Choosing where to buy a home is an intensely personal decision, but gut feeling along shouldn’t guide the biggest financial decision most of us will make in our lives.
For most Canadians, housing is both their largest asset and their largest source of debt. Whether you’re an income property investor or just looking for somewhere to raise a family within reasonable commuting distance to work, it’s important to think about how homes in the neighbourhood you pick are likely to appreciate over time compared to their peers.
Affordability is important — and increasingly hard to find in markets like Toronto and Vancouver — but sometimes a neighbourhood is cheap for a reason. Look at price appreciation alone and you might end up overpaying. Trying to find an emerging neighbourhood? Realtors are the experts on the ground and will help you, but they tend to steer your search towards tried-and-true areas.
GALLERY: Top 25 best cities to buy in now
The MoneySense Where to Buy Now report takes all of these factors into account, giving you hard numbers to help guide your decision. In addition to taking a national sweep in ranking the top 35 cities in the country, we ranked 2,204 neighbourhoods in eight of Canada’s largest cities based on three criteria: Value, momentum and expert insight.
Because a buyer looking for a house in a city’s urban core is probably not interested in neighbourhoods in the rural outskirts and vice versa, we also added separate location-based rankings for seven out of eight cities this year. Whether you want the convenience of downtown living, the larger footprint of the suburbs or the peace and quiet of the countryside, we’ll help you get the best bang for your buck.
How we do it
To identify the top neighbourhoods we start by looking at value, using average housing prices provided by local real estate boards across the country. To be clear, when we say value we aren’t simply looking for the cheapest areas. Cheap prices alone could be indicative of neighbourhoods mired in social problems, or that lack amenities and offer little in the way of a return on your investment.
Instead, we’re looking for relative value, when a neighbourhood is more affordable than areas nearby. We measure this by comparing the average home prices in each neighbourhood to prices in the surrounding area, the metro district (where applicable) and the greater municipality. For our sub-rankings of neighbourhoods in each city’s core, inner suburbs and outskirts, we compare each neighbourhood to its peers in the region instead of the municipality overall.
Next we scour each market looking for areas where homes are appreciating faster than in other parts of the city over the past one, three and five years. With this data we’re looking for signs of sustained price gains which can uncover an area that is in greater demand. The stronger the overall appreciation, the higher these neighbourhoods ranked in our list.
Finally, to ensure we’re identifying desirable neighbourhoods, we consulted an extensive panel of Re/Max real estate agent experts. In our survey, we asked them to assign a grade to each neighbourhood.
Our ranking of cities takes a broader view of the economy and rental market, in addition to value and momentum. We incorporate data from a variety of sources — including the Canadian Real Estate Association, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, the Québec Federation of Real Estate Boards and Environics. (A special shout out this year goes to the Ottawa Real Estate Board and the Greater Montréal Real Estate Board who joined our project and contributed to the effort.) We consider factors such as sales to new listings, the ratio of average income to average housing prices and the local unemployment rate. The top-ranked cities have strong economies, solid rental markets, good value for your dollar and robust price appreciation.
We’ve done the hard work for you, correlating value and price momentum with what realtors think about these neighbourhoods. You’ll still have to do some of your own research to find areas that meet your needs, but we hope this narrows down your search area to help you find and buy your dream home.