Nova Scotia

Investors make a fifth of home purchases in Halifax, where real estate prices continue to soar

New research from the Bank of Canada shows investors account for about one-fifth of home purchases in Halifax, providing insight into a housing market that has recently seen prices soar.

Investor activity in N.S. capital has risen 4% since 2014

A sign outside an Ottawa home indicates that it has sold for over the asking price in March 2021. Ottawa has seen the largest jump in real estate investor activity in recent years of any major Canadian city. Halifax is not far behind, in second place. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

New research from the Bank of Canada shows investors account for about one-fifth of home purchases in Halifax.

It provides insight into a housing market that has recently seen prices soar, making it impenetrable for some would-be homeowners.

Using databases on financial loans, researchers with the country's central bank tallied the share of mortgaged home purchases made by first-time homebuyers, repeat homebuyers and investors. All-cash home purchases are not part of the accounting.

The bank has released similar information in the past, but never with a breakdown that included details specific to Nova Scotia. A report released this month includes figures for 11 of the country's largest cities, including Halifax.

The report shows that investors accounted for about 19 per cent of mortgaged home purchases in Halifax in the second quarter of 2021. That's just shy of the Canadian average for the same period, which was 21.6 per cent.

Major jumps in home prices, two years running 

The report provides context, although it does not directly answer the question of how much investors are responsible for driving up real estate prices.

In Halifax, the average home sale was 26 per cent higher in 2021 than the year before, and 14 per cent higher in 2020 than the year before that, according to statistics reported by the Nova Scotia Association of Realtors.

Most major Canadian cities have seen investor activity grow in recent years, but Halifax has seen one of the biggest jumps.

Since 2014, investor purchases rose more than four per cent in Halifax, second only to Ottawa's five per cent growth.

First-time homebuyers hold shrinking share

The report doesn't break down the other two homebuyer categories by city, but it does show national trends.

Generally, first-time homebuyers account for the lion's share of home purchases, but that number has been trending down since at least 2015 and more drastically so since about 2020. Repeat home buyers come in second, with their share growing since at least 2015.

The report's authors suggest that the rise in investor activity in Canada overall, "has contributed to strong demand and may reflect a belief that house prices will continue to rise in value — sometimes referred to as extrapolative expectations."

They also note that investor demand may be more sensitive to shifts in market sentiment, thereby exacerbating boom-bust cycles.

"Investors could thus be a source of instability for the financial system and the economy more broadly."

Many factors at play in housing crisis

Real estate analyst Neil Lovitt said he looks at the central bank's findings in two different ways. On the one hand, he said, it's potentially problematic that investors and repeat homebuyers are taking up increasingly large shares of the market.

"It's interesting and, of course, concerning to see the increase in that activity relative to the decrease in the people that, I guess, we would more commonly think of as deserving buyers — first-time purchasers, people looking to get into homes for the first time," said Lovitt, vice-president of planning and economic development at the Halifax branch of Turner, Drake and Partners. 

On the other hand, he said, he found the scale of the impact, particularly of investors, to be "underwhelming" relative to the impact some people assume they're having on Halifax real estate.

"I think there's a policy angle here in terms of curbing investor demand … But also we need to very clearly understand that investor behaviour itself, if we address that adequately, it wouldn't solve our bigger problems."

Lovitt said it's important to note that the study does not include purchases made by corporations, or or purchases with foreign mortgages.

He said the investor category in the study probably accounts for "a large proportion" of what would be considered industry.

"But it's also not really getting at what are some of the more high-profile forms of real estate investment that get talked about as part of the housing-crisis conversation." 

The Bank of Canada report does not provide details for the rest of Nova Scotia, outside the capital, but Lovitt said the situation in Halifax is likely a good general indicator of real estate activity across the province.

"I wouldn't be surprised if you can find individual communities or regions that are much more heavily weighted towards investor behaviour and the opposite as well."

Regardless of who is making the purchases, no part of the province has been spared from large jumps in home prices; the Nova Scotia Association of Realtors reported average year-over-year growth across the province of 23 per cent in 2021.


Taryn Grant


Taryn Grant is a Halifax-based reporter and web writer for CBC Nova Scotia. You can email her with tips and feedback at


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