The Scott Brothers Q&A: How to decide WHERE to buy a house in Canada

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In this limited series, our investors and Canadian real estate industry experts—the Scott Brothers, answer Canada’s most burning real estate questions, which can help you buy, move, and sell with more confidence and less stress. 

How do you decide where to buy a house?

Are you dreaming of buying a new home? If so, you might be imagining your dream home’s curb appeal, layout,  square footage, or slick interior features and finishes. But have you taken a moment to think about how to decide on location?

But is location more important than the house? 

With the recent rise in remote work over the past few years — and the rise in home prices across Canada — you may have noticed that quite a few buyers expanded their geographical horizons in order to find a space that best suited their needs while spending longer stints at home.

And this isn’t an easy decision to make! Moving to a net-new neighbourhood warrants some serious thought and consideration around: 

  • Budget 
  • Lifestyle 
  • Schools
  • Amenities 
  • Weather 
  • Development
  • Safety

We asked Drew and Jonathan Scott for a handy list of 6 questions you should ask yourself before calling a house—and a location—your next home.

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Question #1. What’s your budget? 

Drew: If you’re buying a new home, budget is always top of mind. You may be familiar with the usual associated costs, including saving for a down payment, closing costs, legal fees, and securing a mortgage — but what happens once you’ve moved in? 

The location of your next home could have an impact on your financial future, so forecasting based on locale is key to being prepared. For instance, if you’re moving further away from work, will the cost of your commute change? Will you be driving more — or less? Will you need to pay for parking? What about the impact on other members of your family? If you’re willing to drive a little farther to the hockey rink for practice, great! If not, you might need to reconsider that new neighbourhood you’ve had your eye on. 

Moving to a new city can also impact your overall cost of living, depending on where you end up. While moving to a more rural area might offer a bit of a break on the price of your home, the cost of everyday household items could also be higher. Think about this minutia ahead of time, and you’ll have no surprises on the money front.

Tip: Confirm the monthly and yearly carrying costs of owning your new home, too.  Consider costs like property taxes, utilities, and maintenance costs, which can vary depending on your location and access to municipal services. 

You might like: 5 costs to know about before buying a home: An expense checklist

Question #2. What are your ideal neighbourhood amenities?

Jonathan: When you’re house hunting, take stock of your lifestyle and where you like to spend your time, as well as the conveniences your new neighbourhood might offer. Keep an eye peeled for access to your top amenities (cozy local coffee shop, anyone?), and your proximity to the people and places that are important to you. 

It’s a good idea to make a list and rank these things in order of importance. For some of us, a great neighbourhood will have easy access to waterfronts, trails, and green space, while for others, great restaurants and patios to enjoy under the stars take the top spots. Getting clear on what you’re looking for before making a commitment will save you the headache of ending up in a place that feels less than perfect in the long run. 

If you’re sure you want to change neighbourhoods, don’t forget to research all the great spots, features, and activities a neighbourhood has to offer: they can play a huge part in bolstering the feeling of community, belonging and satisfaction. 

This Happiness Index report can help: it ranks the happiest neighbourhoods in Toronto and Vancouver based on the characteristics that give its residents the most joy, and which can improve your quality of life. Turns out that having easy access to these categories in your neighbourhood can actually make you happier:

  • Outdoor space 
  • Food & Drink 
  • Childcare/Schools 
  • Recreation 
  • Community 

Before making the big move, be sure to spend some time exploring what your next neighbourhood has to offer. If you feel at home, it might be the right spot for you! 

Tip: Don’t forget to consider your plans for the years ahead. If you’re hoping to stay in your new home for the next 5 or 10 years, plan for those years, too. That brings us to our next point: school districts. 

Question #3. How important is a good school district? 

Drew: If you have children or are hoping to start a family in your new home, you may want to research the school districts in your preferred area before making a move. 

Search online to find the schools’ ranking, such as their Education Quality and Accountability Office ranking, which assesses how well Ontario’s public school system is helping students develop their reading, writing and math skills. Or, you can review the school’s Fraser Institute’s ranking - another trustworthy source of information for parents in British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, and Quebec.

