Real Estate Makes B.C. Families Canada’s Wealthiest

It may come as no surprise that British Columbia families are the richest in Canada—on paper at least—thanks to the value of real estate. But we also owe more than anybody else

British Columbians may not believe it by looking at their bank accounts, but we have the highest average net worth in the country, according to newly released Statistics Canada data.
The net worth of the average family unit in B.C.—the sum of all assets minus debts—was $691,300 in 2012, according to Stats Can’s latest Survey of Financial Security. That easily beats Alberta, the second wealthiest province, where the average family clocked in at a value of $615,100, and is well above the Canadian average of $554,100. Saskatchewan placed third in family net worth at $607,100, with Ontario recording the fourth-wealthiest family value at $575,700.
B.C.’s country-leading wealth is largely due to the value of real estate in this province, where the average value of the family home was $535,400 in 2012, compared top the Canadian average of $357,200.
Those B.C. residents with debts also owe more than anyone else, with the average indebted family owing $175,300, compared to the Canadian average of $129,000. For those families holding mortgages, the average mortgage debt in B.C. was also the highest in the country, at $279,700, compared to the Canadian average of $192,500. New Brunswick was the thriftiest province, with the average indebted family owing just $70,000.
While few would complain about having a high net worth, it’s not the best measure of the health of the B.C. economy, Pastrick says. “Other measures suggest we aren’t perhaps as well off,” he says, adding the the net worth survey “is just a snapshot in time.”
Canada’s net worth increasing
Statistics Canada’s Survey of Financial Security also shows the median net worth of Canadian family units increased 44.5 per cent from 2005 and 80 per cent from 1999.
An increase in home ownership across the country is behind the rise, notes TD Bank in its summary of the survey. The value of homes increased 52 per cent from 2005 to 2012 and the average price of a home rose 45 per cent, economist Leslie Preston says in a note. “Still, that is not to say other assets didn’t also make gains,” she adds.

Preston points out that the percentage of Canadian families who list a principal residence as an asset is inching higher, to 62.5 per cent in 2012 up from 59.6 per cent.
“Interestingly other real estate assets such as cottages and rental properties also posted a sizeable 70-per-cent increase,” over the same period, she says.
About 20 per cent of Canadian families owned a second piece of real estate in 2012, up 2 per cent from 1999.

Not including real estate, the biggest increase in assets came from private pensions, including  employer pension plans, RRSPs and RRIPs and driven by an aging population. Preston notes that pensions represent about 30 per cent of total family assets in Canada.