Where to Downsize to When your Area Is Too Expensive

In a surprise to no one, most people aged 54 – 72 in Ontario and B.C. feel that their province is too expensive to retire in. This is a combination of factors, most importantly the high cost of housing, among other necessities like gas and food.

Smaller towns that are farther away from urban metropolises boast two things that older Canadians crave: cheaper housing and a quieter lifestyle. However, if that was all that people cared about people would be moving en masse to cities like Gogama, Ontario or Chetwynd, B.C. The biggest limiting factor is access to important amenities, most notably adequate health care facilities.

More remote communities, such as Gogama or Chetwynd, don’t have the medical facilities that older Canadians disproportionately use. They also don’t have the same employment opportunities that younger Canadians need. This is an unfortunate irony – the people that want to leave their current places most can afford to do it least.

While 63% of Ontarians and 78% of British Columbians believe that their province is too expensive, the truth is that most people do not want to downsize – they just want their areas to become magically cheaper overnight. To be fair, everyone else in Canada wishes that as well – the temporary cooling effect of the foreign buyer’s speculation tax in Ontario has evaporated and the average Toronto home price is higher than last year.

Only 17% of baby boomers (1.4 million) in Canada are considering buying a new home in the next five years. Those that are considering downsizing most likely have the advantage of not needing to house their adult children – millennials are staying at home in record numbers as affordability grows further out of reach.

Contrast that 1.4 million boomers planning to buy in the next five years with the 5.8 million millennials planning to buy in the next two years. They, like the boomers planning to downsize, have to look at cities farther outside of Toronto in order to find something that fits their budget. Unfortunately, those are the same people that are currently working in the downtown core or surrounding areas. They then must either extend their commute or find new employment just to afford their new place.


Options for Downsizing Boomers

Cottage Life

The cottage lifestyle – driving up north every weekend – is a popular choice for many Canadians. Some radio stations even have cottage country traffic reports every ten minutes on the weekends so that people can stay informed of the traffic conditions.

While cottages tend to be seen as extravagances of the rich, there are still plenty of cottage areas that are affordable. Some people may opt to just pick up and move to the cottage full-time. You get the benefit of a scenic area, cheaper real estate and a quieter lifestyle. While that’s fine for the younger boomers, those that need medical care or in-home assistance will not find it ideal as cottage areas are often hours away from the nearest major hospital.


The Suburbs

Cities in the GTA like Mississauga, Vaughan, and Richmond Hill have also seen explosive growth in their respective real estate markets. Despite being suburbs for Toronto, they still have plenty of amenities, notably major hospitals and entertainment sectors.

Some neighbourhoods offer a more country-esque feel, while others have a more urban setting. Depending on how you plan to spend your retirement, you can find whatever you’d like in those GTA cities. The only downside? You’re not likely to find the rock-bottom real estate prices that you would find in much smaller areas. You can find places for under $350,000 in Brampton, Mississauga and other places, but they might not be in the location you want or have the amount of space you need.


Downsizing in the city

This is the least affordable option, especially as condos have seen the largest growth in the past year, rising 15% or more in price. Detached homes, more likely to be owned by boomers, haven’t seen as much growth, and so you would spend more proportionally on the transition to a condo.

That said, there are the most amenities available in the city, and I’m not talking only about condo amenities. Toronto is a world-class city with world-class entertainment and services, so long as you can afford to live there.


No matter what you choose, you’ll have to make a compromise. Whether that’s spending more money on housing or more time travelling is up to you. Buying a home is never an easy decision, so be sure to look at all the listings in your desired location so you know what’s out there.


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