The 2016 census revealed a surprising statistic: the number of Canadians over age 55 rose an astonishing 87 percent between 1996 and 2006. Demographics in Canada are continuing to change as the population ages. In fact, there are now more Canadian seniors than there are children under the age of 14, for the first time in national history.
These statistics tell us a lot about the state of the current real estate market, and can help us predict incoming trends. It’s important to understand the ways Canada’s ballooning senior population will impact the real estate investment industry—both in the near and long-term.
Seniors are abandoning their large homes in suburbs and small cities to move into apartments in dense, walkable neighborhoods. This coincides with rising demand from Millennial's and members of Generation Z who are also attracted to smaller living spaces in large, urban areas.
One significant trend real estate investors should watch is the fact that seniors are increasingly moving into “younger” cities, causing them to age rapidly. Changing demographics and tastes are leading to tightly constricted urban housing markets and a glut of larger properties in suburbs and smaller metro areas. Real estate investors must learn how to leverage these changes to their advantage.
Understanding shifting demographics in the different regions of Canada can help real estate investors make more informed decisions. Whether you’re fixing and flipping a property or are hoping to hold a rental asset for the long-term, pay close, careful attention to the way demographics impact the value and sale-ability of your property.
Demographics and real estate in Ontario
Canada’s most populous province is also among its fastest-aging. While the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) has many cities with low populations of people over the age of 55, North Ontario towns like Kawartha Lakes have as many as 43 percent of residents that are senior citizens.
Ottawa and Toronto, Canada’s centers of political and economic power, respectively, both have populations of 55 and over hovering around 30 percent.
In Ontario, seniors are moving into younger cities at a rapid clip. The 2016 census shows a 61 percent jump in the over-55 population in Brantford, an exurban city near Hamilton, since 2006. As the population of seniors increases in large cities throughout Ontario, data shows home prices tend to go down.
Québec shows similar patterns
The nation’s second-largest province by population is also aging quickly. As in Ontario, seniors tend to be moving into areas with large populations of younger people. When the seniors begin to move in, home prices tend to decrease.
The Montréal suburb of Côte-Saint-Luc is an exception. This on-island city with shoreline on the Saint Lawrence River comprises nearly 40 percent senior citizens; however, it boasts some of the highest real estate values in Québec.
Atlantic Canada has more stable population trends
The Maritime Provinces and Newfoundland and Labrador boast some of the most stable population trends in the nation. Two of Atlantic Canada’s major population centers, Halifax and St. Johns, have low rates of people over age 55. Both cities have senior populations of about 30 percent.
Atlantic Canada also boasts some of the cheapest real estate prices in the country. As in other parts of the country, real estate prices decrease as senior populations rise. Because the rate of seniors living in Atlantic Canada is rising more slowly than in other parts of the country, however, Atlantic Canada could represent ideal investment territory for savvy real estate operators.
In Atlantic Canada, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia has the largest share of seniors; 42 percent of the city’s population is over 55.
The prairie provinces boast the youngest population
Opposite the rest of the nation, the Prairie Provinces aren’t showing signs of rapid aging trends. In fact, the Prairies represent Canada’s youngest provinces. No large cities in the Prairies has a senior population exceeding 35 percent. In fact, Moose Jaw, Alberta is the region’s “oldest city,” with just 33 percent of its population over the age of 55.
Edmonton, Regina and Winnipeg represent three of the youngest provincial capitals in Canada, as well. All three of these cities have senior populations representing less than 30 percent of their total population.
In addition to the fact that the Prairie Provinces represent Canada’s youngest region, the three provinces also host the second-cheapest real estate in the country, following Atlantic Canada.
As in other parts of the country, cities with the largest percentages of young people are likely to see the largest growth in senior populations. Okotons, Alberta, for instance, saw a jaw-dropping 59 percent increase in senior residents between 2006 and 2016.
The Prairie Provinces could represent fertile ground for savvy real estate investors. This burgeoning region of Canada possesses a young population, lots of room for real estate growth and significant natural resources.
British Columbia is rapidly aging and has high prices
With the highest real estate prices in the nation and a rapidly aging population, British Columbia represents a real challenge for real estate investors.
Like other parts of Canada, British Columbia’s major city, Vancouver, has a relatively low percentage of senior citizens, with only 28 percent of residents over the age of 55.
There several, including West Vancouver, Courtenay, Vernon and Penticton with senior populations exceeding 40 percent.
While many of these cities follow the trend of higher senior populations causing lower real estate prices, West Vancouver is a noteworthy exception. West Vancouver has exceptionally high real estate prices, in spite of its aging population.
Take a look at demographic data
Before you make your next real estate investment, it’s worthwhile to sit down and take a long, hard look at some demographic data. There are a lot of market fundamentals likely to change as Canada’s population continues to age and shift westward.
It’s also worth considering investing in senior housing opportunities in areas with growing senior populations. Just because a growing senior population tends to push down real estate prices doesn’t mean there aren’t still opportunities for