Canadians flocked to the east coast over the course of the pandemic, but it seems they're now increasingly seeing that west is best.

MoneySense's recently released Where To Buy Real Estate in Canada 2023 report ranked 45 Canadian cities based on benchmark home prices and recent real estate price growth. Created in partnership with Zoocasa, the data-driven ranking determines where the most affordable municipalities can be found, but, notably, it doesn't take local residents' opinions into account.

But to determine in which of these Canadians actually see value, Zoocasa asked their community where they would personally rate as the best place to buy real estate. The same 45 cities were pitted against each other on the real estate agency's Instagram, with followers voting for their favourite in five knock-out rounds.

In a divergence from the data-driven ranking, Canadians chose three British Columbian cities as the best places to buy real estate in 2023. Vancouver Island took the top spot, followed by Victoria and Greater Vancouver. The cities' MoneySense rankings were 14th, 33rd, and 44th, respectively.

"Vancouver Island's win demonstrates the appeal of the area, as well as the greater affordability on the island," Zoocasa said.

Vancouver Island's 2022 benchmark home price was $728,417, significantly below what's found in larger municipalities like Ontario's Oakville-Milton ($1,401,042) and the Greater Toronto Area ($1,195,950).

After nabbing first place in reader's hearts for two years running, the GTA was relegated to fourth place. Despite the drop, the position is significantly higher than the GTA's official ranking of 42nd place.

Calgary rounded out the top five, moving up nicely from its data-driven ranking spot of 29th. The city's 2022 benchmark price of $516,625 -- which is more than $276K below the national average -- no doubt elevated it in the eyes of voters.

The gap between MoneySense's ranking and reader's own view persisted almost entirely throughout the list -- the only exception was Halifax, which received sixth place based on data and seventh from readers.

Although MoneySense declared Greater Moncton, Sault Ste. Marie, and North Bay as the top three places to buy real estate in Canada in 2023, they didn't receive favourable ratings from readers.

They may offer value for homebuyers, but Moncton's lack of "glamour" and the relative remoteness of Sault Ste. Marie and North Bay kept the cities out of the top 10.

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