Real Estate Adapting to Changing Demographics

According to the latest census, the average Canadian family is shrinking. More adults are living on their own, parents are having fewer children, more families are being headed by single parents, and more couples are choosing not to have children at all.

How will all this affect housing in Canada? John Andrew, the director of the Queen's Real Estate Roundtable, says it’s going to mean a vast re-thinking of real estate from the traditional notion of the 3-bedroom house in the suburbs.

“These demographic changes mean two significant things for real estate,” he told CTV News Channel Friday. “One is that households are getting smaller, and also that households becoming more numerous. In fact, in every five-year period since 1961, the number of households in Canada has actually grown faster than the population itself.”

With many people wanting many houses, there is a shortage of single family homes in many cities across Canada. That may be why, Andrew says, condominiums now make up a growing share of new housing in Canada’s biggest cities.

“In Toronto, about 62 per cent of new housing being built is condominiums. I’ve talked endlessly about the oversupply of condominiums coming down the line. But certainly, the demographic trends are that there will be greater demand type of housing,” he says.

Andrew notes that for many Canadians who grew up in houses, especially those who grew up in the suburbs, it’s hard to imagine why anyone would want to live in a high-rise condo. But he says for urbanite Canadians, condos simply make sense.

“A lot of people are fed up with commuting. They want a central location. And condos do represent a form of affordable housing,” Andrew says.

“In Vancouver, you can buy a condominium for about a third of the price of the average single-family home.”

Margot Austin, a senior design editor with Canadian House and Home magazine, says many people are able to live the dream of owning a piece of land in the country, while also keeping a condo in the city.

“The city dwelling then becomes just the landing spot during the work week,” Austin explains.

Other Canadians have snapped up low-priced properties in the southern U.S. or bought homes in sunnier vacation destinations, while maintaining small homes here in Canada. Still other people move to condos after life changes, or simply choose to downsize.

Austin says that furniture makers are noticing the shifts and offering new options to accommodate smaller homes.

“So where you used to only be able to buy an 80-inch sofa, now you can choose what length you want it to be,” she says. “And that’s a change you’re seeing across the board.”

They are also creating pieces that can serve multiple functions. So a table or ottoman might also offer storage, or chairs might be able to be folded up and stored away.

“The other thing is that appliance manufacturers are downsizing the size of appliances available,” Austin says, noting that Europeans and Japanese learned how to get by with smaller appliances a long time ago.

Austin says the key to downsizing is choosing furniture pieces wisely and surrounding yourself with what you love.

“The one thing that doesn’t change is your desire to have your home reflect your personality and your aesthetic taste,” she says.



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