*names changed as requested by clients
Alyssa and her husband moved to Canada in 2020, right before the pandemic, and initially settled into an Airbnb in Toronto while they got their bearings in their new city. They were expecting a baby and were eager to secure a rental property to call home. Housing for newcomers to Canada is increasingly becoming more difficult. “We realize that housing is becoming … a threat to our ability to not only integrate folks but to also economically develop regions in Canada,” said Ahmed Hussen, the Housing and Diversity & Inclusion Minister for Canada. As of publication, rental prices in the GTA have already increased 21% year over year. However, Alyssa signed up for an account on Zoocasa.com to review rentals that matched her and her husband’s search criteria including budget.
Most renters don’t necessarily think about using a realtor to find them a property to lease but in this competitive market, it is becoming a necessity. Much to Alyssa and her husband’s surprise, they were contacted by real estate agent Chloe Ng while in the delivery room. The timing of the call still makes her laugh today, and after welcoming their new baby, they embarked on a journey that would lead to them becoming homeowners in less than two years.
Buying was always the goal, but the pandemic and the state of the market made it feel far fetched
Shortly after welcoming a new arrival into their family, Alyssa and her husband hit the rental market with their new agent Chloe. As residents of Toronto, they knew they wanted to be close to downtown to make commuting easy, but they were navigating a new country with a newborn and weren’t sure where to get started. “Chloe made it easy. She understood what we needed in a rental and worked around our schedule to book showings,” Alyssa explained.
The Toronto rental market can be difficult, and they ran into many uncertainties along the way. Working with a real estate agent meant they had answers to any questions or concerns; whether they wanted more information about a property management company, building history, or location, Chloe could answer all their questions. Chloe found a rental that wasn’t on the family’s radar, but checked all their boxes and then some.
They always knew they wanted to raise their baby in a family home that they owned, and renting was the first step on this journey. With the pandemic at its peak, they feared that their dreams of owning a home would become harder to achieve as prices in the cities skyrocketed and it seemed like every available listing in the city was receiving multiple, competitive offers.
Flexibility was the key to securing their dream family home
According to the Toronto Regional Real Estate Board’s (TRREB) 2022 Market Outlook, published in February of this year, most newcomers to Canada are interested in buying real estate, not renting long-term. “After some time renting, we felt ready for our forever home, but we weren’t sure where to get started” Alyssa recounted. While renting, they budgeted for closing costs, lawyer fees, and all the other expenses needed to bridge the gap between renting and buying. Once they had saved up their down payment and felt confident in their nest egg, they began working with Chloe again to determine what their strategy would be to get into the market. For newcomers to Canada, most of the major banks and lenders offer a Newcomer Mortgage product specifically for those who have immigrated to Canada within the last five years, have legal status, have been employed for more than three months, have a down payment of at least 5% and meet qualification ratios.
This journey was less straightforward than finding a rental, and they weren’t sure their expectations were realistic. “We explained our requirements to Chloe and she helped us streamline them and offered us advice.” They initially were planning to move to North York, but as the housing market changed and prices began to dip in the downtown core, they began to look there. “There were bidding wars on so many properties,” the changing market made their homeownership dreams feel unattainable. They realized flexibility would be the key to making this dream a reality.
After some time in the market, they became open to new neighbourhoods. “We knew we needed a good school zone, a kid-friendly neighbourhood and to be close to public transit, but we also realized we had to be open to a variety of options,” once they made this decision, Chloe was able to show them more properties that fit their criteria and that she felt would offer them everything they needed and more as a longterm family home.
According to an Ipsos online survey of 1,000 potential home buyers and 2,500 homeowners, of the immigrant respondents living in Toronto, 49% own a home after being in Canada for less than five years. Alyssa and her family were able to do so in less than half the time by keeping an open mind and trusting Chloe to guide them. In the end, all the ups and downs along the way were worth it. They moved into their new condo in August 2022, and are getting to know their new neighbourhood and all the amenities it has to offer.
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