The average rent for all Canadian properties listed on Rentals.ca in August was $1,769 per month, down 7.6% annually. The average rent has been nearly identical over the last three months at $1,770, $1,771 and $1,769.
1. National Overview
The chart below shows the average monthly rent for single-family housing, townhouses, rental apartments, condominium apartments, and basement apartments cumulatively from January to August of this year (red line, right axis), with the annual change in average rent below (grey bars, left axis).
Median Rent by Property Type and Month
The median rent in Canada for all property types is represented by the black line in the chart below. The median rent in Canada was $1,700 per month, down from $1,709 in July 2020 and down 5.6% from $1,800 in August 2019.
Also shown is single-family properties (single-detached and semi-detached), which have seen median rents trend downward in 2020, dropping 12% annually to $2,288 per month from August 2019.
Condo apartments have also trended down this year, with the median rent being 14% cheaper than the same month last year.
The median rent for rental apartments declined slightly month over month, but has generally trended upward this year despite the pandemic — this can partially be explained by an increase in listings from new purpose-built apartment projects. Median rent is actually up 8% year-over-year to $1,510 per month.
Average Rent by Bedroom Type
The next chart presents data on the average rent by bedroom type for all property types in Canada based on Rentals.ca listings.
The most prevalent bedroom types for rental properties in Canada are one- and two-bedroom units. In August, the average on-bedroom unit was offered at $1,597 per month, down 6% annually, and is almost $100 cheaper than January of this year.
Two-bedroom units have not declined as sharply as one-beds, with the $1,894 per month average asking rent down 4.7% from a year earlier. On average, a tenant looking for a two-bedroom rental unit in Canada in August would be looking at a savings of $70 from January 2020.
2. Provincial Rental Rates
On a provincial level, Ontario had the highest rental rates in August 2020, with landlords seeking $2,071 per month on average (all property types); this is down 10.8% annually. The average rent in August is up $2 over July 2020.
British Columbia had the second highest rental rate at $2,001 per month, up 5.7% year over year, but down monthly by $28 or 1.4%.
Saskatchewan, Alberta and Manitoba have all experienced declines in average rent levels year over year, with Alberta down 6.6% to $1,206, Saskatchewan down 9.5% to $1,020, and Manitoba down 17.0% to $1,240 per month. Despite the big drop annually, Manitoba average rents did increase in August over July.
It should be noted again that the sample of listings is not consistent year over year, and the composition of the sample often contributes to the monthly and annual volatility of the average rent.
In contrast to those provinces, Quebec is seeing huge rent growth, with the average rent of $1,656 up 15.3% annually, but the average rent in August was down $4 from July 2020.
Ranking of Amenities via Local Logic Data
Local Logic tracks data on amenities important to prospective renters via a number of Canadian real estate portals. The chart below ranks the most important amenities by Census Metropolitan Area (CMA), with the colour of the circles representing the actual share of pageviews.
In Vancouver and Montreal, the most important amenity to would-be tenants is transit, with transit-friendly being the second most important amenity to tenants in the Toronto CMA.
Elementary schools are very important to tenants in the Toronto CMA, taking the top ranking, with day care ranking eighth. Day care was not a top priority for tenants in Vancouver and Montreal, with a rankings of 14 in both metro areas.
Proximity to groceries and good high schools are also highly ranked amenities across the three geographic areas. Other notable rankings include quiet outranking vibrant. Shopping is more important than nightlife. Car friendly is more important than pedestrian friendly or cycle friendly. And lastly restaurants and cafes are more important than parks.
Ranking of Municipalities by Rentals.ca Pageviews
What are the most popular cities in Canada on Rentals.ca? The chart below ranks these municipalities and former municipalities based on online pageviews.
Toronto has been the number one ranked municipality in the country every month this year (pre-amalgamation boundaries, ie Old Toronto). Ottawa and Montreal continue to flip-flop between second and third.
The big mover is Vancouver, which was ranked ninth in February and March of 2020, but jumped to fourth during the majority of the pandemic period.
Edmonton and Calgary have consistently held down the fifth and sixth rankings, respectively. London has been dropping in the rankings despite strong rent growth, and Winnipeg has been ascending on the list despite significant rent declines.
The biggest mover on the list was Burnaby, rising from 23rd ranking early in the year to 13th in August. Three areas within the amalgamated City of Toronto: Etobicoke, Scarborough and York have dropped by at least three spots each since January.
3. Municipal Rental Rates
The chart below presents data on the average rental apartment and condominium apartment rental rates by municipality and area in Canada for August 2020, with the annual percent change in average rent shown on the right (includes former municipalities prior to amalgamation in Toronto).
