As suburban sprawl creeps past the boundaries of the GTA and our urban centres become more densely populated, it’s no wonder that first-time buyers might consider looking further afield for their house hunt. Depending on your current living situation, you might scoff at this choice. Why opt to pay less to live in the suburbs and give up all the great things that downtown living has to offer?
Or perhaps you love the promise of a new suburban development, and the quiet of residential streets with limited traffic. For you, the suburban life is an ideal place to set down roots, raise a family and maybe even save money.
But for those of us stuck in the middle wondering what living situation is the right one, there’s a lot to consider when sorting through homes for sale. The pros and cons list will be up to you, but let us break down some of the basic misconceptions of life in the ‘burbs versus living close to the action of downtown.
- New vs. old
When it comes to where you should buy your first (or next) home, it’s important to consider what the value of that home will be five or even fifteen years down the road. It’s no secret that single-family homes in the suburbs tend to be more recent constructions than those in the downtown. Downtown dwellings can be newer developments, such as condos, but by and large the downtown single-family home has been passed down from one generation to the next, or a condo development is a repurposed building, such as a loft or a church.
That said, consider the allure of buying a new home in the suburbs, free from problems that older homes sometime have. No matter what you decide, hire an inspector to help sort out the details and make sure the home is free of any structural problems. These newer suburban homes also tend to be larger than their downtown counterpart, which is ideal if you’re thinking of starting a family, or have other dependents moving in with you.
- More amenities in the downtown? Think again
What springs to mind when you picture living downtown? Probably shopping, top-notch restaurants and a night out. Basically, all the things a young urban professional would need, emphasis on the young. If you decide to raise a family or set down roots and buy a place (or both) these priorities might shift and look a little something like this: grocery stores, good schools and parks. While you will find these things downtown (and plenty of them!), there’s one thing that’s harder to find in the city, and that’s space. Factor in the competition to get a two or three bedroom unit, and the suburbs might start looking more appealing.
When it comes to amenities, you’ll find them no matter where you live. What it comes down to is the kind of amenities you want for your lifestyle. And you’ll find the restaurants and shopping you crave from the downtown in the ‘burbs, especially as city centres in the GTA densify. Take the Transit City condo development in Vaughan, or developments in Markham. These planned communities combine the urban density of the downtown with the amenities of the suburbs.
- Parks vs. parkettes
One thing that suburban dwellers love is having a backyard, and who could blame them. You don’t get nearly as much (or any) green space living in a condo, aside from a parkette nearby. But don’t forget: Toronto is a city of parks, and the greenery you want is closer than you’d think.
The forks of the Don River, the Humber River and the waterfront are home to several parks and ravines with ample sports facilities, children’s playgrounds and hiking trails. And the city does a great job of making sure they’re in great condition to enjoy all year round.
The benefit of having a backyard, however, is the privacy. Hosting summer BBQs and birthday parties are less of a hassle if it’s your own space. However, plenty of parks in the city’s downtown have fire pits and other amenities to make your next warm-weather get-together a memorable one. More and more, planned developments in the city incorporate green space to provide residents with space for outdoor activities and accommodate space for young families.
Whatever you chose, make sure you consult with a professional real estate agent who can assess your needs and find the home that’s right for you. Agents at TheRedPin are experts in different neighbourhoods all over the GTA, and can help you find your dream home or condo.