8 Tips for Buying a Home in the GTA for Less

Buying a home in the GTA for less doesn’t have to be mission impossible. 

Finding less expensive neighbourhoods, or the cheapest place to buy a house in Toronto, depends on what type (single family, townhouse, condo) you’re looking for. Scarborough (Golden Mile, The Steeles, L’Amoreaux) or Etobicoke (Humbervale, Sunnylea) can hit the mark. Danforth in Old East York is comparatively affordable too. 

Here are eight simple ways you find a bargain in the hot Toronto-area real estate market. Or ask your realtor for the latest update on which part of Toronto is cheapest or most affordable for modest buyers. 

Planning for your new house


1. Follow the MLS.

The web makes it a breeze when you’re buying a home in the GTA. You can search homes, lots, rural properties, or businesses for sale on the MLS®. Now anyone can list their own home. You get more inventory and instant access as new properties come on the market. Go to Realtor.ca to start a search.

2. Find Listings Before Other Buyers.

No question buying a home in the GTA is competitive. Fortunately for you, most realtors have pocket listings, homes not on the MLS because sellers want to protect their privacy, or see if there is a market for their home before listing. Commissions can be lower, as an incentive to buy. You can also avoid irksome bidding wars by getting in on off-market gems. 

3. Ask Friends and Neighbours.

Gossip gets around, so if a great deal comes up in your area, your neighbours probably know about it. Next time you’re social distancing, ask the neighbours for leads on buying a home in the GTA. Congegrate at the playground, Home Hardware, or Second Cup. If you can’t hang out at the water cooler at work because of COVID-19, go online to Facebook or chat rooms in your community. See the latest chats on urban Toronto.  

4. Buy From Family.

Your parents, relatives, or young people making a career move may have a perfectly good home or condo to sell or share with you. You could get your own piece of the pie by buying a home in the GTA with shared equity. Most elevated (two-storey) bungalows have walk-out basements you can make your own. A little bit of ingenuity goes a long ways. Maybe that attic space or coach house with back lane parking space could be yours in exchange for a joint mortgage (say contributing 50% of the mortgage). 

Tap your RRSP for a mortgage. 

5. Build a Custom Home.

Building’s not that expensive when you’re thinking of buying a home in the GTA. Construction costs for new homes in Greater Toronto Area average from $165 to $300 a square foot (0.09m²) for modest homes, and $500 to $600 per square foot for luxury properties. 

A 2022 nearly 50% hike in fees charged Toronto developers will affect that (if passed), but either way you’ll need from 25% to 30% for a construction completion mortgage that pays the contractor when your home is done, or progress-draw mortgage that pays as you go along. Building new construction homes. 

You can save by:

  • picking a pattern home from a residential home builder
  • using modest finishes (no marble countertops)
  • going small, giving you less house to clean and lower taxes
  • choosing a carport over double garage
  • or buying a smaller lot.

Scaling down affects resale value, but it could be worth it to get into a home. Where is the most affordable place to live near Toronto? For real savings, look in smaller towns  and cities outside Toronto. 

Where is the cheapest place to live in the GTA?  

6. Get On the Good Side

Your parents may be just as happy to hand you the keys to the ‘burbs and downsize as to manage the upkeep and yard work on a big house. Creating a living trust transfers assets like a home or vacation property to heirs while the owners are alive. As long as it’s revocable and the monthly payments are kept up, most mortgage lenders are fine by helping you buy a home in the GTA by transferring parental property through an inter vivos trust. If the mortgage is paid off, it’s no big deal, although there is a cost to set up the trust. No probate tax is due when your parents pass on and, unlike wills, trust assets are not made public in probate court.

Transfer assets with inter vivos trusts

7. Share the Land

Millennials are used to saving their dimes. Over 47% of young adults in Toronto still lived at home during the 2021 census. For those hoping to buy a home in the GTA, home prices may seem way beyond reach — they’ve quadrupled in the past two decades, from $250,000 in 2001 to over $1.1 million by July 2022. 

What better way to cut costs than to share a lot by building or buying a multi-family home? A quick, one-hour jaunt to Guelph cuts average home prices by around 25% to $838,000 (July 2022 stats) for a modest detached property. A duplex, fourplex, or laneway home makes better use per square foot of all-to-precious land in the GTA.

Get a mortgage for a laneway suite

8. Be Your Own Realtor

Small things can make a big difference. Look for homes for sale by owner to eliminate real estate commissions or use a no commission realty service that charges a flat fee. Owners who list their own home on the MLS® may be open to accepting a reduced offer. Check how long properties have been on the market. Owners may be anxious to sell if their home has been listed for awhile. 

Fixer uppers may or may not be a bargain, but watch out for homes built between the 1940s and ’70s when asbestos was widely used in floor and ceiling tiles, insulation, and siding. A hefty remediation bill for asbestos, outdated electrical wiring, or antiquated plumbing is no saving in the long term. 

Happy house hunting. 

Legal liabilities if you sell a home with asbestos.

Making appointments through calls


Affordable Legal Services, Anywhere in Ontario

Access lawyers for less in Greater Toronto Area, Ottawa, or anywhere in Ontario when you buy a home in the GTA, sell, or transfer property. Axess Law’s flat fee real estate lawyers are affordable, and our rates are all inclusive (excluding taxes, disbursements, and third-party charges). Axess Law offers you only the legal services you absolutely need. Your final invoice includes no surprises or hidden charges. Your itemized statement of adjustments is explained when we deliver it, and we answer any questions you have about it.

Find a real estate lawyer in Ontario. 

Make Online Appointments or Call Us to Book

Finally made your move to buy a home in the GTA? Book an online video conference call with Axess Law’s virtual real estate lawyers to close the deal. We’re open 7 days a week, have day or evening appointments, and can video conference with you anywhere in Ontario. Call toll-free to 1-877-552-9377 (647-479-0118 in Toronto) or use our online booking form. In person meetings can be arranged at any of our Greater Toronto Area or Ottawa law offices. Axess Law has onsite parking and easy transit access.

Click here to learn more about Axess Law’s real estate law services.