Real Estate

Ottawa and Surrounding Area Real Estate market discussion

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Member
Feb 7, 2018
282 posts
354 upvotes
bhushh009 wrote: Its very difficult to understand the rise prices in Ottawa RE. Why so much hike? 2 years back, townhome were around 300k- new built. Now builders are selling it for $420k-430k+ two storeys townhome. This is like almost 40% hike in 2 years. Last week Minto in Kanata sold three storey townhome for $410k- 1500 sq.ft....what the heck?
I see many people from IT industry buying it as a investment because they think its good market to invest, Lot of immigrant are coming to Ottawa, foreign investors are investing to Ottawa after toronto, vancouver so the pricess will jack up eventually. one of my colleague who is from china has 4 rental properties, one from india has 3 rental units in last 2 years. These are all cash flow negative. They are just investing for Appreciation. I always wondered how come people buy RE based on appreciation. Ottawa is small political city than Toronto, Vancouver. Govt and IT are only two industries in Ottawa. DO you guys think Ottawa prices will be like Toronto/Vancouver in coming years?

I am wondering if prices are going up because of these kind of investments?Are people really able to afford house worth of $500k with $85000 median income in Ottawa.

What do you guys think? I would love to hear your opinion on this one...
Ottawa is a weird housing market. Professionals in Ottawa make on par with or more than professionals in other major cities (TO/VAN) - but people here are super risk averse/cheap. Colleague of mine brings in 240k HH and wouldn't spend more than 350k on a townhouse 2 years ago because anything more would be "ludicrous" even though their income meant they could purchase 1M+. Meanwhile people in Toronto were buying 800-900k houses on 100k HH income. Fast forward, BC foreign buyer tax shifted investments to Toronto - then Toronto FB tax shifted investors to Ottawa and Montreal. Even though these people represent a small segment of the market, it only takes a few investors bidding up houses to cause sellers to change their expectations for price and the market takes care of the rest. Meanwhile, even with a 40% increase in TH prices they are still super affordable for a large proportion of professionals who may grumble about price increases but eventually cave to market pressures. Unfortunately, this also means that younger people without as much resources behind them (parents) are finding it more difficult to get into the market. We've had a huge shift compared to Ottawa standards over the past 2 years, but people need to also understand that affordability is changing and their expectations should be changing alongside.
Newbie
Aug 19, 2011
55 posts
28 upvotes
Ottawa
wiab89 wrote: Ottawa is a weird housing market. Professionals in Ottawa make on par with or more than professionals in other major cities (TO/VAN) - but people here are super risk averse/cheap. Colleague of mine brings in 240k HH and wouldn't spend more than 350k on a townhouse 2 years ago because anything more would be "ludicrous" even though their income meant they could purchase 1M+. Meanwhile people in Toronto were buying 800-900k houses on 100k HH income. Fast forward, BC foreign buyer tax shifted investments to Toronto - then Toronto FB tax shifted investors to Ottawa and Montreal. Even though these people represent a small segment of the market, it only takes a few investors bidding up houses to cause sellers to change their expectations for price and the market takes care of the rest. Meanwhile, even with a 40% increase in TH prices they are still super affordable for a large proportion of professionals who may grumble about price increases but eventually cave to market pressures. Unfortunately, this also means that younger people without as much resources behind them (parents) are finding it more difficult to get into the market. We've had a huge shift compared to Ottawa standards over the past 2 years, but people need to also understand that affordability is changing and their expectations should be changing alongside.
Yup agree. Living through the Toronto boom it was clear that prices were not in line with basic fundamentals of what people earn. Yet the culture there is "f&ck it.. jump in at any cost to try to keep up or get ahead". Moving to Ottawa, it was refreshing to see the majority of people living well within their means. In 2016 that started changing subtly at first and has picked up speed since. It will be interesting to see if the fiscal conservatism of the local population will hold up & eventually cap the market.. or if that will give way in a large enough % of the population and those that don't adapt will be left behind in significant way.

