Millennials Lost The ‘Birth Lottery’ When It Comes To Home Ownership

Photo by Matheus Ferrero on Unsplash

The Toronto real estate market has convinced us that the end times are near. When articles like the Globe and Mail’s The Right Way To Buy A Home for Your Adult Kids is de rigueur, we’ve reached a stage in the home affordability crisis where only the rich can actually afford average homes in Toronto. However, the Toronto Star’s Sahar Fatima says a range of factors determines whether or not you’ll be able to own property in this increasingly expensive metropolis, including the year you were born.

READ: First-Time Home Buyers Incentive Limits Torontonians To Buying Condos

The theory of the “birth-year lottery” goes something like this, according to John Pasalis, President of real estate brokerage company Realosophy: “If you were born, say, in the mid-’70s to early ’80s and you were kind of at that age where you could have bought a house or a condo 10 years ago, then you’re sitting on a pretty decent portfolio of real estate.”

“But if you’re a millennial who’s trying to get into the market today, well, you’re kind of out of luck because house prices are pretty much sort of at the highest level right now and it’s very prohibitive to get into the housing market,” says Pasalis.

According to data from the Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB), the average selling price of a GTA home this past August was $792,611. That’s more than double what it was 10 years ago. So logically, if you happened to be blessed with a down payment back in 2008 or 2009, you’ve lucked into having a million-dollar investment on your hands.

READ: Paying Off Debt Is A Top Priority For Millennials In Canada

If you didn’t anticipate the dramatic increase in house value, you may still be able to purchase a home – if your parents are rich and willing to help you that is! For what it’s worth – the generation of wealthy baby boomers who purchased homes for their kids had good intentions. But by transferring “living inheritances” to their children to purchase homes, they disrupt the market by increasing the large divide between rich and poor.

Another big factor affecting home ownership is the level of student debt you possess. Global news reported that the average cost of tuition per year in Ontario was approximately $6500. That’s not including living expenses of course – which have also grown exponentially, especially for students studying at post-secondary institutions in Toronto. For many, the debt is crippling – the albatross around their proverbial necks and one of the biggest obstacles to home ownership.

READ: Report Reveals Harsh Reality Millennials Face When Saving For A Home

Unfortunately, the university education may very well be worth the debt, as residents need a high-paying job in order to sustain a mortgage for a Toronto property. An RBC report that examined the last quarter of 2018 found that the costs of home ownership took up at least 66.1 per cent of a person’s salary. That’s a steep spike up from 45 per cent in 2009. To own a single, detached home could cost up to 80 per cent of one’s income vs. a condo, which would consume a mere 40 per cent.

While many Torontonians are purchasing condos as “starter homes,” apparently supply is running low. According to market researcher Ben Rabidoux, who studied the MLS listings statistics from TREB, the number of available condos in Toronto this August was 3,000. It’s a stark contrast from 2012-2015 when there were an average of 6,500 available.

Paradis credits the diminishing supply with owners holding onto properties even after they have relocated to a larger house. Others sell their “starter home” to their children at a reduced rate. “That’s going to have a huge impact on the market and on prices because the fewer units that are available for people to buy, it drives up prices and it makes it harder for people to afford,” Pasalis told the Toronto Star.

READ: Toronto Housing Demand Grows Among Millennials Despite High Prices

“I remember when I started in this business 10 years ago, the gifts from parents were $30,000 to $40,000. And in the past two to three years, they’ve become $100,000 to $150,000,” Pasalis said. “If you have parents who also own real estate and have the cash to help you, you’re going to get into the market. And if you don’t, and you’re from a less advantaged background, you won’t.”

“It’s all these other things that has made real estate this very expensive asset that’s obviously kind of preventing millennials from getting into the market, or making it harder for them,” said Pasalis.

In addition, with boomers hanging onto their homes for even longer, there hasn’t been a replenished supply of available homes – as there were in previous generations.

Bottom line: home ownership in Toronto is a luxury.

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