Today’s typical first-time homebuyer is a Canadian-born, university-educated millennial who, with their significant other, is purchasing a home to raise a family in. So says the Genworth Canada First-Time Homeownership Study (FTHS), released April 2017 for Genworth Canada’s Homeownership Education Week. Behind the stats, there’s more to this story, however. Read on for 10 takeaways from the national survey, which sheds light on the state of the Canadian real estate market, and can help first-time homebuyers house-hunt like pros during peak real estate season.

TAKEAWAY NO. 1: First-time homebuyers are pragmatic millennials

Nearly nine out of 10 first-time homebuyers surveyed (89%) are millennials. Today’s tough real estate market, particularly in seller’s markets like Vancouver and Toronto, can be a challenge for first-time buyers, especially with the new mortgage rules introduced by the federal government in fall 2016.

Nonetheless, today’s first-timers do have a few advantages, including financial moxie: the vast majority (61%) made a down payment of less than 20% of the price of their first home, taking advantage of today’s low interest rates and mortgage insurance to secure a high-ratio mortgage.

According to the FTHS, over half (52%) have not taken on any additional debt.

TAKEAWAY NO. 2: First-time homebuyers tend to be Canadian born

While 81% of first-timers are Canadian born, a sizable cohort of first-time homebuyers – 15% – are newcomers to Canada, having immigrated to Canada within the last decade.

Newcomers face unique challenges, such as a lack of Canadian credit history, but products such as Genworth Canada’s  New to Canada program make it easier to set down roots through homeownership, with as little as a 5% down.

TAKEAWAY NO. 3: First-time homebuyers made the leap from renting

Nearly three-quarters (71%) of first-time homebuyers are former tenants, proving it’s possible to save for a down payment even while paying a monthly rent.

The secret to success? Boosting your financial fitness, paying down debt and saving for a down payment. Get started by creating a budget.

TAKEAWAY NO. 4: Most first-timers bought with their partner

Although solo homebuyers make up a solid 41% of first-time homebuyers in Genworth Canada’s First-Time Homeownership Study, the majority of respondents (57%) bought with their spouse or partner.

In fact, growing numbers of millennials are buying homes together prior to marriage. Here are a few things to consider if you’re thinking of taking the plunge.

TAKEAWAY NO. 5: Most first-time homebuyers are planning for family life

A solid majority of first-time homebuyers have family on the mind: 41% are parents, and 32% plan to have kids within the next five years.

With the price of the typical detached house increasing, one way that growing families can get more bang for their buck is with a fixer-upper. Genworth Canada’s Purchase Plus Improvements program is perfect for first-time homebuyers wanting to renovate their first home to better suit their family’s needs.

TAKEAWAY NO. 6: Most first-time homebuyers are driven by price

Affordability is a key concern of today’s first-time homebuyer. In fact, price is the No. 1 consideration (93%), even trumping size (91%).

Want a shortcut to determining what’s affordable on your budget? Online tools and calculators make it easy to check, and reassess, as you plan ahead.  

TAKEAWAY NO. 7: Most first-time homebuyers seek energy efficiency

Millennial homebuyers also want to lower their energy costs while preserving natural resources. Energy efficiency is another top priority (72%) for today’s first-time buyer.

Homeowners can save on energy costs by purchasing in an area that lets them commute by bike or public transit, or by installing energy-saving upgrades that can qualify for savings through Genworth Canada’s Energy-Efficient Housing program.

TAKEAWAY NO. 8: First-time homebuyers in Vancouver and Toronto embrace condo living

Condos (47%) are the most popular way for Vancouverites to break into the red-hot property market, with detached homes (29%) and townhouses (20%) following. In Toronto, condos (35%) outpace detached homes (30%) and townhouses (22%), and semi-detached homes (13%) albeit less dramatically. This is also the case in urban Montreal (39% condos, 30% detached houses, 15% townhouses, and semi-detached homes), but not true in Calgary and Atlantic Canada, where detached homes remain by far the first-timer norm.

Not sure if your first home should be a condo, house or townhouse? Start your research by establishing your homebuying goals. 

TAKEAWAY NO. 9: First-time homebuyers trust mortgage pros

For mortgage advice, first-time homebuyers trust the knowledge and integrity of professionals. Independent mortgage brokers edged out bank or credit union specialists (74% versus 66%), where 88% consulted one or the other, and 52% consulted both.

Assembling a team of real estate professionals helps ensure a smoother buying process. Ask friends or family for referrals, and check online for a well-reviewed mortgage specialist, REALTOR®, home inspector and real estate lawyer (or notary, in Quebec). 

TAKEAWAY NO. 10: First-time homebuyers embrace technology

The first place many house hunters head is online. In fact, 61% of Genworth Canada’s First-Time Homeownership Study respondents used the Net as an important source of info. Coupled with the real-life advice of your real estate team, it’s an effective tool in your first-timer tool box.

Achieve the homeownership dream sooner