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More than 40% of prospective first-time homebuyers think now is a good time to buy, according to a survey commissioned by BMO Financial Group.

Respondents in Alberta and the Prairies were the most optimistic — 60% said now is the time to buy, compared to only 33% of respondents in Ontario and British Columbia.

The survey found that Covid-19 has led to many first-time buyers casting a wider net in their search for a new home. Twenty-nine percent of respondents said they were now looking at homes in the suburbs and rural areas, rather than homes in major cities.

With more people working from home, some first-time buyers are looking for more space. Twenty-five percent of respondents said they were moving their search from a condo or townhouse to a detached home.

But Covid-19 has also made it harder for many to afford a home. Approximately half of respondents said they had to tap into their down payment savings to cover unexpected costs during the pandemic.

A quarter of respondents said they’re now looking at taking on a larger mortgage. Respondents in Ontario and B.C. were the most likely to take on large mortgages — 30% and 26%, respectively.

Almost one-fifth (19%) of prospective first-time buyers said they were already pre-approved for a mortgage. Half of respondents said they intended to obtain pre-approval.

BMO commissioned Pollara Strategic Insights to conduct an online poll of 801 prospective first-time homebuyers across Canada between Aug. 25–31, 2020. Online polls cannot be assigned a margin of error because they do not randomly sample the population.