In 2015, the average price of a home in Blainville was $335,000; in Ahuntsic, it was $450,000. At first glance, these statistics give the impression that Montreal real estate is expensive. But the statistics don’t take into account the additional costs associated with commuting into the city from the suburbs. Many suburban families end up needing a second or even a third vehicle once their teenagers start driving.
Pierre-Olivier Pineau, professor at HEC Montreal business school, calculated the total cost of operating a vehicle at $10,500 a year in a 2014 study—enough to carry $160,000 worth of additional mortgage. This means that owning a home in the city is effectively no more expensive than owning a home in the suburbs—to say nothing of the time saved commuting.
There are a few ways to make buying in Montreal more accessible than ever before.
Choosing inexpensive neighbourhoods
Growing numbers of buyers are attracted to the lower prices of properties in lesser-known parts of the city, such as Ville-Émard, Côte-Saint-Paul and Hochelaga-Maisonneuve. All three areas are increasingly popular, in part because they offer a variety of homes priced well below those elsewhere in Montreal.
Further afield, areas such as Roxboro and Montreal-North offer single-family homes perfect for families who want space and accessibility without overly large mortgages.
Buying a “plex”
Montreal has a good variety of multiplexes—two, three or even four homes under a single roof. To make home ownership more affordable, many families follow a simple strategy: buy a multiplex, live in one unit and rent out the others. The cost of multiplexes makes this plan feasible: in 2015, for instance, the average sale price of a Montreal duplex was $426,000 and for a triplex, $483,000. Given that the value of multiplexes has climbed steadily since 2010, this strategy can produce an excellent return on investment.
Buying a multiplex can also offer other advantages over a single-family home: there is often a street-level entrance, for instance, more space on the ground floor, a yard, a basement and additional storage space. For families who want space, these represent powerful incentives.
Financial assistance for renovations
Montreal offers a number of programs that help defray the cost of renovations. Many people take advantage of these programs and significantly reduce the cost of home ownership by buying a house in need of repair and completing the repairs over a few years. Programs vary by neighbourhood, type of repairs required and the circumstances of applicants.
Save with property-access programs
Montreal’s Home Ownership Program is aimed primarily at first-time buyers. Under the program, applicants who buy a new home can receive from $2,250 to $6,250. A second incentive, a rebate of the so-called “welcome tax,” can reduce the cost of home ownership for families that buy a new home or a building made up of one, two or three residences. In all, families can access up to $10,000. The Accès Condos program, administered by SHDM (Société d’habitation et de développement de Montréal), makes it possible to obtain a loan with a down payment of only $1,000.
Is Montreal really too expensive for home buyers? After learning about the many affordable neighbourhoods and developments, the financial assistance available and the overall savings associated with living in the city, you just might change your mind.