Know your neighbourhood before you invest

Posted on 03. Dec, 2010 by in News

The house looks good, but what about schools and public transit?    By Patrick Langston, Postmedia News

Buying a home is about a lot more than just bricks and mortar. A gleaming new model home may be eye-pleasing, but it’s also part of a larger community, and along with details like mortgage options and kitchen upgrades, we need to ensure the neighbourhood is a good fit.

“Start with your lifestyle,” says Jim McKeown, a veteran sales representative with Coldwell Banker Rhodes. He specializes in resale homes, but his advice applies to any home.

“Where do you work? What are your interests? If walking to coffee shops and art galleries, maybe even to work, is important to you, that’s going to help dictate what sort of neighbourhood you should be looking in.”

Imagine yourself five years down the road. Will you have a young family with changing needs or maybe an elderly parent living with you who will want to be close to seniors’ activities or medical services?

What about that great view over open fields the prospective home now boasts: Will there be a shopping centre there? If so, will that bother you? Most buyers never think to check zoning in their potential neighbourhoods, says McKeown.

Home buying advice on websites like that of the Canadian Home Builders’ Association ( and the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development ( can also help narrow your choices.

Is a nearby golf course, tennis court or recreation centre with fitness facilities high on your must-have list? Maybe a public library with extended hours is more your cup of tea. For some, the quality and proximity of schools is paramount.

Where, for example, does the Fraser Institute’s annual ranking of schools put the one just down the road from the house you want to buy? It may be a good idea to visit that school for a chat with the principal and to get a sense of how engaged existing students seem to be.

McKeown says clients tend not to be greatly concerned about access to public transit, but that could change as energy prices rise.

Experts also suggest visiting the prospective neighbourhood on a weekend night to find out if it’s quiet community or party central. Listening to your heart is a part of the home-buying process, says McKeown. Scoping out the surrounding community can help balance that emotion with fact.

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