You can also ask your real estate agent for support. They’ll know where to find the most up-to-date information and can help you navigate which neighbourhoods are home to top-notch schools.

Tip: Whether you have kids or not, researching the local public schools in your desired neighbourhood is a great way to get an overall sense of the area and the future value of your home. A reputable school can help to boost value in the long run – and attract potential buyers when you’re ready to sell. 

Question #4. How’s the weather?

Jonathan: Do you enjoy skiing or snowboarding in the winter? Or hot summer days at the beach? If you’re thinking about moving to a new location that is a significant distance away — like across the country, for example — don’t forget to take a peek at precipitation.

Weather can have a big impact on your mood and the activities you can enjoy across the seasons. Giving up your favourite hobbies to move to a new home might not be the best decision for your long-term happiness. Or, if you’re looking for something different, a change in weather might inspire you to try something new (who knows, maybe you’re a natural-born kite surfer!). Whichever way you decide to go, thinking ahead can be a big help.

It’s also important to note that the weather will also determine the type of maintenance you need to do around the house. For example: shovelling snow in the winter and caring for a lawn and gardens in the spring and summer. If outdoor yard work isn’t up your alley, you may want to opt for a lower maintenance option like a condo or townhome, regardless of the weather patterns.

Question #5. Is the neighbourhood developed?

Drew: Cities, towns, and neighbourhoods are constantly changing, particularly if you’re purchasing near the outskirts of town or in a new subdivision. For some, this is an exciting time to buy, but for others, the disruption of constant construction may not be worth it.  

Before putting in an offer, also investigate whether the area you’re looking in has plans to build new amenities in the neighbourhood, such as new schools, hospitals, and public transportation. If new construction is planned for the near future, you can decide what will be best for you and your family in terms of committing to the area now or revisiting once construction is complete.  

While developments are likely to be a huge bonus in the long run — including an increase in your property value — the necessary noise and construction can be disruptive while you’re living through it, so don’t shy away from looking elsewhere if that’s what you think is best.  

Question #6. How much safety does the neighbourhood provide? 

Drew: The neighbourhood that you’ll be happiest in will depend largely on personal preference – and some of the factors discussed above – but one thing that we can all agree on is that we hope to live in a place that is a safe space for us, our family, and our friends. 

Safety can mean different things for different people, such as accessibility for people with disabilities, support for the elderly, affordable childcare, a safe and supportive place for the LGBTQ2S+ community to thrive in, and so much more. If it’s important to you, researching in advance can help you decide if you’ll feel comfortable there. 

The ideal location for a future home is a safe space to build connections with your nearby neighbours and your larger community, for years to come. 

Location, location, location! 

The bottom line? There’s a lot to consider when house-hunting! But weighing all the elements will make it easier to find the perfect home – and location. 

In addition to the above, start thinking about these 9 key factors to consider during the home buying process, too:

  • Purchase price 
  • Physical features
  • Location 
  • Home type 
  • Age of property 
  • Space inside 
  • Space outside
  • Home maintenance costs 

When you’re ready to commit to the perfect new neighbourhood, you can start your home search here. Properly’s experts are here to help! You can get an idea of what your current home is worth or schedule a call with the Properly team to answer any questions you have about the home buying process.

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DISCLAIMER: This article is provided for informational purposes only. It is not an exhaustive review of this topic. The content is not financial or investment advice. No professional relationship of any kind is formed between you and Properly, Properly Brokerage, or Properly Homes. While we have obtained or compiled this information from sources we believe to be reliable, we cannot and do not guarantee its accuracy. We recommend that you consult a trusted professional before taking any action related to this information. Properly is a tech-enabled real estate brokerage that is transforming the home buying and selling experience with AI-powered home valuations and a modern streamlined service. We recommend that you compare and contrast your options, read the fine print, and conduct detailed research into any real estate, loan, and/or investment provider before using their services.
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