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The Math on Moving West

Homeownership – for many it seems like an unattainable dream these days. Discussions about real estate among young people under 30 usually focus on how unaffordable home ownership is. Conversations with people between the ages of 30-45 usually centre around how they will never be able to move to a larger house to accommodate their growing families. This is particularly true for those living in the GTA, especially Toronto. House prices have risen exponentially over the last three years, while incomes seem to have stagnated. Accompanied with sky-high rent, the ability to save for a downpayment and qualify for a mortgage or a new higher mortgage has become a fleeting dream for many.

I want to tell you there is hope! For the price of a condo and less than what many fixer-uppers in the GTA cost, you can afford a home if you are open to leaving the GTA (but not too far). And no it won’t be the end of your social life! As mass amounts of people leave urban areas, cities such as Guelph, Cambridge and Kitchener/Waterloo (KW) are more populated than ever with GTA transplants. These once sleepy communities are now full of trendy restaurants, nightlife, artisanal shops, recreational activities, and public transit.

Saying goodbye to fast-paced and crowded cities allows families to thrive here. Tree-lined streets, friendly neighbours, strangers that smile and say hello, multiple parks, sports fields, and trails within walking distance are all common sights and activities here. Every singleton, couple and family I have helped relocate to this area comments on how nice it is to see kids playing outside, riding their bikes and to hear the sounds of their laughter as opposed to traffic. They are often surprised at how parents sit back and watch their kids from a distance or even allow them to ride up and down the street while they leisurely read a book or putter around outside.

Moving to Guelph, Cambridge or KW allows for the constant living compromises and time demands on families to be alleviated as they find more time to spend together. Financial demands become more manageable and less stressful. Not only is housing less expensive, but childcare tends to be as well. No longer do you need to put your unborn child’s name on a daycare waiting list because there are more options here. Signing kids up for programs, especially those run by the city isn’t a race to see who can submit their application the second registration opens because there is usually space for everyone.

If you are considering making the move but aren’t quite ready to give up on city living, Guelph, Cambridge, and KW have you covered. They all have busting downtown areas that allow you to have an active social network, walk to local hotspots, yoga studios, galleries, shops, and never-ending weekend events.  Each city has local transit (especially Guelph and KW due to universities) to get around if you don’t have a vehicle and GO train and bus service is available and expanding in these areas.

Now that you know the perks of living west of the GTA let’s take a look at the median sale prices for detached, semidetached/townhouses and condos in 2018.

If you are looking at these numbers and thinking these prices are out of your price range remember these are median numbers (the number right in the middle). There are plenty of options in each category that are below these ranges. For example, there were 1297 detached home sales in Cambridge in 2018. Out of that, there were 50 houses that sold between $220,000-$285,000 and 50 that sold between $310,000-$325,000. Sizes for both categories range from 700-1500sq ft. These are condo prices and sizes but you get land with it!

If you happen to be a buyer looking for a higher end or luxury house there are ample options. Keeping with Cambridge, there were 44 houses that sold between $800,000-1,495,000. Sizes range from 1904sq ft – 5265sq ft. When you compare dollar for dollar value, a million dollar house west of the GTA will get you much more house and land for your money.

For more detailed real estate numbers, check out the latest quarterly report from TrilliumWest. The report gives great information on prices in Guelph, Kitchener Waterloo, Cambridge, and the surrounding townships.

If moving West is an option for you, the best thing you can do is contact a local Realtor. While you may love an agent you have used in the past or have a relative in real estate, they probably won’t be able to help you navigate a new city. Someone local will be knowledgeable about prices and help you focus on neighbourhoods that suit your preferences and price range. They will also be able to give you insight into schools, amenities, employment, transportation and so much more. Relocating is a big decision and you owe it to yourself to do it right!