Canada vs. U.S.: Comparing the cost of homes by city (Canada seems to be 100% more expensive on the whole)

This won’t be super scientific, and I may even have apples thrown at me for this, but I’m going to put it out there that living in Canada doesn’t offer you a whole lot of options for staying in a truly urban city and being able to buy a home for a decent price.

Farfetched? Maybe.

Or maybe I’ve been watching too many American HGTV shows where the couple says:

Oh 2 billion square feet, 18 bathrooms and 25 bedrooms?

Hmm I don’t know honey, is that enough space?

And is it within our price range?

Oh what? It’s only $200,000?

Well it’s a bit expensive but I think we can do it.

Okay so I’m exaggerating a little, but seriously this is how I feel.


Disclaimer: I am again, not trying to say if you’re American or Canadian you are better or worse than each other.

Or if you own a home you’re a sucker (you’re not, because I am the only one in my family who doesn’t own a home much less a fixed address, and I don’t consider them suckers).

I don’t really care about loyalties. I am looking at it from an objective, general perspective that is wholly unscientific, seeing as I am not willing to put in the time to massage data and statistics.

BOR-RING!

Let’s just skip to the good, far fetched theories and ignore that these are two separate countries, with two separate governments, sets of people and yadda yadda.

CANADA IS NOT THAT MUCH LARGER THAN THE STATES

First, let’s talk about the size of our respective countries, shall we?

Everyone loves to scream: Canada is the second largest country in the world, WOO HOO!!!!

But if we take a look at these statistics, we’re larger, but not by much, only by 347,049 sq. km., which I know is a lot of land, but it isn’t as though we’re comparing Russia versus Vatican City or Monaco.

I am also comparing Canada with the States, because we really are similar in the sense that we could transplant ourselves into the States and vice versa, and never skip a beat.

..BUT WE HAVE LESS LIVABLE LAND/SPACE

We do. I mean if you look at the population up there, USA dwarfs Canada in sheer population. The States has a population density of 31.6 compared to our measly 3.3.

So what gives? Why aren’t more people in Canada?

Is this because Canadians are not friendly enough? No.

Is it because we’re beside Alaska? (I kid I kid!) No.

Is it because we don’t let people into our country? No. The States has way harsher immigration laws than Canada.

Is it because you can’t pronounce names like Saskatchewan and you’d have to bring a map to show people where you live? No.

It’s because we can’t live just ANYWHERE in Canada like you can in the States!

We have so much freaking land, but we can’t live in every part of Canada.

It gets progressively colder as you move up North, and most people would rather settle around somewhere with a mild climate, like Vancouver, rather than in some snow-ridden place far away from the main urban cities.

The weather up here is not as people-friendly in all parts of Canada as it is in the States. Point blank.

SO LET’S TAKE A LOOK AT OUR POPULATIONS

You already know that the States is has a population density of 31.6 by square kilometer, compared to Canada’s 3.3.

But let’s look at it by city:

These are our top 20 cities. (Wikipedia)

Now let’s look at the States (Wikipedia):

To get to Canada’s 20th Largest City (St. John’s Newfoundland and Labrador) at 151, 322, you need to go all the way down to City #157 on the U.S. list to get a comparable population.

FB, WHAT DOES THIS HAVE TO DO WITH THE PRICE OF HOUSES?

I’m so glad you asked.

This means that people in Canada jam themselves into a smaller range of cities than in the States.

People can easily find steady work in urban cities, or surrounding areas near to big urban cities. So that means people tend to flock to the biggest cities in the country, in hopes of finding something better than limiting themselves to some mid-sized town that may not have enough employment to offer.

We have 20 cities you can live in to be considered ‘urban’. The States has 157 urban areas to match to our measly 20.

That is almost 8 times more of a choice of where you can decide to live!

This may not seem very significant to you if seeing as you live in NYC and it costs millions just to live in some hovel in the basement with rats as roommates, and you’d never consider moving to Pasadena, Texas if the prices of homes were cheaper.

I am also not factoring your job/career, ties, family, etc etc etc into all of this. This is a simple, stupid look at Canada vs. USA for homes, seeing as everyone likes to compare these two countries as being pretty much the same in terms of culture (read: TV shows watched in both countries).

But you have the choice in the States.