Kitchener took over the top spot for highest rent appreciation among the major municipalities in Canada at 14.6% annual growth in average rents for rental and condo apartments. Three Quebec municipalities, Montreal, Gatineau and Quebec City, have also seen growth of 14, 10% and 5% respectively, contributing to the large rent growth in the province.
The most noteworthy data in the chart above is the drop in rental rates in Etobicoke, North York and Toronto of 9.0%, 11.5% and 11.7%, respectively.
As mentioned in previous reports, there are a number of factors pushing down rent in Toronto: newly completed condo supply, the return of short-term rentals to the long-term market, less immigration, fewer students downtown, lower job growth, lower demand in centrally located buildings, and the working from home phenomenon has allowed some tenants to move to cheaper areas of the GTA and the province.
Condo Rental Rates by Municipality
Condominium apartments have experienced rent declines annually in five of the six municipalities shown in the chart below.
In Toronto and Vancouver, the average asking rent for a condominium apartment is over $400 per month cheaper in August 2020 compared to August 2019. In Montreal it is almost $350 cheaper.
The Calgary data is somewhat confusing, with the average rent up from $1,475 per month in August 2019 to $1,540 per month in August 2020. However, the average rent per square foot (based on a smaller sample of properties where the unit size was made available by the owner or landlord in the Rentals.ca listing), has dropped by 16% annually from $1.95 psf to $1.64 psf from August to August.
The average condo apartment rent per-square-foot in Toronto is down 9.3% annually to $3.52 psf, while Vancouver is down 7.4% to $3.37 psf. Ottawa has actually seen condo rents increase by 5.4% year-over-year to $2.78 psf.
4. Ottawa / Gatineau Insights
There has always been a significant gap between the rents charged in Ottawa versus Gatineau. The chart below maps the average rent for condominium and rental apartments by postal code in the two municipalities. Also shown in the map are the location of the listings in 2020, sized by pageviews on Rentals.ca.
Ottawa’s downtown core is fairly consistent, with most of the postal codes recording average rents of $1,900 to $2,050 per month.
Right across the Ottawa River in Gatineau, the average rent is $1,542 per month in postal code J8X, but many of the surrounding areas have rental rates that average close to $1,000 per month (small sample size).
The chart below looks at the change in the average rent by property type in Ottawa from August 2019 (black) to August 2020 (red).
Single-family homes are more expensive for tenants this August by approximately 2.3% over August of last year ($2,762 vs $2,827). However, townhouses have dropped by 5.3% year-over-year to $2,324 per month. It is likely that the shifts have more to do with the location of the listings, than any major increase or decrease in demand.
As shown in the municipal comparison chart earlier, condos for rent in Ottawa have declined from $2,260 per month to $2,159 per month, a drop of 4.5%. However, there is a big difference in the average unit size, which fell from about 920 sf to about 825 sf between the two periods.
The average rent for traditional apartments is virtually unchanged from August 2019 at $1,816 per month, a 0.5% annual increase.
The rental market on a national basis continues to tread water, with the average rent staying flat at about $1,770 per month over the last three months.
On a property-type basis, the more expensive single-family homes and condominium apartments continue to trend down in terms of median rent levels, while rental apartments have generally trended upward despite the pandemic.
When looking at a more apples-to-apples comparison of one-bedroom and two-bedroom suites, average rents are down by about 5% to 6% annually in Canada, which likely reflects a lack of demand due to job loss, less immigration, many post-secondary schools going virtual in the fall, the lack of tourism deflating the short-term rental market, many young professionals moving back in with their parents and stunting household formation, low interest rates encouraging buying, and a shift to cheaper areas due to the ability of many employees to work from home and choose a less expensive housing market.
Many tenants may be overreacting to the pandemic, and changing apartments to escape a roommate or tight living space, as challenges arise due to living and working in the same small space.
As many offices start to re-open for white collar employees, demand could start to shift back to central core areas of major municipalities. As the Local Logic data shows, despite the major drop in transit usage since the COVID-19 pandemic started, tenants are still interested in rental housing in proximity to transit.
We will continue to monitor the data to understand if there is increased demand for downtown properties, or a further increase in suburban or small market properties.
Ben is the President of Bullpen Research & Consulting Inc., a boutique residential real estate advisory firm.
With over 15 years of real estate research experience in both the United States and Canada, Ben has acquired extensive knowledge on land values, new home prices and rental rates, and macro-level housing trends. Ben has held several positions in Toronto, including urban economist at Altus Clayton, and Executive Vice President at condominium apartment data tracking firm Urbanation Inc. Ben has previously been the keynote speaker at ULI and PWC’s flagship Emerging Trends Conference.