The Toronto real estate market has been brisk and competitive for quite a few years now. Some would-be buyers that have postponed purchasing to save for a larger down payment, have found themselves priced out of the market in many of the areas that they were originally interested in.
When youíre renting in a neighbourhood that youíre fond of, often itís the first area that you want to consider living in when the time comes to buy your first place. Itís a big decision choosing where you want to live. Itís not just about the physical attraction to the building which youíre going to be calling home, whether it is a house, condo or loft. The surrounding hood can be just as important and everyoneís lifestyle and priorities are different. For some having a park nearby is necessary for walking their dog, playground for kids or perhaps a sports hobby that involves a green space. Others want to live close to the lake, just for the tranquility felt by walking along the shoreline and gazing at the water. Many urbanites are abandoning their automobiles and having public transit nearby is necessary for getting to their businesses and schools. One of the perks of living in an urban area often is being able to walk to markets, shops and cafťís and feeling part of a community.
Toronto is a unique urban city that is defined by its neighbourhoods and treed pockets that surround the core then spread out to the areas that now make up the GTA. Buyers are going to want to consider all of their options, first looking at their budget, then the lifestyle that will accompany the different choices. Todayís buyers that have been priced out of the already popular areas where gentrification has already begun, are opting for hoods still in transition where the prices are lower, while still being relatively close to downtown Toronto.
West end Toronto is becoming known as having hot new sexy and cool reinvented hoods that are shaping into exciting places to live. If a house is affordable, there are some really great pockets to consider exploring.
Brockton Village is a tiny neighbourhood that sits south of Bloor Street between Dufferin Street to the east and just west of Lansdowne, hugging the tracks to Queen Street West to the south. This area has been home to a large Portuguese and Brazilian community for quite a while now, as you can notice the many colourful Victorian homes that dot the streets with beautifully kept gardens. Itís a culturally diverse and friendly hood thatís attracting young families and artistic types with its growing arts and design based community. Some really cool spots like The Drake, Gladstone Hotel and Lula Lounge with their visual and performance art scenes and galleries, bars, restaurants and cafťís are all a huge draw for the hipsters that flock to this area. Urban commuting is really easy with public transportation providing bus and streetcar service connecting to the subway line. A number of parks are also close by ranging from High Park to local Dufferin Grove with its year-round organic farmersí market and ever cool free wireless, available for bench surfing!
The housing stock here is a huge draw with still affordable prices. The majority of houses were built from the 1880ís to 1920ís with Victorian semis and row houses the most common. Many are two storey and two-and-a-half storey houses with high ceilings and loads of vintage character. There are also a number of properties in this area with multi-units that offer buyers the possibility of having income if theyíre willing to share their property with tenants.
Attached properties (which means you have someone on both sides) range from low 330kís needing work to mid 500kís being more done. Semis (attached only on one side) range from low 340kís to mid 550kí plus, depending on how renovated they are. Detached houses go anywhere from 490kís to high 580ís plus, again depending on what needs to be done.
The Brockton Village area is a great option to consider in the west downtown area if your pockets canít quite get you into such popular areas as Beaconsfield, Dufferin Grove or High Park/ Roncesvalles Village. It has a similar vibe and youíre still close to some interesting and artsy downtown scenes.
Another artsy and organic hood a little further north-west is The Junction thatís filled with history going back to the 1800ís. The area sits north of Annette Street, to south of St. Clair from Runnymede Road to the C.N. Railway corridor to the east.
The Junction hood has a small-village feel with new artsy, organic and design based shops opening and drawing lots of press even from ďThe New York TimesĒ that mentioned it, and has predicted will become the next ďQueen WestĒ. This funky and hip area is already attracting artists and entrepreneurs with its cheaper rents and converted industrial and warehouse loft conversions. The main shopping area along Dundas Street West is vintage cool with shopping ranging from organic eateries, raw food and multi-cultural restaurants, bars, cafťís, art schools and galleries, design boutiques, Pilates and Yoga studios to antique shops.
The Junction area also offers easy access for both public transit and driving routes to whisk you quickly downtown. There are some great schools offered for young families and this hood is really close to both High Park and another unique green space called the West Toronto Railpath. This friendly community really loves and supports their hood. Another draw for residents is the annual Junction Arts Festival that highlights music, dance and arts filling the streets along with lots of attractions for the kids.
For the home buyers that have been priced out of the downtown core and the established areas such as Roncesvalles, High Park and the Bloor West Village, this neighbourhood with its small village feel makes a great option to look at.
Many of the houses go back to the 19th to early 20th century with the original features such as leaded glass and wood accents. Thereís a blend of attached, semis and detached properties with both original and renovated, appealing to the different tastes and budgets of the buyers. A number of vintage Victorians line the treed streets, attracting buyers wanting to restore them and add some modern conveniences. The attached houses are selling in the price range of 380kís to 550kís depending on the condition. Semiís go anywhere from 400kís to mid 500ks and if the location is closer to the High Park area, the prices will get higher going up to mid 600kís. Detached houses can go as low as mid 300kís needing everything, up to the mid 600kís for renovated.
This area like Brockton Village has an urban and hip feel while still being really close to the downtown core and offering great value.
Buyers still wanting to live close to the action of downtown Toronto, but not within as tight an urban location as the above hoods, and perhaps are drawn to the lake front, are considering the pocket called Mimico.