Here, I can only move to 5 cities for steady, actual work across the whole country:

  1. Toronto
  2. Montreal
  3. Ottawa
  4. Vancouver
  5. Calgary

In the state of Texas alone, I can go to:

  1. Dallas/Forth Worth
  2. Austin
  3. San Antonio
  4. Houston
  5. El Paso

OKAY, YOU ARE STILL NOT GETTING TO THE COST OF HOUSES!

Patience! I’m already there.

Here’s a quick list I pulled of some listings in Canada.

As I’ve said, it isn’t scientific, so I didn’t take into account how many people would want to live in Salt Lake City, UT versus in Toronto, ON or whatever else. I also didn’t run it through a billion variables and I am writing this post half-lucid from the vertigo I am experiencing.

I am just taking a quick range of what is available out there.

In Canada I am comparing Toronto and Guelph.

Guelph is about an hour away from Toronto and is considered a surrounding city to an urban city, as people just travel to work in Toronto or they get enough residual business in Guelph, by feeding off the economy in Toronto that they can stay in the town.

CRITERIA FOR THE HOMES I SEARCHED

  • 2000 square feet
  • 2 bedrooms
  • 2 bath
  • detached home
  • 2-car garage

Note: I am not going to add California or NYC to this list. They have populations and prices far out of reach to do a comparison, so I’m picking normal cities (yes, ones I’ve lived in or would like to), and doing a quick random search.

TORONTO, ON = $400,000

POPULATION = 2,503,281

I couldn’t find anything for under $400,000 in Toronto, proper.

This is all I came up with the minute I searched with $400,000, 14 properties.

GUELPH, ON = $300,000

POPULATION = 114,943

Now let’s look at Guelph that is nearby, with the same criterion as above.

This is frigging ridiculous to me. How can GUELPH cost so much? Their population is 114,943 which is a small city in the States, down around #220 on the list.

I am going to acknowledge that it being so close to Toronto means it costs more money to live there, but seriously? $300,000?

NOW LET’S LOOK AT THE STATES

SALT LAKE CITY, UT = $166,903

POPULATION = 183,171

I picked this city because I saw a couple on HGTV buy a home there that looked huge, for such a small price.

The population of Salt Lake City, UT is 183,171, but like Guelph, ON, and the city is also located close to a major city hub called Wasatch Front with an estimated population of 2,298,915, which is comparable to Toronto’s 2,503,281.

(Even the real estate search engines in the States are far better, look at all the variables I could put in)

I mean UNREAL. $166,903 and you can buy a home that fits a criteria of a $300,000 – $400,000 home in Guelph/Toronto. That is almost DOUBLE the price.

Just for kicks, let’s look a the price of a home in Wasatch Front:

WASATCH FRONT = $175,000

POPULATION = 2,298,915

Comparing this to Toronto’s $400,000 for something similar, it sort of makes you gasp.

How about Dallas, TX?

POPULATION = 1,188,580

It’s even sicker. There are 288 properties for around $200,000.

Okay, so it’s not Toronto’s 2.5 million population, but this still drives home the point for me.

MY CONCLUSION?

CANADA HAS LESS CHOICE IN URBAN CITIES AND IT COSTS MORE MONEY

Grrrrrrrreat.

TO WRAP UP

  • Canada is not that much larger than the States
  • The States is 10 times more dense in population compared to Canada
  • Canada has less human-friendly, livable land than the States (think polar bears and empty tracts of land)
  • The States has more choice in urban cities — you have at least 25 places to choose from! Canada has 5.
  • Canadian houses with my unscientific comparison above, cost 2 times more than in a comparable American city

If you want some statistics, I am not sure how reliable this site is, but it lists out House Prices in Canada:

All I can say is OUCH.

Note: Not as a slam against any other Canadian province, but I should point out the obvious that BC, Alberta, Ontario and Quebec are the 4 major provinces that have most of Canada’s population living there, including yours truly.

The other provinces simply have less people there and could account for why the home prices are lower as well.

So readers, agree? Disagree?

How do you feel about owning a home in either country

And can you lend any insight into why it looks like Canadians are being gouged by home prices?

Let me know in the comments!

Related Posts

The cost of living: why opinions can differ even within the same city
 
Cost of living matters more than you think
 
Banks in Canada: The Who and The Why
 
Most Expensive Bills in the World
 
The Cost of Obesity in the United States
 
Checking how rich a city is by its pennies on the ground
 

About the Author

Just a girl trying to find a balance between being a Shopaholic and a Saver. I cleared $60,000 in 18 months earning $65,000 gross/year. Now I am self-employed, and you can read more about my story here, or visit my other blog: The Everyday Minimalist.