Good to great neighbourhoods for investor/buyers


What Kitchener Waterloo neighbourhoods are good to live and invest in?

I wrote earlier that there are three kinds of real estate investors:

1) Flippers

2) Improvers and

3) Key-turners

But there is also a fourth.

4) The fourth kind of real estate investor is everyone else.


The fourth kind of real estate investor

It used to be that buying a house was a place to live, a place to raise a family. If the place had three bedrooms and a garage then maybe the buyer would consider, “Does it have a fenced yard for the dog?” or “Is the basement finished?”.  If the house was in a suburb, that was enough. It did not have to be close to shopping. We did not know how the schools were doing. About schools, we thought that they were all under the same board so they must be pretty much the same. Homebuyers were much less discerning in the old days. And, information was harder to come by.

All that was a generation or two ago.

Further, houses were not really considered to be investments back then. Now, they have become so expensive and are going up at such a fast rate, now real estate is in the news all the time and there are tv shows, radio advertisements and full colour glossy magazines about houses, homes, condos, townhouses and agent and brokerages. Real estate and how we feel about it has changed.

I work with lots of first time home buyers who look at real estate as both an investment and a place to live. They are the fourth kind of investor. They want a mortgage payer component to the place. They want an in-law suite, a granny flat, they want a duplex or they want a condo apartment unit that has enough space to share with a roommate.

The fourth kind of real estate investor is a subgroup of the three main groups so many of the neighbourhoods and areas that appeal to the real estate investors also will appeal to them.


Mary-Allen neighbourhood

Yesterday was freezing rain. It was also a Thursday before the Easter holiday weekend. At 3:30 I visited a home in the Mary-Allen neighbourhood that had been listed in the morning. My clients and I were the 5th group through and I supposed that there would be another five groups through before the end of the day. I’m sure that house will have sold before you read this post. It is not a perfect house. Those are rare. But is has many of the elements of a perfect house.

The house has large windows. It was nicely updated. Open concept. Great appliances. It has elegant curb appeal. High ceilings. When I tour houses with clients, I always ask myself, would I like to live here. In this case, the answer was yes.

Neighbourhoods are more important than houses. I always say that you can change your house, but you can’t change your neighbourhood. The holy trinity for a good neighbourhood are

1) school/neighbourhood (look and feel)

2) transit/transportation systems

3) shopping/night life/amenities

You don’t need all three. You only really need one. There are quite a few neighbourhoods that don’t have any.

This house mentioned above in the Mary-Allen neighbourhood was very close to an LRT stop (at Pine Street). It is also walking distance to grocery shopping (at Central Fresh Mart) and nightlife in Uptown Waterloo. It is also an improving neighbourhood, an appreciating neighbourhood. If you are looking for an appreciating neighbourhood, I think it is a safe bet to say that all neighbourhoods close to the LRT will appreciate at a better than average rate.


Another example – the Northfield neighbourhood

The neighbourhood near where Weber crosses Northfields has all the important influences for good real estate:

1) Near shopping (Conestoga Mall, Sobey’s, St Jacobs Weekend Market),

2) Transportation (Conestoga Parkway, LRT),

3) Nice mature neighbourhood with tree lined streets, houses on large lots, good schools, near amenities like library and recreation centre.

I think this is an appreciating neighbourhood too.


What’s most important?

There are, of course, several other good to great neighbourhoods. There are more ‘good’ ones than ‘bad’ ones depending on the buyer/investor’s lifestyle and real estate goals. I could analyze and describe a few more neighbourhoods in detail and rank them, but buyer/investors are like kinds of dogs or types of cheeses – there are so many and they are as different as they are alike, finding the right place is really a case by case process.

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