What It’s Like to Live In Ontario’s Most Affordable City

North Bay is the only Ontario city that’s affordable for homebuyers with average household incomes — here’s what to know before considering a move there.

By Josh Sherman | 3 minute read

Dec 15

North Bay might be the perfect spot for Ontario homebuyers who love the outdoors, a slower pace of life, and more affordable housing.

Nestled between Lake Nipissing and Trout Lake, North Bay is known as the Gateway to the North, acting as a regional hub as well as a destination for outdoor tourism, sailing, skiing, snowmobiling, and ice fishing. The municipality of approximately 50,000 is also the only city in the province that is affordable for homebuyers who earn the average household income, according to recent Wahi analysis.
This relative affordability has attracted both homebuyers and investors in recent years, especially during the pandemic. But big-city homebuyers vying to score property on the cheap should be aware of a few major differences between large urban centres and North Bay, which is located more than four hours from both Toronto and Ottawa.

“We haven’t dipped as much as some of the cities have with the interest rate climbing, because, again, we’re still affordable and our inventory is still low.”

The biggest adjustment for North Bay newcomers from the south is the weather, Jessica Diggles, Sales Representative at Century 21 Blue Sky Region Realty Inc. Brokerage, tells Wahi. “If you’re coming from Toronto, you don’t get much snow,” she says, noting that if you’re kids are in school, expect a lot more snow days. Lifestyle considerations should also be top of mind. “It’s just not for everybody: if you’re used to more of a city lifestyle, there’s not that much open here past 9 p.m.,” Diggles, who moved to North Bay from Toronto, in 2012, adds, suggesting adjusting to a sleepier city could be a challenge for some.


The Benefits of North Bay 

Homebuyers from bigger cities who can adjust to the inclement weather and slower pace of life will probably like what they see when it comes to real estate listings. “Across the board in Ontario we are definitely affordable,” Diggles says.

In fact, according to Wahi’s analysis, the median price of a North Bay home was $401,950 in the first quarter of the year, putting it just on the edge of the affordability range for households earning $100,000 annually, roughly the provincial average. For comparison, households need to bring in between $200,000 and $300,000 per year to purchase a Toronto home, depending on the area. (Wahi assumes a 20% downpayment, a mortgage rate of 5.24% (provided by Rocket Mortgage as of July 14), and a 25-year amortization period. To meet the affordability threshold, households shouldn’t be spending more than 25% of their pre-tax income on monthly mortgage payments.)

The much lower price point also means that homebuyers are generally less sensitive to rate hikes from the Bank of Canada, a factor that has helped stabilize local home prices, too. “We haven’t dipped as much as some of the cities have with the interest rate climbing, because, again, we’re still affordable and our inventory is still low,” says Diggles.


North Bay hasn’t just attracted homebuyers looking for a more affordable place to live. “Muskoka also got way too unaffordable for people to buy cottages and recreational properties,” explains Diggles. “We have the same lakes, the same topography, but we have way cheaper properties — so then people started to discover that and then tell their friends.”

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Locals Facing Price Squeeze 


What’s affordable for a homebuyer from southern Ontario and a long-time North Bay resident are different, and recent years have highlighted this issue.

Between 2010 and 2020, the benchmark price of a North Bay home had hovered around $200,000. That all changed during the COVID-19 pandemic. “We’ve stayed at the same average price for like a decade, and while everywhere else in Ontario was going up and up,” says Diggles. “So I think that it only made sense once COVID hit and the buying frenzy began, they started to flood here and see how affordable our homes were, especially with the first-time buyer range.”

That created problems for some locals, who weren’t able to competitively bid against well-heeled out-of-town buyers who were other freed up to move because of remote work or took the pandemic as a time to change careers. “Once COVID happened, everybody just kind of fled here because they saw how cheap our waterfront was, our recreational properties, our acreage and then our in-town homes as well and rentals — income properties,” Diggles adds.

Adding to the demand were investors, who flocked to North Bay alongside regular homebuyers during the pandemic. Under lockdown, investors, like anyone else, weren’t able to go on vacation and many were also saving more money as social activities ground to a halt. “I had a lot of investors from Oakville, from Mississauga, from those areas, and they came and they bought a few properties over those years here, whereas something of equivalent value or ROI would’ve been like an $800,000 mortgage in their area,” Diggles says. One such investor bought three properties in Sturgeon Falls, each for between $350,000 and $400,000 — or about the value of a single detached home in Toronto.

While Diggles suspects the number of everyday out-of-town buyers purchasing North Bay property has calmed down in the post-pandemic era, strong investor demand persists. “We still have a good flooding of investors from the GTA,” she says. Having seen the period of price stagnation, the epic rise during the pandemic, and today’s more stable conditions, Diggles has no regrets about her decision to leave the Big Smoke in favour of the Gateway to the North when she did. “I’m younger and I’m able to afford way more assets to begin with earlier in life than if I was living in Toronto still,” she says. “I love living here.”



Josh Sherman

Wahi Writer

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