Real Estate Tips

Where To Live: City Centre or Suburb?

Downtown Panorama Calgary Alberta City Skyline

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!