Photo: James Bombales

From managing to come up with a downpayment, to qualifying for a mortgage in an era of rising interest rates and tougher lending rules, families are facing high barriers to owning a home in major Canadian cities.

So how are some managing to keep the dream of homeownership alive? A new report, the fruit of a partnership between Sotheby’s International Realty Canada and pollsters the Mustel Group, provides some insights.

The Modern Family Home Ownership Trends report includes the results of a survey of families living in the Calgary, Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver areas with adults aged 20 to 45. That roughly translates to urban Millennial or young-Gen X households, both renters and owners.

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With the study, Sotheby’s International Realty Canada CEO Brad Henderson suggests his company wants to “bring at least some specificity” to the ongoing dialogue about modern homebuyers. “Understanding who they are, where they are, what their views are, and how they are approaching home ownership is important to our company now and in the future,” he tells Livabl.

A key part of that, then, is how younger households are managing to buy property in some of the country’s priciest markets. One thing that surprised Henderson about the results was that there weren’t more getting help from their parents, or the Bank of Mom and Dad.

Some 52 percent of survey respondents used a financial gift or money from an inheritance to make up at least part of a downpayment.

“While the number of times that it happened was large… we would’ve thought it was higher and we would’ve thought that the amount was higher as well,” says Henderson.

He’s referring to the fact that only for 17 percent of respondents did the gift or inheritance make up 30 percent or more of their downpayment.

“So what we took away from that somewhat encouragingly was that this group… is finding a way to be able to finance a good portion of this downpayment and therefore their payments thereafter on their own. It is not totally the Bank of Mom and Dad as a lot of people had suspected,” Henderson explains.

While 12 percent of survey participants who have made a downpayment say they received a loan from family or friends, 71 percent put at least some personal savings or cash on hand towards it. Meantime, 25 percent say they tapped into an RRSP, and 16 percent were able to leverage proceeds from a previous real estate transaction.

The survey results may be encouraging for homebuyer hopefuls. But one Toronto-based mortgage broker who Livabl spoke to says parents have been increasingly generous in the wake of higher interest rates and tougher mortgage qualification rules introduced last year.

“The outskirts of Toronto or some of the smaller towns, I’m not sure if it’s the same case, but definitely in the Toronto market I’m feeling parents… seem to be doing more gifts than they ever have,” Drew Donaldson, managing partner and mortgage broker at SAFEBRIDGE Financial Group, tells Livabl.

Donaldson says that in the lower end of the Toronto market — he pegs this at $500,000 to around $800,000 — you’ll see $50,000 to $100,000 gifts but that the generosity isn’t limited to this segment.

He’s seen gifts of up to $500,000 in some cases for homes that are over $2 million.

“I’m seeing high-income earners that are needing their parents to co-sign to get them approved and they’re buying like $2-million houses, which is a little crazy, right?” he says.

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