Ontario’s Most Popular Real Estate Market Is Now Rural, While People Flee Toronto

Ontario residents are flowing out of the big cities, and looking for something a little more quaint. Statistics Canada (Stat Can) data shows intraprovincial migration for 2020. Rural regions are showing the biggest net-inflows of Ontario residents relocating within the province. Although almost everywhere in Ontario saw more people arrive than leave. Toronto being one of the few, and notable exceptions.

Net Intraprovincial Migration

The net intraprovincial migration is the balance of people moving within the province. If a region has a positive number, more people in Ontario moved there than left for other parts of the province. If the number is negative, the opposite happened – more people left than arrived. You can guess why it’s better to have a positive flow than negative, but let’s spell it out for the people in the back.

Generally it’s a good thing to see a regional government attract more people. Outflows tend to show locals see better value or opportunities in other places. Immigration can patch that issue in the near term. However, eventually immigrants just move to the more attractive region. If you attract a lot of locals, it’s only time before everyone moving to the province sees what locals do.

Toronto Is The Biggest Loser of People To Other Parts of Ontario

First, let’s start with where everyone is fleeing from – Toronto. Intraprovincial migration has accelerated in size since 2015, doubling by last year. The latest numbers show a net loss of 50,375 people in 2020. This was 3,826 people higher than the year before, and the biggest number in at least 20 years of data. The only other region to see a net loss to intraprovincial migration is Windsor, and it was only 44 people. Toronto might shrug this off short-term, because it can replace locals fairly fast. However, the region is entirely dependent on immigration, and that pattern is not shifting to any other places in the country.

Ontario Net Intraprovincial Migration

The balance of migration within Ontario. Postive numbers indicate more people from Ontario moved to the region than left for other parts of the province.
Source: Stat Can, Better Dwelling.

Rural Ontario Is The Most Popular Place To Move

The market chatter isn’t just a rumor, people in Ontario are actually moving out to the country. Areas outside of CMAs saw a net intraprovincial increase of 10,392 people in 2020, up 539 people from the year before. This is the fifth year to see an increase, for a trend that was negative until 2015. Coincidentally, that’s also the year Toronto’s outflow ramps up.

Top 3 Markets Attracting Ontarians Are Within 2 Hours of Toronto

The top 3 cities attracting Ontarians are within a 2 hour drive of Toronto, the city they’re likely leaving. Oshawa saw the biggest intraprovincial net increase with 6,114 people in 2020, up 918 people from a year before. Hamilton is in second with 3,627 people, up 647 people from last year. The Niagara region comes in third with a net inflow of 3,243 people, up 363 people from a year before. Ottawa isn’t a top 3, but it is number 4 on the list, with a net increase of 3,190 people, down 428 people from the year before. All of these regions are outperforming Toronto in terms of home prices, and you guess why.

The urban flight narrative is true to some degree, but that’s not the whole story. Rural Ontario is attracting more people from the cities, that’s true. However, every other city but Toronto and Windsor’s tiny blip, is net positive. This is less of an urban flight, and more of a flight from Toronto.

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  • Patrick 3 years ago

    I’m one of those people that left for Hamilton earlier this year. Best decision I’ve made in a long time. It’s like Toronto 20 years ago, without the whole “we’re the centre of the universe” type of feel.

    • Trader Jim 3 years ago

      The whole “you need cheap land to do anything” is under appreciated. Worst part of markets over allocated in real estate is everything people do is to rationalize spending more on a mortgage, and not out in the city.

      “why would you eat out? You can save for a downpayment.”

      Saving money is great, but if you can’t do things like eat out, you’re paying a big premium to be in a city, where you can’t do anything but talk about the nice restaurants around you.

  • Rob 3 years ago

    Oshawa is insane right now. $200k, $300k over ask, with dozens of bids. It makes no sense, because the prices are getting to the point where it’s close to Toronto.

  • Max 3 years ago

    I started to look for a house outside of TO two weeks ago after I gave up my attempts to buy anything in my area (Richmond Hill townhouses start pretty much from $1M now and still receive 20-30 offers). So I can buy a decent detached in Barrie for 800-900K, but prices are 25-30% higher from just about a year ago. I can’t even buy for the same price it was in November 2020, just two months ago. Insane market!

