It is well-known that in the long-run it has been proven over hundreds of years that it is more lucrative to own your home than it is to rent it. This is especially the case in Canada given our capital gains exemption on principal residences. However, though this is usually the case an the case in the long-run, it isn’t always the case at specific points in time.
It is more lucrative to rent, rather than own your home when the market is in a bubble and it is about to go through a correction. That is something that hasn’t happened in Toronto for decades.
The belief and desire that home ownership is the best thing to do drove millions of Americans to purchase homes they could not afford leading up to the 2007-2008 liquidity crisis and housing crash in the United States. This blind desire to own a home, fueled by the media and misunderstanding of the economics of home ownership, contributed to the skyrocketing of real estate prices. What made it worse was the government’s willingness to help families buy homes when it made more financial sense for those families to rent. Yet, the calculation of whether one should buy or rent is very straight forward.
The cost of renting your home usually includes:
The cost of owning our home usually includes:
When you add up the costs if you were to rent or own a specific home there are years when it is cheaper to rent and years when it is cheaper to own. Theoretically, the cost of renting should be equal to the cost of owning a home (less the principal repayment component of the mortgage payments). Leading up to the devastating collapse of the United States real estate market the comparison clearly showed a significant premium in owning a home. In other words, it was about 25% cheaper to rent than to own. So, home prices were over-inflated and out of equilibrium. It was only a matter of time before the market adjusted itself.
In Canada, the situation includes two additional significant factors; 1) the heavy immigration rate driving increasing demand and 2) the capital gains tax exemption on primary residences. These two items work to drive demand and produce a higher financial return on home ownership. With increasing demand comes increasing prices for rent… and for home prices.
Very simply, the more people that need a place to rent, the more a rental unit will rent for. The more a rental unit rents for, the greater the value of the unit and the property it is located at. Though in Canada, the price of housing increased at a greater pace than rent, due to rent control. After a few years of rising housing prices, the pressure was put on by tenants to offer more rent to secure under-priced rental units.
In Toronto, the housing market continues to be in a state of disequilibrium as demand outpaces supply, which is kept tight by regulations and policies of all levels of government and the development and tax costs forced on developers by those governments.
Though a young professional might be tempted to rent a lower-cost unit in Toronto (if they can find one), the reality is that if they don’t buy their own place, their chances of home ownership might be worse in the future and certainly their accumulation of wealth will be significantly hampered.
To take advantage of the housing market returns, many millenials are renting in Toronto to live and buying in smaller communities where prices are low and they can get a rental income as the property appreciates in value. They can then use the equity in that property to buy their Toronto home down the road.