One of the hardest decisions faced when renting or purchasing a home is location. And in real estate, we know that location is everything.
A long running debate when it comes to location is the match between city centre vs. suburb. So, let’s start with some trends: across the nation, 88% of the 23 million people living in 33 major cities actually live in the suburbs. Calgary is the “poster child” of this so-called suburban sprawl, where 87% of Calgarians are suburbanites.
That being said, Calgary’s city centre is one of the fastest-growing, hottest markets in the country right now, and appropriately boasts being one of the cleanest, eco-friendly cities in the world.
So, today’s post is a “get-you-started” guide to the pros and cons of city centres v. suburbs, coming from your unbiased, all-things-equal, friendly neighbourhood real estate agent.
Pros of living in city centre:
– Proximity to everything. Within walking distance: restaurants, nightlife, entertainment, shopping, cafes, libraries, parks, paths, playgrounds. You name it.
– Shorter commute. If you work downtown, you’ll face lower commute costs, greater transit options, and time saved each day.
– Liveliness. If you enjoy the hustle and bustle and want to be at the core of the city’s arts and culture scene, this is where it’s at.
– Maturity. Inner-city communities have been around much longer than new developments, lending themselves to more mature vegetation and classic charm.
Cons of living in city centre:
– Cost. Renting or buying, it’s likely you’ll be paying a significant amount more to live in the city than you will in the suburbs.
– Noise. If you’re looking for peace and quiet, it’s not at your disposal in city centre. Relaxation takes on a new definition.
Pros of living in the suburbs:
– Spread out. For the cost of a condo downtown, you’ll likely be able to afford a much larger plot of land in a suburb, room for a bigger home and a full backyard.
– Growing options. Growth of business in former “bedroom communities” means working in suburbs and having places within walking distance is becoming more prevalent.
– Like-minded neighbours. If you’re a young couple, a young family, or a retired couple, it’s likely you’ll find a community where you’re often surrounded by similar demographics.
Cons of going suburbanite:
– Fewer options for public transit. Developers and planners might theorize public transit, but the reality is that it’s simply not cost-effective for subways and even public busses to service lower-density areas.
– Longer commute times. The average commute in Calgary is 27 minutes one way. According to a study by the Office for National Statistics in the UK, each minute of our commute impacts our health, happiness, stress and well-being. This is reflected in road rage incidents that has increased in the last few years. From 2015 to 2016, incidents have gone up 70 per cent and aggressive driving is more of a concern now than in the past.
Now, a few truths that need to be pointed out to distill some myths regarding city living vs suburbanites:
– According to Census, in 2041, Alberta’s projected population is expected to reach 6 million, an increase of roughly 1.8 million people from 2016, therefore, City Council is devoting more resources to sprawling neighbourhoods. Developers are aiming to make suburbs a place where families can build a life that’s comfortable without completely sacrificing the city vibe. By constructing mixed-use buildings consisting of street-level retail topped with office and condo space not just in the inner city, but also in suburban neighborhoods, they’re closer to their goal of developing “all-in-one urban areas”.
– Costs can absolutely be parallel in each situation: what the suburban resident is saving in rent/mortgage, they are likely making up for in transportation costs, while the city dweller may be spending thousands on childcare each month and the suburbanite is conveniently right around the corner from grandma and grandpa.
– City accessibility is on the increase, with systems like the C Train and the impending completion of the Ring Road.
Making the decision
Cost aside, it’s really a question of how you’d like to live. A post on our blog from last year gets you started when making your list of priorities. Combining that list with info shared here, we’re certain you’ll find a community — city centre or suburb — that’s right for you.
Have a look at MoneySense’s yearly article on ‘Where to Buy Real Estate Now‘ listing Calgary’s top neighbourhoods based on value, momentum and expert sighting.
What did we miss? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!
About Dave Greenwood, REALTOR®
A fun fact: I used to guide canoeing, rafting, and hiking trips throughout the Yukon and Alaska. Imagine that.
Reflecting on my time spent as a guide, I’ve come to the following conclusion: being a realtor is a lot like guiding a white water rafting trip.
Crazy? Not really. Let me explain what I mean.
Back country travel + Calgary real estate
What White Water Rafting and Real Estate Have in Common:
Though the terrain is quite different, I can immediately come up with several parallels between guiding a rafting trip in the great white north and being a real estate agent here in Calgary. Follow along:
Twists and turns are expected
Navigating back country waters presents several obstacles, as well as twists and turns that easily lead us off the proper path and into a danger zone. Each trip out was different from the last, and bound to be different from the next. Water levels, temperatures, and weather patterns all played a role in the experience.
In real estate, it’s so easy to get off track when entrenched in the murky waters of what is truly a complex process. Each situation will present different circumstances, and the people, banks, lawyers, and agents involved can all alter it in their own way. Understanding the process and being ready to shift gears at any given point will make the experience more enjoyable.
The importance of knowledge + experience
As a guide, it’s assumed that you bring knowledge and experience to the table that is not necessarily possessed by your visitors. Having knowledge and experience in the wilderness meant that I could lead less experienced people of all physical levels into unfamiliar territory, and they could enjoy themselves knowing they were safe in my hands.
The same goes for real estate. My relationships between myself and my clients are entirely about using my experience to guide buyers and sellers through an unknown process that I am familiar with. Having the know-how to navigate the sale or purchase of a property and keep their best interests at heart is incredibly important to letting the buyer or seller enjoy the process and feel safe in the transaction.
It comes down to helping
A guide is there to lead, to protect, and to inform. But at the core of being a guide is the desire to help people. Because essentially, when exploring the unknown, people simply need help.
The same goes for real estate. I approach every business deal with the desire to learn how I can best help my clients. This begins with learning more about the type of lifestyle desired, then discovering the specifics that will support that lifestyle. From there, I take pride in guiding buyers through the process of finding, securing, and celebrating their new home. And for anything I can’t directly help with, I’m sure to know someone who can.
Why this matters for you
Embark upon your real estate adventure with an open mind. Expect the unexpected, and approach twists and turns with flexibility. Educate yourself to a certain point, but let your agent lead you. Depend on him/her for the knowledge you don’t have, and never hesitate to ask questions. And finally, know that your agent is there to help.
Come to the table with everything you want, and let me guide the way. Are you ready for the experience?
CALGARY – Calgary’s booming resale housing market showed no signs of slowing down in October as MLS sales reached their second highest level ever for the month while prices continued to gain year-over-year. According to the Calgary Real Estate Board, total MLS sales in the city during the month increased by 10.22 per cent from last year to 2,147. The median price was up by 5.33 per cent to $430,550 while the average sale price rose by 6.50 per cent to $488,474.