Real Estate Q+A: How to Pick the Right Neighbourhood in Toronto

Street SignsBuying a property can be a tricky thing, whether it’s a high-rise condominium, a freehold home or a townhouse there are so many decisions to make, not to mention the emotional aspect of the purchase. Working with buyers, I find that many concentrate more on the specific home and don’t look enough into the neighborhood other than what they have heard from friends.  Home inspections are always advised when purchasing a home but we don’t stop to look at what amenties are included or in walking distance of the house. Not all neighbourhoods suite everyone, and although you may not care whether or not you’re in walking distance to a park, it’s always advised to consider certain advantages or disadvantages of a neighbourhood for its resale value. You want to know that you’ve made a good investment, of course. Here are a few aspects that I recommend for my clients to consider when looking to make a purchase.

High SchoolSchool Ratings

If you have children, schools are very important to consider when purchasing your next home.  A good school not only provides for healthy foundation for our next generation, it’s also a sure sign for future demand for real estate in the area.  This approach will hold true for single and multi-family homes.  If you’re considering buying a home with a rental potential or an investment property like a condominium, consider the distance to the nearest post-secondary institutions. Students will often look for rentals walking distance to their school. Some of the resources that will provide information on the schools in the area include the Fraser Institute website, the Toronto District School Board website as well as Yelp for less formal reviews by members.

College StreetLocal Businesses and Services

Great local businesses are a good sign of a healthy neighborhood that will help your property grow in value over the course of time.  There are some simple ways to see how a neighborhood is doing starting with driving through the neighbourhood. If you see a noticeably large number of For Lease or For Sale signs, that’s not a sign of a thriving neighbourhood. Also, sometimes the neighbourhood during the day is not necessarily the same neighbourhood at night, so I recommend driving through at night time and check out the vibe. If there are many bars and restaurants around, it might not be the kind of energy you’re looking to be around…or maybe it is. Either way, always good to check the vibe when the sun goes down. If you’re a first time buyer that is looking to get into a neighbourhood that is considered up-and-coming, it may not be as lively and picturesque as the established neighbourhoods, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not a great choice for you. Look at what businesses and services are around. Many up-and-coming neighbourhoods host small, trendy restaurants, an independent coffee shop, as well as a design furniture store or two, so look for those. If you prefer to leave the car and home and walk to the local grocery store, park or your favourite pub, WalkScore is an excellent tool for learning what’s available in the neighbourhood at what distance. This aspect of a neighbourhood is becoming an important selling point, in fact many real estate listing have the WalkScore available on the MLS listing.

LeslievilleNew Development

A great source of appreciations for properties are investments made in the area by developers with new condos and freehold homes.  This results in a rise in population and density resulting in more sales for local businesses.  Another aspect is people tend to remain close to where they live when they sell. It’s been said that sellers tend to move within 3 kilometer radius to where they are selling so we can see a huge market opening with first time buyers purchasing smaller condos who will be progressing to purchasing homes in the neighborhood. If you’re that first time buyer, a low-rise condo in a neighbourhood with predominantly freehold homes is a great option. There is high demand for condos in these type of neighbourhoods, i.e. Queen West, Little Portugal or Roncesvalles, so when it comes to sell it you’ll have an advantage over other condo buildings in the city.

New StreetcarInfrastructure Investments

A vital part of appeal to a neighborhood is it’s access to the city centre including access to public transportation. A property located close to the subway or LRT tends to appreciate more in value than properties located further away.  Numbers suggest that the best place to purchase a property is within 400 meters of a transit stop.  REIN Canada is a leading authority on the topic of investing in undervalued areas and relies heavily on data collected based on infrastructure development. Transportation in general is a great predictor including roads and bridges being built to help the flow of traffic.  Regent Park is a development that comes to mind where an area in downtown Toronto is being revitalized with new development and better access with through roads to help reduce dead ends which will result in better flow and appreciation.

Some of these may seem obvious to you, some may not. In my experience, when clients are looking at properties and are enchanted by the interior of a newly renovated  house – wide-plank hardwood floors, black-framed french doors and Sub Zero/Wolf appliances, sometimes these things take a back seat. At the end of the day, it’s those things that help sell the property and resale value should always work to your advantage.

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