Photo: Bernard Spragg. NZ/Flickr
Danielle Kubes is a contributor to Zoocasa.com, a leading real estate company that combines online search tools and a full-service brokerage to empower Canadians to buy or sell their homes faster, easier and more successfully. Home buyers can browse real estate listings on the website or the free iOS app.
Alberta has stunning nature, abundant natural resources and some of the lowest income tax rates in Canada. But does it have an affordable real estate market? While average home prices in major Albertan municipalities tend to be lower in comparison to Canada’s largest markets such as Vancouver and Toronto, for a region to truly be considered affordable, incomes must be aligned with local earnings and purchasing power.
To find out whether this was the case in Wild Rose Country, Zoocasa compiled data on 13 Alberta cities, using the benchmark home prices reported by local real estate boards, as well as median earnings for single- and dual-income households in each region as reported by Statistics Canada.
The Golden Ratio of Three
To identify which Alberta markets are most affordable, the study calculates the price-to-income ratio in each market – a basic affordability metric that determines, assuming a household dedicated 100 per cent of its income toward their home cost, how many years it would take to pay off the property in full.
For a property to truly be considered affordable, this ratio cannot be higher than three years.
Singles Face Greatest Affordability Challenge
The data reveals that it’s extremely hard for single-income households to purchase a home; not a single market within the province can be considered affordable on only one income, with the lowest ratio being four.
It’s only in the northern region of the province, near the oil sands, where homes approach affordability for single-income purchasers.
The median income for Fort McMurray, for example, is around $107,000, while the average house price is around $440,000. That leads to a ratio of four, meaning a house is about four times a single-person’s income.
Cold Lake is the second most affordable market for single buyers and also has a ratio of four, with the median single income at $68,000 and a house around $280,000 .
It’s a real challenge for single people to afford to live in Alberta’s major cities. Single people in both Calgary and Edmonton make less than $55,000 in both cities. Yet, average Calgary real estate is $480,000 and average Edmonton real estate is $380,000 — giving those cities sky-high ratios of 9.1 and 7.8, respectively.
These home prices figures are just an average however, and are based on aggregate data for the city. By definition, there are cheaper-than-average houses so it’s still possible for single buyers to find a bargain.
Alberta Exceedingly Affordable for Couples
The situation is completely different for Albertans who are part of at least a two-income household. In that case, most of the province becomes affordable and they have their pick in deciding where to live.
In fact, the only places that are unaffordable are ritzy areas, like Canmore. This mountain destination with luxury housing tops the list as the most unaffordable place to buy, with the average home price of around $676,000, outpricing the median income of about $117,000 by 5.8 times.
Calgary is also listed as a more expensive place to live, with its average housing price four times the median income of dual-earning household of $117,000.
Nevertheless, these are still average home prices that remain far lower than other major metropolitan areas, like Toronto and Vancouver. Moreover, Alberta as a whole has high wages compared to the rest of Canada, and offers outstanding value and affordability for two-income households.
Least 5 Affordable Housing Markets in Alberta
1. Canmore: $676,093, Dual: 5.8, Single: 12.9
2. Camrose: $337,143, Dual: 3.5, Single: 9.3
3. Calgary: $479,266, Dual: 4.1, Single: 9.1
4. Okotoks: $441,597, Dual: 3.4, Single: 8.3
5. Edmonton: $382,849, Dual: 3.4, 7.8
Top 5 Most Affordable Housing Markets in Alberta
1. Fort McMurray: $439,664, Dual: 2, Single: 4.1
2. Cold Lake: $281,231, Dual: 2, Single: 4.1
3. Grande Prairie: $319,084: Dual: 2.6, Single: 5.6
4. Fort Saskatchewan: $368,921 Dual: 2.7, Single: 6.1
5. Airdrie: $359,148, Dual: 3.0, Single: 6.2
Check out the infographic below for the full affordability list: