Choosing the right neighbourhood is one of the most important first steps to buying a house or condo. As you’re saving for your down payment you should be thinking about the various neighbourhoods you want to live in and doing plenty of research on each of them.
There are many factors to consider as you narrow down your choices. Make a list of the things that are most important to you and prepare a grading system that you can follow. Then spend a lot of time in these neighbourhoods and keep track of how you feel about your neighbourhood criteria. Grade them all, then take a hard look at your results. Making a decision will be easy from there.
Need help determining your neighbourhood criteria? Here are some tips to get your started.
Think about the various neighbourhoods you want to live in, and then think about what’s happening with the homes there. Are there countless new developments under construction that’s going to make the streets and sidewalks dirty and noisy?
Look for boards on vacant land or unoccupied buildings and read what they say. Proposed condo development or rezoning? If you’re cool with this, then great, but if you’re looking to move your family to an area with lots of play outside, this may be an indicator to look elsewhere.
But new construction may mean it’s an up-and-coming neighbourhood so getting in early may mean lower prices and greater appreciation. Don’t cross out neighbourhoods like these – they could mean more $$ in your future. A good example? King West & Dufferin – XO Condos is the first new development with more on the way.
Who Lives There?
It doesn’t matter if you live in a condo, townhouse or house, your neighbours are an important part of your living situation and should factor into choosing the right neighbourhood for you. If you plan to live in a condo building, you’re going to be sharing a bit of space with other residents – elevators, common areas like rooftops and even the garage areas. Visit the buildings you’re considering more than once. Hang out in the local coffee shop and ask around to see if you know anyone that knows anyone that lives there. You’ll want to be sure the building’s residents are likeminded and that the vibe is aligned with your way of living.
If you’re considering a townhouse or semi/detached house, visit the streets you like. Walk around on the weekends and chat with locals. Do you see children playing in the streets or at local parks? Are they the same age as your children? How close-knit are the neighbours? Do they have street parties and book clubs and look after each other’s pets, or do they keep to themselves? Think about which of these you prefer and find neighbours with likeminded thinking that will make you feel welcome and comfortable.
Access and Conveniences
One of the biggest factors in choosing the right neighbourhood is how much, or how little access you’ll have to all of the conveniences you’ll need on a daily and weekly basis. Look up the Walkscore of each neighbourhood you’re considering. Walkscore doesn’t just look at walkability, but also rates neighbourhoods with bike scores and transit scores too. If the TTC is how you get around, you’ll want to pay special attention to this one.
Other things to look for as you map out your favourite areas include:
- Grocery stores
- Farmer’s markets
- Convenience stores
- Take-Out spots
- Cafes and coffee shops
- Local pubs and bars
- Summer patios
- Spin studios and other fitness options
- Doctors office and walk-in clinics
- Boutiques and other shopping options
How Livable Are Toronto’s Best Neighbourhoods?
Besides your typical amenities mentioned above, you need to think about the other factors that make a neighbourhood livable. Something a lot of house hunters don’t consider is the positioning of homes or suites in condos, and how light is brought into your windows. Where does the sun rise and set, and how does the positioning of your home absorb that light? This will make a big difference if you’re condo faces West where the sunsets, or East where it rises.
If you’re relocating your family to a different neighbourhood, schools are likely at the top of your list for considerations. How far are the schools from your ideal house location? Which streets are dedicated to which schools? You’ll want to research the schools’ reputation – inquire about how involved the community parents are. Also think beyond grade schools and investigate secondary schools in the area as you may love your choice and never want to leave! Setting down roots where your children can grow well into their teen years would be ideal for any family living situation.
A few other things to also think about are places of worship, safety/crime incidents, green spaces, dog parks & pet friendliness. Anything that makes you smile throughout the day or gives you frustration in your current home should be added to your “things to consider” list.
Prices & Real Estate Health
One of the biggest factors in choosing the right neighbourhood that you don’t really have much control over is the pricing and overall real estate health of your top areas. Education is one of the most important things you can do for yourself here in order to make a confident decision. A good realtor that has a solid understanding of each area of the city can be a huge help here. Trends should be examined, and future considerations should be made.
You and your realtor should also be looking at the average prices in each of your top neighbourhoods. Compare houses and semis to condos and townhomes. Ask about pricing trends over the past few years and what the projections look like over the next year or two. Examine how long homes and condos take to sell and if they are going at, above or below the asking prices. These are all very important indications of buyer demand, and a good agent should be able to prepare you a spreadsheet with all of these details to review in an easy and digestible way.
If you’re thinking about purchasing your first house or condo, or are looking to upsize because of your growing family, make sure you have the right information about choosing the right neighbourhoods and what they each have to offer. Each part of the city is unique and fitting into the right place is the most important decision of your real estate experience.
Learn more about how we can help with our full 360-neighbourhood analysis by getting in touch today.