It will also be interesting to see what happens when more federal workers start to go in each day bitching to their bosses that they & their kids can't afford to buy a place in the city in which they work. Maybe the decision makers might finally do something meaningful to intervene? (can't tell if that would be good or bad). Unfortunately years too late for the people of Toronto & Vancouver.
Deal Fanatic
Jul 4, 2004
5846 posts
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Ottawa
wiab89 wrote: Ottawa is a weird housing market. Professionals in Ottawa make on par with or more than professionals in other major cities (TO/VAN) - but people here are super risk averse/cheap. Colleague of mine brings in 240k HH and wouldn't spend more than 350k on a townhouse 2 years ago because anything more would be "ludicrous" even though their income meant they could purchase 1M+. Meanwhile people in Toronto were buying 800-900k houses on 100k HH income. Fast forward, BC foreign buyer tax shifted investments to Toronto - then Toronto FB tax shifted investors to Ottawa and Montreal. Even though these people represent a small segment of the market, it only takes a few investors bidding up houses to cause sellers to change their expectations for price and the market takes care of the rest. Meanwhile, even with a 40% increase in TH prices they are still super affordable for a large proportion of professionals who may grumble about price increases but eventually cave to market pressures. Unfortunately, this also means that younger people without as much resources behind them (parents) are finding it more difficult to get into the market. We've had a huge shift compared to Ottawa standards over the past 2 years, but people need to also understand that affordability is changing and their expectations should be changing alongside.
IMO, median income is not really a great measure because in Toronto and Vancouver you have a much wider spread of incomes while in Ottawa, most incomes tend to be much closer so in Toronto and Vancouver you have a huge population that make huge salaries while in Ottawa, that's really more the rarity.
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Aug 30, 2011
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Ottawa
michelb wrote: IMO, median income is not really a great measure because in Toronto and Vancouver you have a much wider spread of incomes while in Ottawa, most incomes tend to be much closer so in Toronto and Vancouver you have a huge population that make huge salaries while in Ottawa, that's really more the rarity.
I would think that median income would always be the perfect measure. When average income is used, there is no way to know what the majority of people earn. Only one or two extremely high values skew the whole range.
Member
Nov 10, 2014
392 posts
537 upvotes
Ottawa, ON
mutura wrote: Yup agree. Living through the Toronto boom it was clear that prices were not in line with basic fundamentals of what people earn. Yet the culture there is "f&ck it.. jump in at any cost to try to keep up or get ahead". Moving to Ottawa, it was refreshing to see the majority of people living well within their means. In 2016 that started changing subtly at first and has picked up speed since. It will be interesting to see if the fiscal conservatism of the local population will hold up & eventually cap the market.. or if that will give way in a large enough % of the population and those that don't adapt will be left behind in significant way.

It will also be interesting to see what happens when more federal workers start to go in each day bitching to their bosses that they & their kids can't afford to buy a place in the city in which they work. Maybe the decision makers might finally do something meaningful to intervene? (can't tell if that would be good or bad). Unfortunately years too late for the people of Toronto & Vancouver.
I wonder if the native population of Ottawa is actually much more fiscally conservative than those of Toronto and Vancouver.

The Ottawa housing prices really started to lag behind Toronto and Vancouver starting mid 2000s. My hypothesis is that Toronto and Vancouver just had far more immigration from places like Hong Kong, Shanghai Toyko, and Seoul where an apartment the size of a matchbox costs over 10x the average household income. To those immigrants, prices in TO and Van look like a bargain, driving up prices and pressuring the locals to bid higher as well.

