking for in 2023 include:
    1. Spacious backyard or outdoor space (31%)
    2. Larger living space (27%)
    3. Driveway and/or garage (26%)
  • Home buyers in British Columbia want a home with:
    1. Larger living space (27%)
    2. Updated style and look (25%)
    3. Close to transit, including highways and public transit (24%)
  • Home buyers in Alberta want:
    1. Larger living space (27%)
    2. Spacious backyard or outdoor space (26%)
    3. Driveway and/or garage (22%)
  • Home buyers in the Prairie provinces of Manitoba and Saskatchewan (combined results) want:
    1. Close to amenities, like stores, schools and community centres (47%)
    2. Larger living space (44%)
    3. Style and look of the home (43%)
  • Home buyers in the Maritimes (combined results for New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland) want:
    1. Driveway and/or garage (79%)
    2. Style and look of the home (78%)
    3. Spacious backyard or outdoor space (78%)

There were some surprising results. For instance, the desire to be close green space was highest in BC (16%), while access and proximity to daycare and schools was highest for Ontario home buyers (6%).

Newfoundland & Labrador home buyers led the country with 11% of buyers looking for green or energy efficient homes.

Manitoba buyers had the largest desire for a new build home (7%), while home buyers in New Brunswick showed the most interest in a dedicated home office (19%) or a home with luxury details, such as a Chef’s kitchen or a built-in outdoor kitchen (7%).

Millennials on the move in Canada’s housing market

In 2021, approximately 1 in 3 Canadians planned a move — either to find a new rental unit or to buy a home. While baby boomers were the least likely to move (22%), millennials were the most likely to move (64%).

Data from the Finder: Consumer Sentiment Survey Q2 shows that the number of Canadians who plan to move in 2023 increased. This year, approximately 1 in 4 Canadian plan to move, with 20% of Gen Z Canadians planning to buy a home in the next 12 months, followed by 16% of millennials, 12% of baby boomers and 11% of Gen X, or those between the ages of 47 and 58.

Gender differences when it comes to homeownership

It appears that women are more likely to already be homeowners (35%), take the lead in plans to become a homeowner (17%), but also more likely to “rent for the foreseeable future” in 2023 (25%).

This is a marked difference from 2021, when 28% of men planned to buy home compared to 21% of women.

When the pandemic was first announced in March 2020, many analysts assumed the abrupt economic slowdown would prompt a crash in the Canadian housing market. It didn’t. While there were a number of factors that helped buoy the Canadian housing market, the impact was a rush into homeownership with buyers willing to pay well over asking price in order to secure a home purchase.

Then there were the situational affects of the pandemic. When work-from-home was the only option for non-essential workers, we saw a migration of die-hard downtowners leaving metropolitan centres. Urbanites from large cities, like Toronto and Vancouver, began to leave the big city for actual greener pastures — much larger properties, with large front and backyards, located in sleeper communities and nearby small towns.

This was accompanied by a growing trend for multi-family living. Multiple generations and multiple households sharing one roof and one life in an effort to pay the bills and quarantine safely.

On the flip-side, the dissolution of marriages rose during the pandemic. As the divorce-rate climbed, so did the demand for new homes, as ex-spouses looked for suitable accommodation to restart their lives.

In the Finder: New Home Wish List survey, almost half of Canadians (45%), planned to make a housing move in 2021 — with 30% of respondents planning to buy a home and 15% preparing to lease a new rental unit.

Two years later even more Canadians plan to buy a home. According to data from Finder: Consumer Sentiment Survey Q2, 46% of respondents plan to buy a home — with 1 in 10 planning to buy a home between April and June 2023 and another 21% planning to buy a home within 4 to 12 months.

Bucking the trend: Canadians who plan to rent

While buying a home tends to capture headlines, approximately one-third of Canadians are renters, according to the 2021 Canadian census. According to the Finder: Consumer Sentiment Survey Q2 survey results, 27% of Gen Z Canadians plan to rent for the foreseeable future, followed by 22% of Gen X, 21% of baby boomers and 18% of millennials.

Infographic: Top home features in 2023 for Canadian home buyers

Infographic: Top home features home buyers want in 2023

About Finder

Finder is a personal finance comparison site with a mission to help Canadians save, invest, spend wisely and grow their wealth. Each month, Finder provides half a million Canadians – and more than five million globally – with independent and trustworthy financial information. Our goal is to help people make better financial decisions by providing objective, comparative insight on thousands of products and services.

As a global fintech website and app, Finder provides consumers free access to smart money content. Whether it's expert insight, product or service comparisons or independent reviews, Finder helps consumers stay on top of their finances while saving time and money.

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