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B.C. homebuyers are starting their journey years before a purchase

A new survey shows that the homebuying process starts long before a purchase and that funding from family might be a "prerequisite" to get into the market.
Single-detached homes were the most popular purchase for survey respondents in B.C., according to survey data.

The pandemic, along with ups and downs in the housing market this past year, have shifted the way homebuyers approach real estate transactions, with some trends persisting and others losing traction, according to new data from a Zolo survey that asks homebuyers about their practices. 

B.C. homebuyers are taking their time when it comes to a real estate purchase. Nearly 45 per cent of homebuyers spent one to two years browsing listings, with 35 per cent looking at roughly four to six homes, according to survey results. 

“We all know about the trope of saving real estate listings and browsing homes even though you're not in a position to buy. But I feel that these particular survey questions really validated that many, many Canadians are making real estate wish lists long before they actually start their house-hunting journey,” said Jordann Kaye, spokesperson for Zolo. 

Another standout data point is more Canadians using parents or relatives as a way to fund a home purchase.

In B.C., roughly 25 per cent of respondents said they utilize funds from their family, or other relatives, or their partner's family or relative, according to Zolo. Nation-wide, 47 per cent of Canadians received money from family or an inheritance to boost their percentage. 

“While we knew that getting help from family was becoming increasingly common, it's almost at a point now where it's essentially a prerequisite to even get into the housing market,” said Kaye. 

Among the pandemic trends that have not persisted is virtual viewing or buying a home “sight unseen,” according to Zolo. This was very popular during the pandemic and soon after restrictions were lifted; however, data shows that no B.C. respondents bought a home without seeing it. On the other hand, the use of social media like Instagram, Facebook and TikTok for finding listings has continued, says Kaye. 

“The real estate listing website is still king, it will be for some time, but Facebook and Instagram are hot on its heels. And if you follow any real estate agents on those platforms, they are using those platforms to sell homes,” she said. 

As more millenials and Gen Z buyers enter the market, Kaye believes that the number of people using social media for home buying will increase.  

In B.C., the combined total of homebuyers using some form of social media to browse through potential homes, whether on Facebook, Twitter, TikTok or Instagram, is nearly 55 per cent. Real estate listing websites were used by approximately 29 per cent of buyers, according to survey results. 

When it comes to comparing B.C. to the rest of Canada, fewer British Columbians (14 per cent) chose to create a budget to prepare for homebuying. Nationally, 55 per cent of Canadians prepared a budget, according to Zolo.  

“Budgeting is super, super important in terms of saving for your down payment but also for being successful in homeownership because we all know that the transition from renting to homeownership can be quite the jolt,” said Kaye.

Of the survey responses, the one that matched with expectations the most is when B.C. residents are choosing to buy a home. Kaye described it as matching the real estate cycle “almost perfectly.” 

Approximately 14 per cent of B.C. buyers chose to buy in March, with the months of July to September all seeing 11 per cent of buyers transacting at that time.