It is easy to pat oneself on the back for being fiscally conservative when local real estate is cheap to begin with. I am sure people in TO and Van want to be "fiscally conservative" and spend less on their houses too if they can do so. My suspicion is that many more people in Ottawa will be willing to stretch themselves as well if it means not being able to own a property otherwise.
Jr. Member
Feb 4, 2017
130 posts
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Do you guys expect any corrections in those price levels?
I don't think Ottawa will ever see value of townhome like 600-700k plus in coming future. With that new first time home buyer incentive plan, affordability has been raised to almost 500k for many new home buyer. Most of young population who works in IT in Ottawa easily earn 80k-90k a year, for them $500k house is affordable but after that salary doesn't go high like Toronto IT sector.
I think that would bring down buying power.
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May 23, 2017
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michelb wrote: IMO, median income is not really a great measure because in Toronto and Vancouver you have a much wider spread of incomes while in Ottawa, most incomes tend to be much closer so in Toronto and Vancouver you have a huge population that make huge salaries while in Ottawa, that's really more the rarity.
I feel like that really only impacts the upper end of the market more though, which we definitely see in Ottawa (anything that's close to a million tends to take much longer to sell...and houses $1 million+ can sit on the market for months). I'd say in Toronto and Vancouver the wider spread of incomes means that there is certainly more demand for the really nice "luxury" houses for the rich (demand that we will probably never see in Ottawa), but the higher median incomes here should be able to solidly support a more stable real estate market in the lower to middle range (including townhouses and cheaper detached).
Tadalafil wrote: I wonder if the native population of Ottawa is actually much more fiscally conservative than those of Toronto and Vancouver.

The Ottawa housing prices really started to lag behind Toronto and Vancouver starting mid 2000s. My hypothesis is that Toronto and Vancouver just had far more immigration from places like Hong Kong, Shanghai Toyko, and Seoul where an apartment the size of a matchbox costs over 10x the average household income. To those immigrants, prices in TO and Van look like a bargain, driving up prices and pressuring the locals to bid higher as well.

It is easy to pat oneself on the back for being fiscally conservative when local real estate is cheap to begin with. I am sure people in TO and Van want to be "fiscally conservative" and spend less on their houses too if they can do so. My suspicion is that many more people in Ottawa will be willing to stretch themselves as well if it means not being able to own a property otherwise.
Really good point. Although I still think the "government town" mentality of Ottawa does tend to lead to a more fiscally conservative population in general, I absolutely agree that when it comes to buying real estate, it's definitely far more a product of our environment. If we also had high amounts of investors driving up real estate prices in this city at insane rates like Toronto/Vancouver, I also agree that that FOMO would start getting to the local population and people would be willing to max out their budgets if needed. (In fact, I feel like I'm already starting to see hints of this sentiment after the hot market this year.) Like you said, it's easy to say "I qualified for a $800k house but am only going to spend $400k" and boast about how fiscally responsible you are when that amount still buys you a comfortable lifestyle in a well-sized suburban townhome. But if it only gets you a shoebox bachelor condo unit with no parking far away from work...well, that's obviously not going to work for a lot of people (especially people with kids) so of course you will start seeing those people maxing out their $800k budget in order to afford that same townhouse/lifestyle for their family.
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Feb 7, 2018
282 posts
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michelb wrote: IMO, median income is not really a great measure because in Toronto and Vancouver you have a much wider spread of incomes while in Ottawa, most incomes tend to be much closer so in Toronto and Vancouver you have a huge population that make huge salaries while in Ottawa, that's really more the rarity.
Didn't mention median income. But if more people in the population have more room in their budgets for prices to grow, then gains will be supported by fundamentals and when speculators exit the market we shouldn't see much of a drop in prices. So I'd argue that higher median salaries are better for the housing market. Yes, top end homes in Ottawa aren't going to the moon because there are less high 6-7 figure earners - but the original poster was talking about townhouses in the suburbs.
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Jul 4, 2004
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Ottawa
wiab89 wrote: Didn't mention median income. But if more people in the population have more room in their budgets for prices to grow, then gains will be supported by fundamentals and when speculators exit the market we shouldn't see much of a drop in prices. So I'd argue that higher median salaries are better for the housing market. Yes, top end homes in Ottawa aren't going to the moon because there are less high 6-7 figure earners - but the original poster was talking about townhouses in the suburbs.
OttawaGardener wrote: I would think that median income would always be the perfect measure. When average income is used, there is no way to know what the majority of people earn. Only one or two extremely high values skew the whole range.
It would be if it was the only factor but it's not.

E.g. If Toronto, Vancouver and Ottawa all have median incomes of $60k, you'd think that the salaries are similar so prices would be similar but distribution makes a huge different when not all your population are home buyers.

