Originally, the concept of suburbia was to create a place of community and safety. People moved their families out of the city so that their children would be safe from crime, drug problems, and so that they could be brought up somewhere where everyone knew their neighbors, and where there was a real sense of community.
However, times have changed. Suburban areas are no longer immune to these kinds of problems – a day doesn’t go by where we don’t hear about shootings and other crimes going on in suburbs of any major city. The community element has changed too. People know their neighbors, but many people work long hours in the city, and spend most of their evenings gridlocked in the daily commute, leaving little time for socializing. And I’m not even touching on the effect that rising gas prices have had on the suburban lifestyle, because there's enough material there for another ten blog posts!
An article in last week’s Globe and Mail Newspaper looked at the growing number of families who are moving from large suburban houses to smaller places in the city. This is becoming a widespread trend all over the world. The families mentioned in the article citied a range of reasons for leaving their suburban houses, including shorter commuting times, more activities for their children, exposure to a more diverse mix of cultures, and close proximity to restaurants, shops and bars.
However, there are a number of plus points to staying in suburbia. If you work from home, it can have many advantages. There are lots of community events and groups, and if you’re not spending your evenings gridlocked somewhere on the 401, then you have the opportunity to really get to know your community. Also, even though crime is rising in the suburbs it very rarely compares to the city, so your kids are still safer in suburbia. Not just that, you get much more space, in terms of indoor square footage, and outdoor acreage, which is tempting when looking at a new home.
It’s an interesting situation. Do you sacrifice the space and tranquility of the suburbs for being five seconds walk from your nearest Starbucks? It’s a hard one. As an ex-English major, I love a good compare/contrast piece, so I had a look at the prices in Bloor West Village (a community in Downtown Toronto) and Caledon, Ontario, a town which is part of the GTA (Greater Toronto Area). I chose these places because they were examples given in the article, and also they are both desirable ‘luxury’ areas of the GTA. I looked at detached houses on MLS.ca priced between $650,000 and $800,000 (average spend for a single detached family house in Bloor West Village seems to be in the high $500,000s) in both areas, and then looked at what you could get for a cool million. The differences were very interesting, although not entirely unexpected:
In Caledon, $650,000 buys you a three bedroom, four bathroom, two storey detached house, with a saltwater pool in the back yard, and a games room. Said back yard? About five acres
For just over $650,000 you can get a five bed, five bath detached Victorian/Heritage house, which includes a suite to rent out, and has a range of period features, such as vaulted ceilings
For just over a million You can get a four bed, 2.5 bath Victorian house set on 25 acres. Unique features include a stone fireplace, and your own private waterfall(!)
For just under $1,100,000 you can get a hundred acres of land – and a six bedroom, six bathroom house with a workshop and heated stone floors
Toronto (Bloor West Village)
For over $650,000, you can get a four bedroom, two bathroom detached house with features such as a finished basement, and a renovated kitchen
For over $650,000, There is a work/live house which has two offices, one bedroom and three bathrooms. Features include a ‘loft like’ setting, and a renovated basement with a separate entrance
For just over a million you can get a three bed, three bath detached property, with a landscaped yard
For just under $1,100,000 you can get a five bed, five bath ‘Georgian-style’ house with a family rec room, and a nanny suite(!)
While the differences do not seem that monumental, it is worth noting that MLS doesn’t list the acreage on the Toronto properties, which indicates that you get little to no land.
To sum up, it depends entirely on your lifestyle, and how much you have to spend. If you can spend upwards of $600,000, then in either place, you’ll be living in a beautiful and quality house. However, the difference will be the space inside and outside – if you want all the conveniences of living in the city, you have to give up the space and privacy that comes with living in a small town. Granted, the lower costs to keep up a smaller place, plus the lack (or reduced use) of a car, will save you money, but the cost of groceries and house maintenance is much more expensive in the city, compared to a small suburban town.
The views expressed on the blog portion of this site represent only the opinions of the author and may not necessarily be the opinions of Realestock.com
Are you thinking of moving to the city? Or have you already done it? Let us know by posting below!