The City Search | How to Choose Where to Live

Posted by under Ask the Pros

Most homebuyers will know what city they want to live in. Family, friends, careers—there are a ton of factors that typically dictate where to live.

However, there are a growing number of people who commute into work, especially in large cities like Toronto that have a number of smaller cities surrounding it. Do you choose Barrie or Hamilton? Brampton or Oshawa? What do you base your decision on?

Here are a few tips to help make your choice a little easier.

Go to the grocery store

The people in a neighbourhood and a city make all the difference in liking or loathing your new living situation. The best place to see the kinds of people that would live near you is the grocery store. Grocery stores are situated in the centres of communities to support the community, so the people you see there will be your neighbours.

Without being unnecessarily judgmental, are these people who share your values, that you could envision having as acquaintances and friends? Your community will introduce you to a number of unforeseen people—from babysitters to your child’s best friend. While any area is going to be diverse in some way, the bread aisle is the best place to get a sense of your ability to belong to this neighbourhood.

Take the commute during commuting hours

If you’re able to, commute to and from the area on a workday. Get up bright and early, get to your proposed neighbourhood, then commute how you would, when you would. There’s a chance the drive or train is a lot longer than you’d anticipated, simply due to distance or consistent traffic and delays.

Drive around the city

If you don’t know much about the cities you’re choosing from, hop in the car and drive around. Note the parks, facilities, businesses—anything you’d use on a regular (or even annual) basis. While the grocery store will give you a sense of the people, just exploring on your own will give you a sense of the locale. Is it busier than you expected? Not as much pedestrian traffic? Do coffee shops and stores close early? Consider anything that could give you pause or make you excited.

Make a pros and cons list

While doing all of the above, keep a list of pros and cons. Empirical evidence will give you something concrete to base your decision on, hopefully making your feel better about choosing one city over another.

But make sure you’re only weighing things that matter to your way of life. The fact that there’s an organic food store around the corner could be a benefit, but if you are a junk food addict, that store may never be visited, so it shouldn’t play into your decision at all.

That said, if you’re planning to have children but don’t already, considering nearby daycares and other facilities for children is fine, since it will affect your life in the future.

Speak with people you know and trust

If you have friends or family who live in these cities, ask them meaningful questions:

  • Why did you move here?
  • What keeps you here?
  • What are the worst things about living here?
  • Would you move if you could?

The important thing is that you could useful information. Don’t just ask “Do you like it here?” because that leads to a one-word, unsatisfying answer.

Speak with your agent

We say this all the time, but agents specialize in cities. If your agent doesn’t know a certain locale, they’ll put you in touch with someone who does. That’s their job.

Unsplash: Sylwia Bartyzel

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