Homebuyer’s Guide to Choosing the Right Neighbourhood

Posted by Kent Braaten on Tuesday, March 3rd, 2020 at 12:00pm.

Choosing the right neighbourhood for you and your family is just as—if not more—important than choosing the right home. Unless you plan on spending every waking minute confined within the four walls of your new house, knowing your neighbourhood and where you live is an essential part of your lifestyle. This is where your kids may go to school or where you’ll walk the dog. This is where you’ll start your morning commute and drink your afternoon tea. Whatever this new home is for you, the location is an integral part of that. So, how do you choose the right neighbourhood for you?

Schools

Regardless of whether you have kids or you don’t—or you’re expecting (congratulations!)—one of the most important things to consider in choosing the right neighbourhood is the schools. If you have or will have kids soon, these schools will be where you’ll send them for their educational growth and knowing that they’ll be in good hands is important. If you don’t have kids, it’s still important to keep in mind that access to schools is important when it comes to the resale of your property. Remember: even if this is your dream home for now, your dreams can and will likely change in years to come, so it’s not a bad thing to take into account moving in the future.

To get a good understanding of the schools in the neighbourhood you are considering, start with some quick online research to learn more about not just the schools themselves, but also the school district they fall under. You can also always give a quick phone call to the school or the district office to get a more in-depth understanding about what they will offer your child.

Local Businesses

A good indicator of how the local community is in this potential neighbourhood would be to take a look at the local businesses and shopping in the area. Close access to a strip mall can be great, but if all the stores are closing, it can show a lack of support from your potential neighbours and that your access to amenities might become more and more limited as time goes on. Businesses that seem to be doing well, however, usually indicate strong local support and a thriving sense of pride in the community. 

Access to Transportation

If you don’t have access to a car, it’s important to factor in how you’ll be getting around from your new home every day. If you plan on taking the bus, take a look at what Transit Saskatoon offers in the area as far as routes and schedules, and consider whether or not those offerings will work for you. If you would like to walk, you’ll want to be in a pretty cose radius to work and all the amenities you’ll need. And if you’d like to take a two-wheeled approach, looking for something that has easy access to all the fantastic bike trails Saskatoon has to offer will be very important.

Access to Amenities

Amenities are essentially all the things you’ll need within your daily life—work, groceries, gas, bank, gym, etc.—and easy access to these has time and time again proved its importance in the Saskatoon real estate market. In finding your dream home, you may not want to add an extra half hour to your commute and driving for an hour just to get groceries on a Saturday may not be what you’d consider your ideal weekend activity. Depending on the lifestyle you either want to keep or move toward, it’s important to ask yourself what sorts of amenities are most important to you and how quickly you’d like to be able to access them. Then, take a look at the neighbourhood you are considering and see if it will work for you.

Choosing Suburban, Urban, or Rural

If you want easy access to the inner city or downtown core and a faster-paced lifestyle, you’ll want to refine your home search to urban neighbourhoods, like Nutana, Riversdale, or City Park. If you’d prefer a closer-knit community in a quieter setting removed from the hustle and bustle of the downtown area, you’ll want to look at homes for sale in suburban neighbourhoods, like Kensington, Brighton, or Stonebridge. And if you’d like your lifestyle to be even quieter, with plenty of space and fewer neighbours, a rural neighbourhood, like Aberdeen, Wakaw, or Clavet, would be the best fit for you. 

Crime Activity 

One factor that most people find incredibly important in choosing the right neighbourhood is crime activity in the area. Especially in the city of Saskatoon, people want to be reassured of their safety and security, both for themselves and their families, and also their home. To see what the crime activity is like in the neighbourhoods you are considering, the Saskatoon Police Service offers an extremely helpful Crime Map that allows you to search for legal infractions throughout the city. 

Age of the Neighbourhood

Older, more historical neighbourhoods, like Buena Vista and King George, will usually have a more established community. Newer-built neighbourhoods, like Evergreen or Rosewood, may have more anonymity in the community and more ongoing construction. However, with the increase in the number of infill properties going up in historical neighbourhoods, construction could really be taking place anywhere you decide to live!

Taxes

Property taxes can vary quite a bit between communities and, as an expected recurring cost above and beyond your mortgage payment, it’s important to know how much you can expect to be paying. Ask your REALTOR® about the current property taxes in the neighbourhood and whether they have an idea of how it has been trending over the past number of years. You can also call the city or local municipal office for this information, as well! 

While it’s important to consider all of these factors when choosing the right neighbourhood for you, the best advice I can recommend for any homebuyer is to visit it in person. