An affordable real estate market in the Ontario housing sector? This might be hard to believe at first, but there is a place in the province where prices are certainly in the realm of affordability, something that prospective homebuyers have been desiring for years. The Sault Ste. Marie real estate market is the cheapest city in Ontario these days, with prices less than half of the average selling price in the rest of the province. As mortgage rates continue to come down, this might be the best time to purchase a home.

Let’s take a deeper dive at the Sault Ste Marie real estate data and compare it to the rest of the Ontario housing industry.

Sault Ste. Marie Real Estate Is Remarkably Affordable

According to the Sault Ste. Marie Real Estate Board, residential property sales plummeted nearly 20 per cent year-over-year in September 2023 (the latest data published), totalling 125 units. But the real story is the average price of homes sold in the Sault Ste. Marie housing market, which clocked in below $286,000 in September.

By comparison, the average price of resale residential homes across the Ontario real estate market was close to $854,000 in December. Additionally, the national average price is more than $657,000. Ultimately, many people in Sault Ste. Marie real estate are seeing savings of between $300,000 and $500,000.

At a time when inflationary pressures persist in the Canadian economy and mortgages remain above trend, this amount of savings is remarkable for families.

This is a perfect time for buyers, too.

Estimates in the RE/MAX 2024 Housing Market Outlook suggest conditions will continue to be a buyer’s market as prices are projected to slide 7.5 per cent and sales are predicted to plunge 15 per cent. The report also noted that the most desirable neighbourhoods are expected to be the East Side this year, with a focus on single detached houses as the entry-level prices begin at $200,000.

The reason for the expected drop in price? Improvement in inventory levels.

By the end of September, there was a 20 per cent increase in active residential listings, nearly four per cent above the five-year average, local real estate association data show. While new residential listings slumped 5.6 per cent, they were nearly one per cent above the five-year average.

Plus, new housing construction activity levels have remained decent. According to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), housing starts totalled 230 units in the first 11 months of 2023, down just nine per cent from the same time in the previous year.

SSM is a Top Community to Buy a Home

Last year, MoneySense.ca published a report assessing the top communities to buy a home. Where did Sault Ste. Marie rank? Second, just behind Greater Moncton, New Brunswick, and just ahead of North Bay, Ontario.

City officials have championed the Ontario town, sharing how Sault Ste. Marie has experienced tremendous growth.

“We’re seeing growth, and it’s great that our growth is being recognized across Canada,” said Travis Anderson, the city’s director of tourism and community development, in an interview with The Sault Star. “I’m optimistic that with our program to attract new residents, we’ll continue to see growth in our community in the coming years.”

Local experts note the reason for affordability is that the city established an affordable housing task force that determined how officials could adjust a program to encourage densification and redevelopment of under-utilized properties.

Much Needed Good News Can be Found in the Sault Ste. Marie Housing Market

Learning that Sault Ste. Marie is one of the most affordable housing markets in Ontario, and perhaps even the country is good news at a time when all the reports suggest the nation is enduring a cost-of-living crisis.

The Bank of Canada (BoC) recently published a report that found “significant deterioration” in housing affordability despite the federal government championing new housing strategies. The central bank’s widely watched index suggests that housing affordability is at the worst level in more than four decades.

RBC Economics also noted that higher mortgage rates and climbing housing prices are making it less affordable to own a home in the Canadian real estate market.

“The significant loss of affordability during the pandemic has shrunk the pool of homebuyers in Canada. Close to 60 per cent of all households could afford to own at least a regular condo apartment in 2019 based on their income. That share has plummeted to 45 per cent in 2023. An even tinier 26 per cent could now afford a (relatively more expensive) single-family home,” said Robert Hogue, an RBC economist, in a research note.

On the one hand, there is modest relief in sight, “but the weight will remain considerable.”

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