Real Estate Sales Representative Michelle Lundy has lived in four Canadian provinces. She knows a thing or two about moving.
There are also a few things she wishes she’d known—especially when she was moving to a city she had no previous connection to. Without family or friends nearby, she had to rely on a realtor to get that honest insider info.
Where exactly does one start when trying to decide on the neighbourhood they want to live in?
“Obviously the neighbourhood that will appeal to buyers will largely be a matter of personal choice,” says Lundy. “It will be based on their own unique wants and needs, and affordability; it must fit into the buyer’s budget.”
The old adage is indeed true: location matters. But maybe not in the way you’d think. “Most people know location is the key to valuable real estate, but when choosing a neighbourhood, it’s important to make sure that it isn’t just desirable to you, but that it has objective qualities,” she says.
The reason for this is that you want to ensure your investment will appreciate in value over time. Buyers often think they’re purchasing their forever home, but life can be unpredictable. If you need to turn around and sell your home in five years, you want to make sure it will be easy to do.
That said, a really great neighbourhood will have a few key factors in common. Accessibility is huge. Most people want a home that is centrally located, though not on a busy street. They want to be close to the action, but not right in the thick of it. Esthetics are also important, so look for pride of ownership in the area. You want to buy where homes have curb appeal and homeowners invest in landscaping, signs that people are taking care of the neighbourhood.
If you’re on a strict budget, Lundy has a great tip. Look for homeowners adding on decks, changing siding or putting in new windows in an older neighbourhood, as it’s usually a sign that that neighbourhood is changing. It could mean that this is the new upcoming spot. “You might not be able to get into the neighbourhood you want on your budget right now, but if you can get in on the lower end of one that’s going to be the new, hot neighbourhood, those are the signs of revitalization to look out for,” she says.
You’ll also want to consider the amenities. A home that is close to schools and parks is highly sought after; if there are any stores nearby, even better. Grocery, pharmacy, it doesn’t really matter, if you are within a few minutes’ walking or driving distance, that’s what most buyers are after.
Try not to get so taken with a particular neighbourhood that you neglect the details. You’ll want to know that the taxes are affordable; new neighbourhoods are going to have higher taxes, Lundy warns.
As tempting as it is to think you’ve got all the information you need from a listing, only a realtor will know—and be able to explain—the different trends they’re seeing in a particular area. Whether an agent is experienced or new, they have access to all kinds of helpful statistics.
“We’re in a little bit of a different situation right now because we’re in a hot sellers’ market,” she explains. “When people are jumping on new homes, that’s where it’s important to get the advice of a Realtor®. They can tell you what’s actually happening. They know which areas will have good resale value later down the road.”
A good location creates desirability, desirability creates demand, and demand raises real estate prices. If you buy smart now, you’ll be in a good position later on when it comes time to sell. “It’s important to still have a little bit of foresight to look down the road so you can protect your investment,” she says.
A Realtor® will also know the demographics of an area and how quickly houses are selling. They know who is buying in a particular neighbourhood and can tell you, for example, where young professionals are purchasing or families with kids. They know which schools are more desirable.
A Real Estate Agent will also know about any new projects that are coming down the pipeline, for example, if a nearby retail or commercial space is in development. Maybe a tall apartment building is slated to rise right beside your property. Wouldn’t you rather know before you buy?
“Those are really important things because that’s really going to affect the value of your property down the road—and just your desirability. Where you might have had privacy, now there’s a big apartment building next door or some sort of industrial building, maybe there’s commercial property next door and you didn’t realize it. Those are important things to look at because things change,” says Lundy.
It helps if buyers understand the reason behind some of the time-worn advice we often hear.
“If you can buy on the lower end of an up-and-coming neighbourhood and you don’t buy the best house on the street, there’s room for the market to grow. You’ll have the space and the money to do renovations. Ideally, financially, that is the best way to do it,” she advises. “Buy low, sell high. Your investment is going to appreciate quite nicely over time.”
Even if you don’t ever plan on having kids, future buyers likely will. While you might have no need for neighbouring schools or green spaces, these are massive selling features that will draw people to your home.
And if you’re from out of town?
“Any good Realtor® is going to point out the pros and cons, especially for out-of-town buyers,” says Lundy. “It’s really important to share those details with them and for buyers to take it all in. You need to know what areas have real desirability and you can’t get that from just looking at a map.”