This neighbourhood sits south of The Queensway and Royal York down to the lake front, offering buyers more green space, bigger yards, the waterfront yet still being close to the cityís core.
Mimico still has the feel of a lakeside town with enchanting greenery surrounding the area. This waterfront hood has amazing scenic parks and trails, boating and sailing clubs along with exceptional sporting facilities. The northern part is called Mimico Village, with the southern area known as Mimico by the Lake. Some of the best views of both the lakefront and Toronto skyline are found from the Humber Bay Park at the foot of Parklawn Road. The Humber Bay Arch Bridge for pedestrian traffic and bicycles connects the boardwalk along the water with the Martin Goodman trail that hugs the shoreline of Lake Ontario from the western beaches to the Rouge River in the east. This area is a perfect location for sporting and water enthusiasts that thrive on the activity along the lake and have been priced out of some of the more popular areas like Swansea or Sunnylea.
Itís really easy to get yourself downtown from here, as the Queen Streetcar runs along the Lakeshore, the Royal York bus connects to the subway line and the Mimico GO station takes only 10 minutes to arrive at Union Station. Those driving only have to go as far as the Q.E.W. or Lake Shore Boulevard to get either downtown or out of the city.
The retail area for Mimico is small, but there still are some great shopping with flower markets, bakeries, organic butchers, delicatessens, organic coffee shops with live music and some interesting restaurants closeby. Area residents are also near to shopping in The Kingsway, Queensway, Sherway Gardens and the Bloor West Village.
The housing stock in Mimico is quite eclectic in style ranging from tiny bungalows to estates on the waterfront. Some of the streets carry beautiful mixtures of Edwardian, Tudors and Craftsman homes that were built in the early to mid 1900ís. These properties tend to be pricier, but along with these properties are modest bungalows and one-and-aĖhalf-storey houses that were typical of those built in the 1920 to 1940ís. Many of these properties are sitting on generous sized lots and itís only a matter of time before these too will be transformed into custom built larger homes. Mimico also has a number of newer built townhomes that are in enclaves scattered within this pocket. They range in price from the low 400kís to mid 550kís and are quite spacious and contemporary being anywhere from 1,200 to 2,000+ square feet in size. Some of these are considered being a condo, which means a monthly maintenance fee is paid, and others are free-hold with no monthly fee except sometimes a small amount for snow removal and lawn care. Detached houses can start for a tiny bungalow in original condition anywhere in the low 300kís up to a million plus by the water for the estates. Semis are on the low 300k range up to 400k plus for more finished.
Mimico is an up and coming area that sits ideally closeby to the lake and downtown Toronto with an almost rural feel, yet still urban in nature.
Some buyers that either canít afford to purchase a house or find it doesnít work with their lifestyle, are looking at buying a condo, loft or townhome and are also looking at areas that offer great value.
When looking at condos, generally the newer built will also be smaller in size. Most builders today are trying to accommodate lower price ranges with starter bachelor/studio style suites working up to the larger sizes.
Hip Liberty Village is really close to Torontoís financial core and the art galleries found in the King West area. The 45 acres have been developed into beautiful townhomes, condos, heritage buildings and exciting retail. Old factories have been converted into live/work lofts, galleries and restaurants. Itís a real community that is attracting a lot of interest. Stacked townhomes start as low as 200kís for a tiny space going to over 300k for more elbow room. The King West hood with its great art and entertainment vibe has condos ranging from the low 300kís to high 300kís for someone starting out.
Davenport Village in the west end of Toronto has a really cool and unique loft building called the Foundry Lofts at Davenport and Lansdowne. Itís a converted heritage building that started off as a 19th century Train Factory. The building is quite stunning and the lofts start in the high 280kís and up. The entire area is being developed with condos and townhomes and is nearby to Artscapeís historic Wychwood Barns which houses arts & culture.
Bloordale Village found along Bloor Street West and Lansdowne Avenue is becoming revitalized with restaurants and galleries. Itís very convenient being on the subway line and townhomes on Merchant Lane are attracting young families and singles alike that couldnít pay the higher prices in Roncesvalles, High Park and more central hoods. Itís another area that is offering great value, while still being close to the Brockton Village hub, Dufferin Grove and Dufferin Mall with its outlet shopping.
Going further west, south of the Q.E.W and west of Parklawn Road is the hidden enclave of condos, lofts and townhomes called Mystic Pointe. This planned community is situated close to some great restaurants, shops, schools and public transportation. You can get to the Kingsway shopping district and Bloor West Village in a flash. Around the corner is access to the highway for a quick route to downtown Toronto in merely 15 minutes or so. The awesome waterfront trails and lake are also minutes away, so you can have the best of both urban lifestyles. The condo/lofts sell from the low 250kís and up with 3 storey executive townhomes in the low 400k range. For the size and area conveniences, these properties are great options for those buyers that donít want to spend more in the areas closer to Bloor Street or more centralized.
It can be both exciting and scary when deciding where you want to hang your hat and call home. Buyers looking at purchasing in Toronto should review different locations and hoods in the process of change. Grab your sneakers and walk the different hoods that appeal to you and see which ones you can see yourself living in. Chances are that once you start looking, the right hood for you will be calling your name!
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