Moving to the suburbs
It often seems like everyone wants to live in the core. In Kitchener-Waterloo that would include Uptown Waterloo, the Mary-Allen Neighbourhood and the East Ward as the BIG 3 neighbourhoods but could extend to include essentially everything bordered generally by University – Westmount – Ottawa and Weber — the core. That’s a big area that has lots of different personalities.
In the whole scheme of things, in the big picture I would guess that these neighbourhoods, or even this geographic block makes up fewer than 25% of Kitchener-Waterloo’s annual real estate sales. There are simply more homes sold in the so-called suburbs be those close by like Beechwood and Laurentian or far flung like Vista Hills and Doon.
Clearly people move to the suburbs for many good reasons and at many stages of life. The suburbs, contrary to popular belief, are alive and well, and for good reason. They offer young families and others a lot of “home” for their money. When people are considering schools, yards, garages and things associated with family homes, Laurelwood, Colonial Acres and Clair Hills come to mind. For me, I always say that neighbourhoods are much more important than houses. So as you transition from the city to the suburbs let’s avoid some common mistakes.
Although the similarities of different suburbs are fairly obvious, the differences are obvious too if you pay attention. Everyone focuses on:
- Schools, parks and green space
- Shopping and amenities
- Traffic: roadways and suburban streets
Focussing on these things is a perfect way to start. But then try to get down to a granular level.
- What will the drive into the neighbourhood be like? What will the commute be like?
- How far do the kids have to get to school? Do they have to cross any major roads?
- Is the shopping on the way home from work? Is there a favourite pizza place to stop by?
You get the idea. You want the right neighbourhood, but you also want to be in the right part of the right neighbourhood.
Schools, schools, schools
Many parents want to buy a house not only in a good school zone, but in the #1 school zone. I think this is a mistake. With more than 30 schools in Waterloo Region, saying 29 of them are not good enough for little Johnny is pretty limiting. Broaden your perspective. I don’t think there is much difference between the #1 school and the #5 school in the region. Instead of focusing on school rankings alone maybe research class sizes, what percentage of the kids are bussed in, or if any of the schools have programs (music, arts, sports…) more attuned to your children.
Getting to and from work is important. Anything longer than a 40-minute commute for many people is too long. A couple of decades ago, before I became a Realtor, I worked both just inside Mississauga (on Credit Valley Road) and then in downtown Guelph. My commute to Mississauga was marginally longer in terms of time but much much worse in terms of traffic and stress. When you think about your commute to work, be it down Park Street or up the Conestoga Parkway remember that there is more to the commute than the time it takes.
I talk a lot about neighbourhoods on this blog. They are the most important thing about buying a home. I hope this post helps you drill down a little deeper into this truth