Calgary's hot market challenging for 1st-time home buyers

Buying a home in Calgary is expensive and there are growing concerns that the hot market is leaving some people behind.

5 per cent down payment on average Calgary house more than $25,000

Calgary's Nicole Imeson has been saving "aggressively" for two years to buy her first home. (CBC)

Buying a home in Calgary is expensive and there are growing concerns that the hot market is leaving some people behind.

"It's been a long road," said Nicole Imeson, who is buying her first home. "I have been doing research and saving for my down payment over the last year fairly aggressively."

"It's pretty difficult.... I was putting 25 to 30 per cent of my income away every month and I was able to save up in about two years."

A five per cent down payment on the average Calgary house is more than $25,000.

"I don't see any issue getting a good return on my investment, so at that point I was OK with the higher price tag, knowing that I would eventually get that back," said Imeson.

Imeson's realtor says, with incomes in some sectors on the rise, many people in Calgary still manage to buy but not everyone can.

"I do have clients that are quite successful in life, self employed, driving brand new vehicles, and go to talk to their mortgage broker and find out they only qualify for about $160,000," said Raena Gartner. "And so they're looking at maybe Airdrie or Cochrane for a nice condo in that price range."

David Watson, who heads Attainable Homes Calgary — a city program that helps people with down payment, says saving that money is often the biggest barrier.

Average home costs $517K

"They're going to have to rent. Or they're not going to come to Calgary," he said. "Or they're going to come to Calgary and make some money and go back to where they came from."

Watson says the issue is only getting worse, especially because the rental market is also sizzling.

"The gap between housing prices and income was widening and widening — making it harder for people that had real jobs to actually get ownership in Calgary," he said. "We certainly have noticed just in the last six months of this year that that has got even larger."

This year, the average home in Calgary sold for more than $517,000. An average townhouse costs $341,000 and an apartment-style condo costs nearly $300,000 on average.

Watson says home ownership in the city may be out of reach for Calgarians with moderate incomes.

"You end up seeing larger cities that are based with very rich people at the top and very poor people at the bottom, and the people that make the city run can't afford to live there," he said.

With economic forecasts showing no signs of the housing market slowing down, many more people may find themselves priced out of home ownership.

With files from CBC's Alana Baker


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