Getting a feel for the opportunities in your local real estate market
Choosing the Location
Let’s face it: everyone wants to buy homes in neighbourhoods with good schools, rising property values, and low crime rates. They also want to be close to work, friends, family, public transportation, and good recreation. Fortunately, Toronto is a city of neighbourhoods – great ones. There are so many distinct areas and pockets of the city that you are sure to find something to meet your lifestyle needs.
Dart board by maskarade
A home with everything you need, in the wrong locale, is probably not the right home for you. Here are some things to consider about your best place to live:
- Do you want to live right downtown in the city, further out, or in the suburbs?
- How easy will it be to get to work?
- How much will commuting cost?
- Where will your children go to school? How will they get there?
- Do you need a park or greenspace nearby for pets and/or children?
- How close would you like to be to family and friends?
- Do you want to be able to walk easily to shopping and conveniences?
- Do you mind being on a main artery or do you prefer a quiet dead-end street?
- Do you require mixed-use space (i.e. special zoning) for a home business?
- Is easy TTC access a necessity for you?
Many Torontonians are choosing to buy in neighbourhoods with ‘sustainable’ features – neighbourhoods that meet their needs, while protecting the environment. Instead of contributing to urban sprawl and encroaching on wild lands further and further away from the city core, homes in a sustainable neighbourhood are located very close to your daily destinations. That means less driving and more health benefits from walking and biking. Check out websites like www.walkscore.com to find out how close your target home is to all the amenities.
Toronto’s Neighbourhood Layout
Some of Toronto’s most desirable neighbourhoods are located in or near the downtown core – like Rosedale, the Annex and Cabbagetown. House prices in the ‘old’ City of Toronto are higher than in the rest of the GTA, but they are still very reasonable compared to similar sized American cities – and Canadian cosmopolitan centres like Vancouver.
Toronto is laid out on a grid and each arm of the compass has its own flavour. Downtown, beautifully restored Victorians rub elbows with gritty diners and famous landmarks. In the east end, bourgeois boutiques are nestled beside ethnic eateries. Though the west varies greatly from High Park to Little Italy, from gentrified to hip, there’s a definite ‘old money’ presence. North of Bloor, you’ll find homes that would be comfortable in the suburbs, yet are located conveniently close to thriving commerce and entertainment. In general, Toronto is an absolutely unique city and you may have already fallen in love with many of its neighbourhoods.
You already know a home in a desirable neighbourhood has greater market value than an identical home in a less attractive neighbourhood. But where a home is located on a particular street is also a very important factor in its value. For example, suppose you are buying a home and you have a choice between two very similar houses; one is in the middle of the block and the other is on a corner lot backing onto a busy street. The house in the middle will have a greater value. Not to mention the fact that a single family Toronto house in a purely residential area will retain its value better than a similar home nestled among apartments, condominiums, or businesses.
Tracking the Market
Here are some ways to find out about and track the real estate opportunities in the neighbourhood(s) you are interested in:
- Real estate websites like Realtor.ca (a.k.a. MLS)
- Large daily newspapers have a real estate section
- Local weekly papers (i.e. Guardian, Crier etc.) have a real estate section
- Drive through neighbourhoods to see what is for sale
- Ask friends & family who live in the area to keep you updated
Following the local real estate market should give you a good idea of the types and styles of properties for sale prevalent in your areas of interest, as well as average sale prices. When the time comes to look at homes in person, you will be that much closer to a smooth purchase because you’ll have realistic expectations.