Assume that 4 million people extreme case but assume that 4 million people each in Toronto and Vancouver have median income of 60k but the distribution is 40% < 30k, 25% around 60k and 35% above 300k but the top only 50% of your population are home buyers that means that of your home buying population, the median income of your home buying population is 30% around $60k and 70% above $300k and your median income and avg income of your home buying population is > $300k. Now assume that Ottawa, with a population of 1 million, is 25% < 30k, 50% around 60k and 15% above $120k and top 65% of your population are home buyers. In this case, the median income of your home buying population is around 75% making around $60k and another 25% making above $120k so your median income of your home buying population is around $60k and your average might be $75k. Same median income for your complete population but significantly different numbers for your home buyers income.

These numbers are completely pick out of my head but I wouldn't be surprised if there they are reflective of demographic differences between Toronto & Vancouver and Ottawa. Ottawa is very much mostly a middle-class town where I believe the majority of residents do own. Toronto and Vancouver had a lot more extremes of poverty and only the richer are part of your home buying population and the rest are renting.
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Feb 7, 2018
282 posts
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michelb wrote: It would be if it was the only factor but it's not.

E.g. If Toronto, Vancouver and Ottawa all have median incomes of $60k, you'd think that the salaries are similar so prices would be similar but distribution makes a huge different when not all your population are home buyers.

Assume that 4 million people extreme case but assume that 4 million people each in Toronto and Vancouver have median income of 60k but the distribution is 40% < 30k, 25% around 60k and 35% above 300k but the top only 50% of your population are home buyers that means that of your home buying population, the median income of your home buying population is 30% around $60k and 70% above $300k and your median income and avg income of your home buying population is > $300k. Now assume that Ottawa, with a population of 1 million, is 25% < 30k, 50% around 60k and 15% above $120k and top 65% of your population are home buyers. In this case, the median income of your home buying population is around 75% making around $60k and another 25% making above $120k so your median income of your home buying population is around $60k and your average might be $75k. Same median income for your complete population but significantly different numbers for your home buyers income.

These numbers are completely pick out of my head but I wouldn't be surprised if there they are reflective of demographic differences between Toronto & Vancouver and Ottawa. Ottawa is very much mostly a middle-class town where I believe the majority of residents do own. Toronto and Vancouver had a lot more extremes of poverty and only the richer are part of your home buying population and the rest are renting.
Ah ok - we're talking different things here. You're talking about overall median, I'm just comparing against similar professions. I like the breakdown and distributions, as a fellow stats nerd I would agree with what you're saying on the average income of a homebuyer in the 2 cities.

Mostly I was just saying that doctors/nurses/pharmacists/engineers/accountants make basically the same in Ottawa as Toronto - of course the top end specialists in each field will probably migrate towards Toronto for opportunities and pay. But I think there is a lot of "untapped" growth potential in the Ottawa market because wages are comparatively high and prices are still within reach of most middle class professionals unlike Toronto.
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Jul 4, 2004
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wiab89 wrote: Ah ok - we're talking different things here. You're talking about overall median, I'm just comparing against similar professions. I like the breakdown and distributions, as a fellow stats nerd I would agree with what you're saying on the average income of a homebuyer in the 2 cities.

