Buying a home is arguably one of the largest purchases Calgarians will ever make. Weeks and sometimes months can be spent searching for the perfect home within budget. Deciding to purchase a home, sight unseen, seems incredible. But that is exactly what Sarah and her husband, Thomas, did in January when they made the leap and moved to Calgary.

Sarah never thought she would leave British Columbia’s lower mainland. After getting married, the couple aspired to own a home and start a family. Both Sarah and Thomas were working two jobs to pay the rent on their 600 square foot downtown Vancouver apartment with the goal of having some earnings left over to save for an eventual home purchase.

“There were a lot of lifestyle factors leading to us wanting to upgrade from our downtown condo lifestyle,” explains thirty-something Sarah who works as a bookkeeper in the hospitality industry and picked up serving jobs most evenings. “Working two jobs is not sustainable forever. I had never really considered Calgary being from the lower mainland, but my husband is originally from Calgary, so he put that on the table as something to consider. I kind of abandoned that dream of living in Vancouver and started to look more seriously at other options.”

Though Sarah and Thomas’s plan wasn’t to take the plunge and pull up stakes until 2023, Sarah started to explore online what life might be like living in Calgary. 

“We were living in Vancouver and we were working our butts off and saving every spare penny and just watching the inflation and the housing market outpace whatever we could possibly earn and realizing that we were just never going get ahead.”

Calgary Real Estate Board’s Chief Economist Ann-Marie Lurie says one of the most obvious benefits of living in Calgary is the affordability given the size of the city and the population base relative to other large cities.

“I think on the whole you're seeing growth and that's a good sign and that's also adding some diversity to our city as well,” says Ann-Marie. “Job growth and migration are two important fundamentals in terms of housing so that tells me that our housing market is beyond just people coming in and snapping up properties in Calgary for an investment. If I look at 2019, we were losing jobs before the pandemic but now we're coming back, and I'm seeing those employment numbers look so much better.”

airplane illustration

The energy sector remains important to the Calgary economy, both now and into the future. However, announcements from several tech companies planning on setting up offices in the city signal an important shift toward diversification and optimism regarding future growth. It will take time, but the collaborative work between business leaders and policy makers could help support a turnaround in our economy beyond the pandemic. Ability to attract and retain talent hinges on employment opportunities and lifestyle. Housing is an important component of lifestyle. While the pandemic did result in a turnaround in our housing market, Calgary remains relatively affordable compared with other large cities in the country. This relative affordability of housing could be a factor in attracting and retaining talent in the city.

Ann-Marie Lurie, CREB Chief Economist

In early December, Sarah found a home in Calgary online that she couldn’t stop thinking about. She started doing price comparisons, looking at its proximity to downtown and the surrounding amenities.

“It was so cute and so charming, and I just fell in love with it the second I saw it,” says Sarah. “Every single day I was logging in praying that I wouldn't see a sale pending sign on this house.”

While visiting Thomas’s family in Calgary over the Christmas holidays, the couple drove by the home dreaming about owning one like it one day. And then fate stepped in. After a serendipitous flight delay left them with some extra time at the Calgary airport, Sarah and Thomas made the decision to put an offer on the home.

“I was like, ‘What are we waiting for? This just makes sense. We are in a position to buy a house that is in this price range – let’s not overthink this and talk ourselves out of it,’” says Sarah.

They reached out to a recommended realtor and a mortgage broker and the entire process unfolded online.

“It was never the way that I thought I would purchase a home for sure, but I honestly think that it's just a very modern way to do things – it made the home buying process less intimidating as a first-time home buyer,” explains Sarah. “We finally went on our delayed honeymoon at the end of January, and we were on a beautiful beach in Hawaii when we got the final text from the realtor saying the house was ours. It just really felt like kismet.”

Ann-Marie underlines that while ownership options are favourable in Calgary, it is also important to have options in rental as well. With restrictions lifting, and more people relocating, Calgary’s rental market is currently seeing low supply, increasing prices, however Calgary remains the 16th most expensive rental market in Canada according to the Canadian National Rent Report by rent hub Zumper.

“Though comparatively, we have more affordable options for ownership, for some people this is out of reach. We know that housing is a broad spectrum and having availability of affordable housing and affordable rentals is very important to recovery,” she explains. “If you think about the overall aspect of your economy, you need to have housing options for all different groups of earners. In Calgary, we have different options for housing that can attract more people to rent or own. I see that as a huge advantage as well as that we have that ability to increase that supply due to the availability of land. We've seen rental constructions improve and a healthy rental market is really important too for an overall housing market.”

After relocating to Calgary in early April, Sarah and Thomas are thrilled not only to be homeowners, but to have employment opportunities and new careers.

“Calgary was not my first choice. I wanted to stay close to my family and my friends and the place where I had grown up,” says Sarah. “But I realized I could have it all by moving to Calgary – the urban, city life that I enjoy, with top notch, chef-driven restaurants, arts and culture, a large stadium, and a real neighbourhood, a garden, and a home, without making some sort of huge sacrifice. I didn't realize how beautiful Calgary was - the panoramic views of the big sunny skies, the Rockies, and that deep connection to nature. I realized that to truly be happy here, I have to stop trying to find Vancouver 2.0 and learn to see all that Calgary has to offer.”

I can literally fly from Calgary to Abbotsford and get to my mom's house faster than I could drive from downtown Vancouver to Abbotsford.

Thomas and Sarah

Making Calgary home sweet home video

Categories: General, Real estate