Dreaming of buying your first home? You’re not alone: Canada’s real estate market remains strong, as increasing numbers of millennials prepare to make their first home purchase. The key for every aspiring homeowner is to be informed. One great source of information is the Genworth Canada’s 2015 First-time Homeownership Study, which was recently released in conjunction with Environics Research Group (this link will take you to a press released about the study and its findings).

Genworth conducts these annual studies in order to provide up-to-the-moment real estate trends and statistics; it’s a nice snapshot of what’s going on in the market to help you self-assess your real-estate readiness, set expectations and establish your own comfort level.

Trends worth tracking

The study is largely for industry professionals looking for insights into the demographics of first-time homebuyers, but it also contains useful new data to inspire and empower you on the journey to homeownership. For instance, what you get for your money is hugely impacted by your particular location. There’s a great deal of disparity in Canada’s real estate market – major cities are predictably more expensive, with Toronto and Vancouver leading the way – and regional differences can be significant. Here’s a look at the median cost of typical first-time homes in five major metropolitan areas and regions across the country:

Median price:

  • Vancouver: $420,000
  • Calgary: $370,000
  • Toronto: $425,000
  • Montreal: $250,000
  • Atlantic: $185,000
  • *National median: $293,000

Are you on track with your homeownership goals? Your first step may be to pay down your debt load. Here’s a 10-step plan to get your debt down and help you get to where you need to be.

What’s your castle?

The preferences in type of home – detached house, townhouse or condo – being purchased by first-time homebuyers also vary across the country, according to the study. Buying out west? Many Vancouver first-timers lean toward condos as an initial purchase, while Calgarians tend to go for a detached home. In the Maritimes, the tendency to buy detached homes is stronger than anywhere else. Here is the break down for major cities and regions:


  • Most purchased: Condo (47%)
  • Next up: Detached house (24%), Townhouse (24%)


  • Most purchased: Detached house (49%)
  • Next up: Condo (24%), Townhouse (20%)


  • Most purchased: Condo (39%)
  • Next up: Detached house (28%), Townhouse (19%)


  • Most purchased: Condo (40%)
  • Next up: Detached house (26%), Townhouse (12%)


  • Most purchased: Detached house (71%)
  • Next up: Townhouse (7%), Condo (5%)


  • Most purchased: Detached house (55%)
  • Next up: Condo (17%), Townhouse (15%)
Condo as conduit

Condo living, particularly for young adults, is both a lifestyle choice and, in many expensive housing markets like Toronto and Vancouver, a financial strategy. Aspiring first-timers are wise to explore whether the condo option is the right buying decision for them for now.

Could condo living be for you? Here’s how to decide between a house and condo.

First step vs. next step

Most of us would like to own our home at some life stage – preferably sooner than later. But what factors are motivating first-time homebuyers in the current Canadian market? (After all, you may be squaring off against other first-timers in bidding wars.) According to the study, a slight majority of typical first-time homebuyers see their first-time home as a “starter home” (50%) and plan to move within the decade. A significant chunk of first-time homebuyers (40%) regard their first home as their “forever home” and plan to stay put. Whether you plan to flip or put down roots, here are the top five renovations that will increase your property value.

Differing down payments

How we approach our home financing also varies across the country. The national median for down payment on a home is 12% of its total value, but Vancouver and Toronto are propping that figure up, with 20% and 21%, respectively. That means only one Canadian market has a median down payment figure that’s above the rate at which mortgage default insurance is required. Mortgage default insurance protects lenders and ensures that more first-time homebuyers can access credit. Here’s how the median down payments break down by major cities and region:

  • Vancouver: 20%
  • Calgary: 10%
  • Toronto: 21%
  • Montreal: 13%
  • Atlantic: 8%
  • *National median: 12%

Need help saving for that down payment? Here are some thrifty ways to save for a down payment.


Genworth Canada is one of the country’s leading mortgage insurers, with a 20-year history of helping Canadians achieve their dreams of homeownership. Visit Genworth.ca to find mortgage insurance geared at first-time homebuyers, including self-employed professionals, New Canadians, and those planning immediate home renovations upon possession of their first home.

Achieve the homeownership dream sooner