Mostly I was just saying that doctors/nurses/pharmacists/engineers/accountants make basically the same in Ottawa as Toronto - of course the top end specialists in each field will probably migrate towards Toronto for opportunities and pay. But I think there is a lot of "untapped" growth potential in the Ottawa market because wages are comparatively high and prices are still within reach of most middle class professionals unlike Toronto.
Even among professionals, I think lawyers / accountants / stock brockers / investment planners / pharmacists / engineers / company execs / business owners / personal assistants / etc can make a lot more in Toronto and Vancouver than in Ottawa. I also think there are tons more multi-millionaires in either bigger cities than there are in Ottawa whether it's from rich people that just settle there, family money, professionals making 7+ figure salaries, etc. I think those are almost non-existant in Ottawa. But this is just my gut feeling; I have no data to back this up.
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Nov 23, 2014
78 posts
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Toronto, ON
bhushh009 wrote: Do you guys expect any corrections in those price levels?
I don't think Ottawa will ever see value of townhome like 600-700k plus in coming future. With that new first time home buyer incentive plan, affordability has been raised to almost 500k for many new home buyer. Most of young population who works in IT in Ottawa easily earn 80k-90k a year, for them $500k house is affordable but after that salary doesn't go high like Toronto IT sector.
I think that would bring down buying power.
I've already seen townhomes at 600-800 within the core. Around stlaurent/baseline for example there are people knocking down homes and putting up semis for around that. Plus in the burbs towns are creeping towards 500. Ridiculous if you ask me but that's where the housing market seems to be going
Sr. Member
Aug 6, 2011
590 posts
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cyberfreak123 wrote: Many reasons contribute to the price raise Ottawa has known in the past 2 years
-Price catch up after price stalling between 2012 and 2016 (public service layoff period)
-New stress test on the mortgage. Properties under 400K become super in demand, hence raising price.
-Increase demand from Torontonians and maybe Vancouver folks
-very low interest rate
-High Tech/government hiring
-Increase students number enrolled in colleges and universities in Ottawa (international students, national students attracted to relatively cheaper housing)
-AirBNB popularity
I forgot to mention rising construction costs and development fees. it might be the result of qualified workers shortage , increase material cost and minimum wage hike. My sister works for a civil engineering firm in gatineau and she’s noticed substantial generalized higher costs for public works contracts since a year ago. She said all these increases will translate in higher price for new builds( in Gatineau). Herself she got the highest bump up of her salary since years.
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May 23, 2017
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michelb wrote: Even among professionals, I think lawyers / accountants / stock brockers / investment planners / pharmacists / engineers / company execs / business owners / personal assistants / etc can make a lot more in Toronto and Vancouver than in Ottawa. I also think there are tons more multi-millionaires in either bigger cities than there are in Ottawa whether it's from rich people that just settle there, family money, professionals making 7+ figure salaries, etc. I think those are almost non-existant in Ottawa. But this is just my gut feeling; I have no data to back this up.
Not disagreeing with your general point but just wanted to point out that for a lot of healthcare professions (including pharmacists in your list), pay is actually quite a bit better in Ottawa than Toronto and Vancouver (due to supply & demand--many healthcare professionals prefer to live in the bigger cities for the lifestyle it affords and less people are willing to move out to smaller cities or rural areas; newly arrived skilled immigrants also overwhelmingly prefer to congregate in Toronto which further drives up the supply side). Ottawa is still a fairly decent-sized city so the pay is definitely nowhere as lucrative as if they were to move out to more rural areas (northern Ontario for example), but the wages are still higher here than in Toronto. (Especially when you look at the wages they are offering new grads, there can be quite a big gap.)

In the other professions you mentioned it's likely true that they have more opportunities and an average higher salary in Toronto/Vancouver, but in healthcare that definitely isn't the case for most people. Overall, I do agree that there is a far wider wealth disparity in Toronto/Vancouver, but my feeling is the average middle class family will tend to earn approx. the same in Ottawa (more in some professions, less in others). In terms of living standards, no doubt the average middle class family is better off in Ottawa (purely due to the cheaper real estate). And in the price range of real estate that I'm interested in, the middle class definitely has a bigger impact. I'm never going to be buying those luxury mansions and penthouse condo units that multimillionaires can afford so that segment of the market in Ottawa just doesn't matter to me. Yes, the ultra-rich will also be investing some of their wealth in "cheaper" real estate, but in these segments it is more important to me that the collective buying power of the middle class can support it. (No, I don't think Ottawa will ever see the craziness in Vancouver that was driven in large part by speculation by multimillionaires, but I wouldn't want to see that here anyways. In terms of more stable, sustainable growth though, I think the middle class in Ottawa is definitely wealthy enough to continue to support higher real estate prices than what we are seeing currently, as @wiab89 mentioned.)
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Nov 13, 2013
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michelb wrote: Even among professionals, I think lawyers / accountants / stock brockers / investment planners / pharmacists / engineers / company execs / business owners / personal assistants / etc can make a lot more in Toronto and Vancouver than in Ottawa. I also think there are tons more multi-millionaires in either bigger cities than there are in Ottawa whether it's from rich people that just settle there, family money, professionals making 7+ figure salaries, etc. I think those are almost non-existant in Ottawa. But this is just my gut feeling; I have no data to back this up.
Toronto yes. Vancouver not so much. It is hard to get good stats on truly rich people but I agree there is more old money in Vancouver and for sure Toronto than Ottawa. The somewhat surprising number is the upper middle class that is larger in percentage terms than in Vancouver and about the same as Toronto. Stats can has households above $200k for example: 46,000 in Ottawa, 77,000 in Vancouver (same percentage as Ottawa would be 87k) and 214,000 in Toronto (Ottawa's ration would 205k would be Ottawa's ratio so a bit more). Personally I think a lot of these people are under spending on housing and could afford to live in better areas or bigger houses which makes gives this segment potential for growth. Same with some of those penthouse condos when they sell their big houses and start collecting pensions nearly as high as their salary now. Westboro seems better than the Market for this as the market is becoming to hectic for most older people despite many living there. A bunch of wealthy ones in 90 and 160 George for example. 160 especially is right in the thick of things.
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Lone_Prodigy wrote: It is a corner unit with a big yard and a layout that resembles a detached. I'm seeing newer semi detached asking $500k so it's not entirely unreasonable. Only 2 years old as well.

