With government programs like the First-Time Home Buyer Incentive and the Home Buyers’ Plan, becoming a homeowner doesn’t have to be a pipe dream for millennials or even Gen-Z anymore. The big question is where to buy. Using data from real estate company RE/MAX, we looked at the estimated average residential selling price for 2021 in different Canadian cities as well as how much property in those cities is expected to appreciate in value from last year. We realize that not everybody can fork out a million dollars for their first home, so we looked at options below $600,000. Because we know that money isn’t the only thing that’s important, though, we also looked at factors like schools and things to do with kids and dogs to bring you the best cities to buy your first home in Canada in 2021.
10. Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island
Percentage change from 2020: 4%
If quality of life is more important to you than the profit at which you’ll be selling your home one day, Charlottetown is one of your best bets. This small city almost feels more like a town and its neighbourhoods are more like the villages they once were. This, of course, makes for a great environment to raise kids. Charlottetown has several English-language and French-language schools as well as tertiary institutions like the University of Prince Edward Island.
There are many opportunities for an outdoor lifestyle, with Prince Edward Island’s beaches and the vast hiking and biking network of the Confederation Trail providing great ways for kids and dogs to work off excess energy. As far as work in Charlottetown is concerned, the main employer here is the public sector. Tech companies are making inroads here too but let’s face it: Charlottetown is the ideal location for remote working.
9. Kelowna, British Columbia
Percentage change from 2020: 5%
House prices in Kelowna are towards the higher end for first-time buyers but because the city is one of the places with the lowest taxes in Canada, you’ll have more money at your disposal to pay off that mortgage. This gorgeous city on Okanagan Lake has great weather, so it’s no surprise that tourism is one of the main drivers of the economy here.
There are lots of beaches and trails for outdoor adventures with kids and dogs and Kelowna even has plenty of dog-friendly wineries. There’s a good variety of schools and tertiary educational institutions like Okanagan College. In addition to tourism, Kelowna’s major employers include its wineries and orchards.
8. Nanaimo, British Columbia
Percentage change from 2020: 6.2%
Even though it was one of the most expensive places to live in Canada in 2019, Nanaimo is well worth the investment if you’re going to buy a starter home. Because of the city’s stunning location on Vancouver Island and its temperate climate, it’s very popular with retirees and tourists alike and there are plenty of outdoor activities to enjoy.
There are more than 30 elementary and secondary schools and the Vancouver Island University’s main campus is in Nanaimo too. Your dog will love the adventure of all the hikes Nanaimo has to offer, as well as the city’s 12 off-leash dog parks. As far as work is concerned, the main employers are the provincial government, tourism, retail and service, while tech is a growing industry too.
7. Ottawa, Ontario
Percentage change from 2020: 7%
The nation’s capital is considered one of the best cities in Canada to raise kids, partly because of the quality of education here. There are so many school boards here that the city has four main school boards: two English-language ones and two French-language ones. Then there are additional private schools that don’t fall under the jurisdiction of any of the school boards.
If you’re planning on raising kids, they will want more than good schooling, though, and Ottawa delivers, especially with the many activities centred on or around the Rideau Canal. There are plenty of dog-friendly spots and off-leash areas for your furry kids too. In terms of work, Ottawa has a diverse economy but the main employers here are the Public Service of Canada and tech.
6. Halifax, Nova Scotia
Percentage change from 2020: 8%
As the main hub for the Maritimes, Halifax is the perfect choice if you want everything the big city has to offer but still want the friendly feel of a smaller city. There are more than 150 schools here, six of which are French-language public schools and fourteen of which are private schools. The city is also home to several colleges and universities, including Dalhousie University.
The climate is mild, even though winters can be wet and miserable. There’s lots of ways to keep the kids entertained, including several kid-friendly festivals throughout the year. The city also has many dog-friendly and off-leash spaces, including Point Pleasant Park. As far as work goes, Halifax has a diversified economy and some of the major employers include the military and the shipping industry.
5. Thunder Bay, Ontario
Percentage change from 2020: 10%
With more companies moving to the working-from-home model, it’s not really that important anymore to be based in the big city where all the jobs are. Thunder Bay may be the hub for Northwestern Ontario but it’s pretty small for a city. Traditionally reliant on industries like forestry, Thunder Bay has started to focus on knowledge-based industries, especially the health sciences. The service industry is the biggest employer, though.
Thunder Bay is home to around 50 schools as well as tertiary institutions like Lakehead University and Confederation College. There are many ways to keep the kids entertained, including skiing in winter, and one of Canada’s must-see waterfalls, Kakabeka Falls, is close enough for a fun day trip. Among the dog-friendly spots are four off-leash dog parks.
4. Kingston, Ontario
Percentage change from 2020: 10%
If you’re into history, Kingston is a great option for that first home. The city was of great military importance pretty much from the beginning of Canada being a country and was also our first capital. Naturally, there are many historic sites and heritage properties here. There are four school boards – two of which are French-language – to manage the many schools here. Kingston is also home to Queen’s University, a campus of St. Lawrence College and Canada’s only military university, the Royal Military College of Canada.
The military is still a major employer, as are the healthcare, higher education, correctional services and tourism. In addition to the many historical attractions Kingston has to offer, there are also many outdoor activities, especially water-based activities like sailing and even scuba-diving. There are some great dog-friendly spots, including some off-leash parks along the waterfront.
3. Cornwall, Ontario
Percentage change from 2020: 10%
The easternmost city in Ontario and right on the border between Canada and the United States, Cornwall is one of the cheapest cities to live in Canada. This of course makes it a fantastic choice to invest in a starter home. This small city has a diversified economy but two of its major industries are also two of the industries of the future: call centres and distribution centres.
Cornwall has several English-language and French-language schools as well as North America’s first Islamic school and Cornwall Collegiate Vocational School, which is one of Canada’s oldest schools. St. Lawrence College has a campus here and among the other tertiary education and training facilities is the Canadian Forces School of Aerospace Control Operations. The city also has several parks and trails where you can take the kids – including the ones of the four-footed kind.
2. Moncton, New Brunswick
Percentage change from 2020: 15%
The pandemic made most companies see that working from home is a viable option and this has had the effect that people have been buying outside of the usual real-estate markets. Moncton has become one the hottest locations and because house prices are low, the city is an especially good option for first-time buyers. The city is one of the most bilingual cities in Canada, which is great if you want your children to grow up being able to speak both English and French. This also means that you’ll have no problem finding good English- or French-language schools and tertiary institutions here.
There are many ways to keep the kids occupied in what is one of Canada’s greenest cities and you’ll also find plenty of trails, beaches and dog parks for doggie adventures. Because of Moncton’s central location in Atlantic Canada, the city has a very diversified economy and major employers include the healthcare, insurance, education and tech industries.
1. Windsor, Ontario
Percentage change from 2020: 17.5%
With nearly 30 percent of Windsor’s population born outside of Canada, this is one of the most diverse cities in the country. Housing prices have been increasing rapidly in recent years, partly driven by immigration, and this makes Windsor a good place to buy if you want your first home to be an investment property too. The city is home to a good number of schools, both English and French, as well as tertiary institutions like the University of Windsor, the southernmost university in Canada.
Some of the best parks and green spaces in Windsor are along the waterfront with a spectacular view of Detroit across the river. These include several dog-friendly spaces too. The automotive industry is the main employer in Windsor but the city is also becoming a bit of a tech hub. Tourism is another big employer, especially Caesars Windsor, which is one of Canada’s largest casinos.