9 tips for choosing a neighbourhood when buying a home

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When you’re looking to buy a home, there are a wide range of details to consider and one of the most important is the neighbourhood you want to live in. There are lots of features that can make a neighbourhood the right choice for you (and your family) and it’s worth knowing what to look for so you can make an educated choice. With that in mind, here are nine tips for choosing a neighbourhood when buying a home

Assess the schools

If you have kids, this is probably obvious. You want to know what the schools are like in the neighbourhood so your children can get the kind of education that you want for them.

However, even without kids, it is still worth checking out the local schools. Decent schools tend to increase property values as parents gravitate towards them when choosing where to live. Focusing on the quality of schools can therefore help to give you an idea of whether your home’s value and selling appeal will strengthen while you live there. In this regard, schools on an upward trajectory may be of particular interest as they won’t have had as big an impact on the price yet but could well do in the future if they continue to improve.  Keep an eye out for specialised schools like arts schools, language-immersion schools and renowned private schools – these can all add to the value of a particular neighbourhood.

Look for parks and ravines and other green spaces

These go hand in hand because they have similarly beneficial effects. They both give a pleasant look to a neighbourhood, offer places to relax and sit, add character, and can help to make the air better. Parks in particular are a focal point for a community, offering a place for people to meet, play, meander, and get some exercise. It is an important point to consider because you want to have some natural spaces in your neighbourhood and being close to them can really enhance the value of your home.

Listen for noise

We all have different tolerance levels when it comes to noise but, generally speaking, a quieter neighbourhood will be considered better by most people (although this is a relative measure because, obviously, neighbourhoods in urban areas and busy cities are going to have at least some level of regular noise). It’s clear to see why. When you’re sat in your garden or lying in bed, you probably don’t want a constant roar of traffic or some other loud noises. Take your time to sit in a prospective neighbourhood and assess the noise levels. Are they tolerable? Would you mind listening to that noise each and every day? Can you sleep with that noise? If the answer is yes to each of those questions, the neighbourhood might be a good one for you.  One also has to be realistic; choosing an urban area to live will require some tolerance of noise.  It is part of everyday city life and demanding a quiet residence in a busy neighbourhood may not be feasible.

Check the proportion of homeowners

If you are working with a registered real estate agent, they will have access to information about the demographics of a neighbourhood and the number of homeowners in the area might be of particular interest. For any particular area in the GTA, your agent can try to determine how many homes are occupied by owners and how many are occupied by renters. When choosing a neighbourhood, you may want to select one with a higher proportion of homeowners living there. This is because homeowners are literally invested in the area, so they tend to take better care of their property and the surrounding areas. Of course, there are decent renters, who may also take good care of their homes, but the chances are higher with homeowners and that is likely to give the neighbourhood a better appearance, which in turn will retain home values.

Analyse the commute time

Considered to be one of the most important factors in selecting a place to live, the daily commute has become a major talking point as Toronto and the GTA continue to expand and grow. If you head out to work on a regular basis, you don’t want to discover that your new commute is unbearable. Fortunately, there’s a simple way to check this: try travelling from the neighbourhood to your work and then back again to see how long it takes. Better still, try the journeys at rush hour – or whenever it is you will be using that route – to see whether the commute is manageable for you. Remember, you’re going to be doing this day in, day out for potentially a long time, so you need to be sure that this is a commute that you are going to be happy with as it can have a notable effect on your quality of life.  Having said that; depending on your line of work, you may find your job can change a lot easier than your home.  If you find a neighbourhood to love, but the commute doesn’t work, changing employers may be a worthwhile endeavour to consider.

Ride the local public transit

Even if you don’t need to use straight away, it is worth keeping this in mind. Good public transit will come in handy if you are ever without your car and will also help to keep property prices strong as it is a much sought-after factor for many people.

Calculate the property taxes

If you are moving within a neighbourhood or municipality, you likely already know roughly what you will be paying in property tax each year. However, if you are looking at moving to a new neighbourhood in a different municipality, you need to check carefully as not all municipalities are equal when it comes to taxes. You can usually check yourself by contacting the municipality, or your real estate agent will be able to get the information for how much you will pay. This may not sound like a big concern but it could well prove to be a tie breaker when choosing a new neighbourhood.  Keep in mind that property taxes are based on value assessment which is done every 4 years.  You can learn more about how property taxes are assessed by visiting the MPAC website.

Find out about local development

Take a look around the neighbourhood to see what kind of development is taking place. If there are lots of new homes being built, it is a sign that the area is increasing in popularity and there is potential for property prices to increase substantially.

Similarly, if there are many homes that are being torn down and rebuilt, it could be a sign that the neighbourhood has the potential for higher property prices and the arrival of buyers with more purchasing power. Of course, it also leaves the potential that there will be building work on your street and you have to decide whether that is something that you would mind living with temporarily.

Investigate the amenities

A neighbourhood is often only as good as its amenities. This includes local stores, restaurants, services, community centres, theatres, and even things like trails and bike paths. When assessing a potential new neighbourhood, take a walk around and see what is within easy reach. Does it have the things that you need? If not, what compromises are you prepared to make? You want the services and amenities you consider essential to be in easy reach. If they’re not, maybe you might want to choose a different neighbourhood.

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