As millennials and Gen Zers become homeowners, they may wonder what to look for in a neighbourhood and a city. The things that make you fall in love with a street, a neighbourhood or a city are also known as “liveability factors”: the aspects of a home and its surroundings that play a role in the decisions people make about their living situations.
“Liveability factors are the things that turn a house into a home,” says Christopher Alexander, Executive Vice President, RE/MAX of Ontario-Atlantic Canada. “Homebuyers might be drawn in by a good price, but what they’re really buying into is a place, a community and a way of life.”
So which factors impact the homebuying decision most of all? RE/MAX recently put together a liveability report that answers that exact question. Here are the five most important factors that buyers consider when making the choice to purchase a home.
Eat, shop and be merry
The way to a homebuyer’s heart is apparently through their wallet as well as their stomach. The majority of Canadians (62 percent) said they would recommend their neighbourhood based on its proximity to restaurants and retail stores. Homebuyers are looking for neighbourhoods that provide them with options for a night out or a shopping spree — something anyone looking to sell a home should consider.
Toronto, Victoria and Saskatoon (among other cities) ranked highly for their dining and shopping choices. Ossington in Toronto and Riversdale in Saskatoon are rated among the most-loved shopping and dining hubs in Canada, offering bars, vintage boutiques, record stores and coffee shops.
Hop on the magic city bus
While many baby boomers and Gen Xers rely on vehicles to get around, millennials and Gen Z homebuyers increasingly rely on public transit. For this reason, access to buses and trains is an important factor that many potential buyers consider.
Thirty-six percent of homeowners in Canada cite proximity to transit as a reason to recommend their neighbourhood, especially if they’re outside of the downtown core. Vancouver and Winnipeg were singled out as having exceptional public transit, nodding to Vancouver’s swath of bus and SkyTrain systems as well as Winnipeg’s extensive inter-urban lines
Stop and smell the roses
A majority of Canadians believe in the importance of spending time in the great outdoors, something that’s reflected in the RE/MAX report — 40 percent of homeowners would recommend their neighbourhood based on access to green spaces and parks. Victoria, where 97 percent of the population has a green space within walking distance, and Ottawa, which ranked first in amount of green space in the 2011 Canada Green City Index, are among the greenest cities in the country.
Many choose to buy a home when starting a family, making access to public and private schools crucial. While 18 percent of owners noted their satisfaction with the schools available in their neighbourhood, young families will prioritize living in a neighbourhood that provides access to education. Halifax and Ottawa were rated highly for their selection of preferred schools. Barrhaven and Elmvale Acres in Ottawa and Westmount in Halifax are cozy communities close to several schools, meaning many young families call them home.
Snag a deal
Maybe a little obvious, but potential homebuyers prefer to take the home ownership plunge in more affordable cities. Cities like Vancouver and Toronto are currently experiencing affordability issues, while other cities across Canada have, on average, improved over the past year. This is especially true for cities like Saskatoon and Halifax, which remain more affordable options for homeowners, especially those on a single income.
“Affordability and availability are persistent problems, so many buyers jump at the chance to get a deal on a home,” says Alexander. But over time, Canadians see the value in prioritizing one key factor: neighbourhood. “Price might be the first thing that comes to mind, but it’s quickly followed by amenities, schools, green space and culture. These are the things that are really worth investing in.”
Ultimately, data and surveys can’t fully explain what influences people to buy their dream home. “No algorithm can explain what makes a neighbourhood feel like home,” says Elton Ash, Regional Executive Vice President, RE/MAX of Western Canada. “That takes word of mouth, first-hand experience and the expertise of a great REALTOR®.” Whether it’s proximity to certain amenities or simply a gut feeling, many Canadians are seeking out specific neighbourhoods and cities to call home — and recommend to family and friends.