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For some Cambridge residents, out of province housing is still a cheaper option

Real estate agent Melissa Francis says the trend of people moving to more affordable areas of the country has slowed but is still an option some are exploring
Real estate prices remain high in Ontario, especially when compared to the Maritimes and Prairies.

Sometimes the grass is greener on the other side.

The other side of the Ontario border if your looking for more affordable housing, that is.

While the once popular idea of leaving the province for cheaper digs elsewhere has slowed, Cambridge real estate agent Melissa Francis said it's still an option some are considering.

"During the first few years after our real estate market increased dramatically starting in 2017, many people were selling here and essentially ‘cashing in’ as prices were at record highs and then they were purchasing at much lower prices, mainly out east," Francis said.

"I worked with quite a few people who were very close to or at retirement age, so this presented as a great opportunity for them to settle into retirement, while being able to enjoy a much more affordable lifestyle."

It was a similar trend Francis was seeing in-province, as well, as some made their way down the 401 to places like Woodstock to acquire cheaper properties.

Part of the reason for the affordability crisis in the province appears to be the lack of income increases for workers.

According to a recent report by the Fraser Institute, Ontario was last among the 10 provinces with real median income growth of just 7.2 percent over a 20-year period from 2002 to 2022. Alberta ranked second last at 17.4 per cent. The percentages were adjusted for inflation.

“Among the provinces, Ontario, despite its relative size and population, had the slowest growing incomes nationwide over the past two decades,” Ben Eisen, senior fellow at the Fraser Institute and co-author of the study, said in a press release.

"On a number of important economic metrics, Ontario is lagging the rest of the country, which ultimately means Ontario workers are falling behind, along with opportunities for them."

Heading to the Maritimes isn't the only option for affordable housing, as some western markets are seeing lower prices.

The Canadian Real Estate Association released comparative stats by province for average home prices from March 2023 to March 2024.

In Ontario, the average price jumped slightly from $876,766 to $889,033. 

To the west, the average was $362,535 in Manitoba and $491,962 in Alberta in March of 2024. The benchmark price in Saskatchewan was $334,500.

Nova Scotia, meanwhile, rose from $383,800 in 2023 to $402,200 a year later.

This small starter home near downtown Regina is listed for $274,900 with annual property taxes of $2,408. The listing says it's close to Candy Cane and Wascana parks, high schools, grocery stores, and all downtown amenities.

And while up and leaving isn't quite as popular now due to what Francis called the "domino effect" of prices increasing elsewhere due to the influx of people with the same idea, it's still on the table for some.

Of those looking for creative ways to solve their housing woes, it's more the younger generation.

"While real estate prices have now decreased here, they're still much higher than they ever would’ve been if our market didn’t shift in 2017," she said.

"So, you're still seeing people wanting to move out east due to better affordability. In my experience, it seems that instead of it being retirees now wanting to move out of Ontario, it seems to be more younger families looking for more affordable living options."