As COVID-19 continues on, new research shows that the pandemic is starting to influence the behaviours of both renter and buyer intentions – including where and how they want to live.

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Ontario renters who are active in the real estate market are now nearly twice as likely to express interest in buying a home due to the pandemic, according to new findings from Nanos Research for the Ontario Real Estate Association’s monthly Pulse Check on Consumer Attitudes.

In fact, due to the effects of COVID-19, 25% of Ontario renters who are active in the real estate market say they are more interested in buying a home now, compared to just 13% who say they are less interested, while 54% report they are just as interested now as they were pre-pandemic.

The survey found that renters are also more likely to report they are actively looking to buy a home right now (63%) than homeowners (47%), with millennials, those aged 18-34 (62%), and those 35-54 (59%) more actively looking than older Ontarians.

READ: The ‘905’ is Now Outperforming Toronto-Area Housing Activity: Report

“Despite the uncertainty stemming from the pandemic, housing remains a strong sector of our province’s economy, with the Canadian Dream of homeownership continuing to be a strong value for many Ontarians,” said OREA President Sean Morrison. “As we look ahead and move towards economic recovery in a post-COVID era, we can expect even more interest as renters and first-time homebuyers look to enter the market.”

What's more, the survey results revealed that there is now a more notable shift in attitudes towards rural and suburban living, which is likely a result of the physical distancing and isolation that Ontarians have been experiencing over the past four months.

In fact, close to three in five residents active in the real estate market say that living in a rural area is more appealing to them now than before the pandemic, while just over three in five say the same about living in the suburbs.

During OREA's monthly Pulse Check on Consumer Attitudes, Nik Nanos, of Nanos Research, explained that this could because more Ontarians are now wanting to leave the Toronto core to find more space in the suburbs where they have room to work and live more comfortably, which isn't always possible in a downtown condo.

Nanos added that people’s homes are now serving as a multi-purpose space, as many Ontarians are still required to work from home due to the pandemic. He explained that residents are no longer just sleeping in their homes, but they are also working there too, which is why more people are searching for homes out of the downtown core with more space. 

The results of the survey also happen to be in-line with the latest data from the Toronto Regional Real Estate Board (TRREB), which showed that suburban markets, specifically those in the 905-area, surrounding Toronto are now outperforming the 416-area.

As per the report, much of the strength in the 905 can be attributed to the demand for single-detached homes and townhomes, where total GTA sales were up 13% and 12% year-over-year, respectively, surpassing pre-COVID levels. As for what’s weakening the 416 market, the report suggests condo apartment sales are the main culprit, as they fell 21% in June compared to the same time last year.

“It’s clear that the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the desire to own a home, and that Ontarians want more affordable homes and more choices in the housing market,” said Morrison.

“By looking towards both short and long term housing friendly initiatives such as a land transfer tax holiday or building transit-oriented communities, we can help bring the dream of homeownership to first-time buyers right to where they want to live, whether it is downtown, in the suburbs, or in the rural areas.”

Methodology:Nanos conducted an online representative survey of 1,005 Ontarians who are active in the real estate market, 18 years of age or older, between June 26th to 30th, 2020.

Real Estate