Then again I think of the older detacheds I saw in Barrhaven last year for close to $500k with a big lot and a pool...
Yes, we paid less than that for our nice detached house on a beautiful acre lot with inground pool 2 years ago (Sept 2017). We are also closer to town than this townhouse is.
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bhushh009 wrote: I meant it's a small City compared to other two and it's capital so political city-not as a financial capital like Toronto.

I agree median income is higher in Ottawa but most of people in Ottawa are salaried people while in other two cities - it's mostly small businesss. So I don't think their median income stats truly portrait actual income. Plus those two cities are flooded with immigrants because of opportunities. In context to that,Ottawa doesn't compare to those cities.
Vancouver incomes suck and there is really not a lot of industry there. Ottawa has far higher incomes and really has been kind of "underpriced" if anything in comparison. It is also a very nice place to live which a lot of people in the rest of the country can't wrap their heads around. Trust me, I know this. I'm from Victoria, BC and lived there most of my life. The people out there all think it is the greatest, so they live in subpar housing (which is incredibly overpriced) with horrible paying jobs and dull rainy weather while congratulating themselves on being in the "best" place in Canada. We moved to Ottawa in 2013 and would NEVER return.
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Nov 13, 2013
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michelb wrote: It would be if it was the only factor but it's not.

E.g. If Toronto, Vancouver and Ottawa all have median incomes of $60k, you'd think that the salaries are similar so prices would be similar but distribution makes a huge different when not all your population are home buyers.

Assume that 4 million people extreme case but assume that 4 million people each in Toronto and Vancouver have median income of 60k but the distribution is 40% < 30k, 25% around 60k and 35% above 300k but the top only 50% of your population are home buyers that means that of your home buying population, the median income of your home buying population is 30% around $60k and 70% above $300k and your median income and avg income of your home buying population is > $300k. Now assume that Ottawa, with a population of 1 million, is 25% < 30k, 50% around 60k and 15% above $120k and top 65% of your population are home buyers. In this case, the median income of your home buying population is around 75% making around $60k and another 25% making above $120k so your median income of your home buying population is around $60k and your average might be $75k. Same median income for your complete population but significantly different numbers for your home buyers income.

These numbers are completely pick out of my head but I wouldn't be surprised if there they are reflective of demographic differences between Toronto & Vancouver and Ottawa. Ottawa is very much mostly a middle-class town where I believe the majority of residents do own. Toronto and Vancouver had a lot more extremes of poverty and only the richer are part of your home buying population and the rest are renting.
The numbers on median income are important and are in fact not the same between the three cities. Ottawa is higher. The real interesting numbers are for couples where the difference is even more striking. The median household income of a couple in Ottawa is $119k. dwarfing Toronto at only $91k and Vancouver at $92k. Even Calgary and Edmonton are far behind at $110k each.

Even $119k still buys a lot of house in Ottawa. Affordability gives the market a lot of room for growth. On the other hand Ottawa has long had high incomes but a cautious population.

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