Words and Photography: Amanda Cloutier-Santos

Housing prices in Montreal are rising faster than any other city in Canada, outpacing even Toronto and Vancouver. As real estate grows in value, how are buyers—especially young buyers—responding?

For some young people searching for places to live, the increasingly expensive cost of on-island real estate has pushed them to look for places to live in the suburbs off-island.

Ronan asks his mother, Laura Fraraccio, for his sticker book that’s out of reach, in their Île-Perrot home.

Laura Fraraccio, 26, sits on her L-shaped couch, her month old daughter resting against her chest while her toddler pushes the vacuum around the condo, watched carefully by his father, Robert Bell, 27.

After moving out of their respective parents’ places in the West Island, the young couple picked an apartment in the area to rent. But after years of renting, they grew tired of losing money, and impulsively bought a house, where they planned to eventually grow their family.

They searched around Montreal, particularly the West Island, for about a year, to no avail. It was impossible for them to find a home on the island. “The prices were just unbelievable. So that’s when we started exploring, looking off island,” said Laura.

After taking a break from house-hunting for another year, they decided to venture off-island to Île-Perrot, just west of Montreal. They bought their first house in the area.

Bigger = Better?

The couple found that their large house was too much to maintain. After experiencing how much work it was to tidy up the vast space and maintain the yard, after three years they decided to downsize.

Realizing bigger wasn’t necessarily better for them, the married couple moved into their dream condo last September. Their new home is just slightly bigger than the apartment they wanted to escape and only a few blocks away. But Fraraccio and Bell agree it is their perfect home.

Fraraccio wonders if they were too impulsive with their first home. “We were tired of renting and really wanted to buy, and that house was in our budget. It was a very cute house. It was a good starter home,” she said.

According to Juliette Mourez, a realtor at Sutton Immobilia, Fraraccio and Bell’s experience is not unusual. Unlike their parent’s generation, who often bought homes they intended to live in forever, younger generations are no longer moving into their long-term homes right off the bat.

A Good Investment

Amie Duberger, 32, and her fiancée Archan Patel, 35, made a list of wants and needs before finding their home in the Boisbriand suburb, north of Laval, last summer. With each house they visited, the couple would check off their criteria and grade the potential home. When it was a good grade—of about 75 to 80 per cent—they would make an offer.

Duberger and Patel, unlike Fraraccio and Bell, didn’t even bother looking on the island of Montreal. They wanted a home that was separate from their neighbours, but also had a community feel. They also wanted a larger home and they knew they could get more for their money off-island.

The couple’s view on owning a home is that they’re never tied-down to it. They could sell and move if they needed to.

“It’s a big investment, but it’s not worse than taking all your money and putting it in the stock market,” Duberger said.