Ontario has a lot of worthwhile places to invest. As people grow tired of the cost of living in places like the Greater Toronto Area, they’re moving to suburbs and increasingly rural areas or small towns like St. Thomas. Located near Lake Erie, just a half-hour south of London, two hours from Toronto and Niagara Falls, this small town is a great place to invest in commercial and residential real estate. Find out why people love the “Railway City,” and see if it could be a fit for your next investment.
Table of Contents - Benefits of Real Estate Investing in St. Thomas
- Welcome to the ‘Railway City’ - St. Thomas
- Growing population, comfortable household incomes
- Manufacturing, sales and trade dominate the St. Thomas' economy
- St. Thomas Real estate market
- Culture and recreation opportunities abound
- Real Estate Professionals in St. Thomas
- What to do in St. Thomas?
Welcome to the ‘Railway City’ - St. Thomas
St. Thomas is located in Elgin County and has been settled since the early 19th century. Throughout its history, a total of 26 railways have gone through the town—hence the nickname “Railway City.” Its location was originally chosen because it sits where two major historical roads converged.
The railway industry dominated St. Thomas’ local economy until the 1950s. As the railway industry declined, the area became a prime spot for automotive manufacturing. Although several of the manufacturing plants have shut down, there’s still a significant manufacturing sector in the area.
St. Thomas is located in southwestern Ontario, just 17 minutes away from Port Stanley, a transportation hub on Lake Erie. Between Lake Erie and the railway lines, it’s a good location for transportation and trade. Its close proximity to London, Toronto, Niagara Falls, Chatham-Kent (about an hour west) and Detroit (two hours west), it’s a prime spot for people looking for a lower cost of living. Whether you’re interested in commercial or residential real estate, there’s plenty of opportunity for low-cost investments and developments.
Growing population, comfortable household incomes
As of the 2016 census, St. Thomas has a population of about 39,000 people. It has a growth rate of just over one percent per year—slowly but surely, more people are moving outward from major metropolitan areas. The median age is 42 years old (slightly younger than surrounding areas), and about 46 percent of the population is married. People between ages 50-59 make up the largest portion of the population, but as more folks move from the Greater Toronto Area, expect that age group to trend younger. More people are migrating within the province, searching for affordable places to buy homes and raise a family.
The median household income is nearly $60,000, which is higher than the national average. In fact, the majority of the St. Thomas population lives above the low-income cutoff. The majority of the population speaks English, although there’s a small cadre of French speakers.
Manufacturing, sales and trade dominate the St. Thomas' economy
As mentioned earlier, manufacturing and the railway industry dominated St. Thomas’ economy for the past two centuries. Today, the largest industry is sales and service—like hospitality—making up 4705 jobs. Trade and transport and manufacturing are close behind. The most popular industries are healthcare, manufacturing and retail.
Recently, the economy has shown strong signs that it is recovering from the initial COVID-19 pandemic losses. As of November 2020, the unemployment rate was 9.6 percent and had added 22,900 jobs in the second half of 2020—about 76 percent of all the jobs that were lost in the early days of the pandemic. Although the unemployment rate is slightly higher than Ontario’s overall rate (7.92 percent), local experts say that the economy shows every sign of recovering. That makes this a prime time to invest in real estate.
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St. Thomas Real estate market
The Canadian Real Estate Association reports that 2020—despite the pandemic—was the second-best year ever for residential real estate sales in the London-St. Thomas area. There were just under 10,000 home sales, with an average selling price of about $440,000. In fact, the housing prices in St. Thomas rose over ten percent in 2020. The vast majority of sales were for single-family homes, but there were a small number of apartments and townhomes sold as well. This is at least partially attributable to the low amount of inventory.
St. Thomas’ average home prices are on par with the entire province, and, of course, about half the price of homes in the Toronto area. As more people move to smaller towns (especially due to the proliferation of remote work), experts predict that home prices will continue to rise. If you’re thinking about investing in residential real estate or developing land, you may want to start before prices rise even higher.
When it comes to commercial real estate, St. Thomas is ripe for investing. The St. Thomas Economic Development Corporation offers assistance to investors, from promotional programs, market statistics and modernization programs. If you’re planning to invest in the area, they could be a valuable resource. Development-ready land is currently starting at $98,000 per acre.
Culture and recreation opportunities abound
St. Thomas has a significant tourism industry, banking on the historical railway industry to attract visitors. The Elgin County Railway Museum details the history of the area, including the 26 railroad lines that have passed through the city over the years.
One of the most unusual local attractions is the massive statue of Jumbo the Elephant, which was erected in tribute to a 19th-century circus elephant. Jumbo was killed when a locomotive hit him. Just before he died, he used his trunk to pull his trainer close, for comfort. The story resonated deeply with residents at the time, and today, the statue (erected in 1985) is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the area.
In addition to Jumbo and the railway history, St. Thomas also has plenty of opportunities for outdoor recreation, including St. Margaret Lake in Pinafore Park. It’s an ideal location for anyone searching for small-town charm and plenty of space, right in between several metropolitan areas.
Real Estate Professionals in St. Thomas
We have searched high and low for real estate investing professionals in St. Thomas. Below, you can find professionals we have researched and can confirm they specialize in working with Real Estate Investors.
To ensure the maximum success in real estate investing in St. Thomas, or any city, you should always use professionals who understand and work with investors, your income depends on it.
This list may not fully list all the professionals in the area, but the ones we have personally investigated and that we would refer our clients to.
If you’re a real estate professional and would like us to consider adding you to the list, please contact us.
Like much of southwestern Ontario, St. Thomas’s real estate prices are rising as the population increases. If you’re interested in expanding your portfolio into smaller towns, it’s a promising location with plenty to offer.
What to do in St. Thomas?
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