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A for sale sign outside townhouses in the Fairview neighbourhood of Vancouver, British Columbia, Monday, March 4, 2013.Rafal Gerszak/The Globe and Mail

The average first-time home buyer in Canada is 29 years old and expects to be able to put down a down payment of $48,000 on a $300,000 home, according to a recent poll by the Bank of Montreal.

But the study, released Tuesday, also found that price expectations vary widely, depending on where the home buyer lives.

Buyers in Atlantic Canada say they expect to spend the lowest in the country with an average of $202,000 on a first home, followed by Quebec with $224,000, Ontario with $326,000, British Columbia with $384,000 and Alberta with $406,000. The sample size used in the Prairies was too low to be included in the survey.

Meanwhile, the data also found Vancouver to be the most expensive city, with first-time home buyers there saying they plan to shell out an average of $443,000 for a home, followed by Toronto at $347,000.

BMO mortgage expert Laura Parsons says that as with any major purchase, it's important for people be realistic and prepared.

"What we tend to do is jump in the market when we're ready, instead of starting a plan now," she said from Calgary.

"Let's start getting ready for it so we can start giving you good advice all along the way. Don't be afraid to get things going."

And while a large down payment is impressive, it does not necessarily mean that young people are diligently saving for their first home. Instead, many may be getting help from their Baby Boomer parents or friends, said Ms. Parsons.

Forty-six per cent of those surveyed also they'll choose a fixed mortgage rate when they buy, against 20 per cent who will choose a variable rate.

The study also found that the average first-time home buyer plans on paying off the mortgage on their home within two decades, with 20 per cent anticipating they'll be mortgage-free even earlier than that.

Twenty-three per cent of those surveyed say they will still have a mortgage within 25 years; 16 per cent say within 20 to 24 years and 20 per cent say within 10 to 19 years.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, seven per cent say it'll take them more than 25 years to fully own their home, while three per cent say it'll take them between one year and nine years to pay it off.

The survey also found that 31 per cent concede they really don't know when they'll be able to stop making mortgage payments.

The Bank of Montreal report surveyed a random online sample of 2,000 Canadians between Feb. 25 to March 5.

The polling industry's professional body, the Marketing Research and Intelligence Association, says online surveys cannot be assigned a margin of error because they do not randomly sample the population.

Editor's note: An earlier online version of this story gave incorrect figures for house prices that first-time buyers expected to pay. This online version has been corrected.