  • Tikva 3 years ago

    I try to have hope I will afford RE one day. This market is insane. I did everything right – I left Toronto 3 years ago and saved for a downpayment. I kept increasing my salary to qualify for a decent mortgage (yes, it’s possible in the burbs!) and nonetheless I am consistently priced out of the market year after year! And I can only afford a measly condo made out of sticks and glue which costs more per square foot than any other property. All you need is one unit fire and the entire building is toast. Record high strata fees due to a property insurance crisis whose pain will yet to be felt in Ontario. I cannot bring myself to put my hard earned money and park it into a condo in the suburbs. Houses in my area were expensive already for those living and working here, but now they are 20% higher thanks to Torontonians and investors bidding $100-150K over asking. As discouraged as I am, I do think I am safer not having a $500-600K mortgage at record low rates. Everyone is making decisions based off the now – low rates, lockdowns, work from home, etc. These did not exist a year ago and are very likely to change in the next year or two. Who is to say that little townhouse in will retain it’s $700K value or even go up closer to $1 million? And who is to say interest rates will be low long term? BoC will do what is best for them and if that means raising by half a point, they will do so. Half a point will be detrimental for investors with already negative cash flows. But hey, that’s just my observation. What do I know. Logic and RE don’t necessarily mix so I’ll just sit here and keep rentin’… 🙂

    • Christine Z 3 years ago

      There was a lethal fire in a unit in my condo building and the building survived just fine. I bought for $140K and sold for $600K. You’ll never get the house you want by continuing to rent forever while the value of your down payment depreciates and Canada brings in immigrants by the millions. You need to invest it in real estate, even if it’s not your ideal home. Otherwise, get way out of the city ASAP. I bought a semi-detached 100km east of Pickering last May for $275K. It’s small and needs a bit of cosmetic work but the property is beautiful. Mature trees, shrubs and flowers so I can’t even see the attached neighbours, with a stream running through. I have watched people waiting for the bubble to burst in Southern Ontario for 15 years to get into the real estate market and it’s never going to happen. Even a crash that wipes out 20% of the market will only revert us back to the prices of a year or two ago.

  • Smaug 3 years ago

    My sister can’t even buy in Winnipeg right now. Outbid on every single house she puts an offer on. In Winnipeg. In January. Meanwhile, unemployment is still high across the country and the entire economy is still in various stages of lockdown. Makes sense.

    Her realtor told her the two houses he sold last week both went to couples with horrible credit ratings, but they had 25% down payments. These down payments were likely “gifts” from family members, but of course are in fact loans that the family members will expect to get back.

    To recap, people with terrible credit are borrowing money from family members and winning bidding wars for houses in Winnipeg. In January. During a pandemic lockdown.

    • Sam Huizenga 3 years ago

      Please be a bubble….PLEEEEEASE! I’ve been waiting sooooo long……

  • Kris 3 years ago

    Makes a ton of sense, government programs and low inventory are a huge downside protection. If you are in for the small risk, leverage now and you can get rich, prices are on track for double digit % gains this and next year.

  • Credit Repair 3 years ago

    Makes me think of moving hmmm

  • CD 3 years ago

    Imagine having to pay that much to live in a city like Toronto. lol, there aren’t even any bank-branded events to go to these days. You’re wise to move out.

  • Elle 3 years ago

    We talked about leaving Toronto for years but didn’t get around to putting our house up for sale until ONE DAY before they stopped allowing open houses last March. OMG, it was dead for a full two weeks and we worried we wouldn’t sell while the general public learned about the severity of the virus. THANKFULLY, we managed to sell (We had a dragon of a real estate agent! Lol, btw, we’d already bought a house in Belleville!) Having lived in Toronto all our lives, we were nervous about leaving the city, but I’m happy to say we’ve never regretted this move. Our house is bigger and better than the one we sold, but we no longer have a mortgage. Our neighbourhood in the east end is so friendly and awesome and full of both young familes and retirees. Prince Edward County (which is very expensive, if you want to live in town) is full of wineries and restaurants and is only a 6-minute drive from our house! Additionally, Covid numbers are NOTHING like they are in Toronto. People here are responsible and it just feels safer being here. What seemed like the worst time to sell our house ended up being the best. So glad we finally took the plunge! (I don’t think I violated any rules with this comment!)

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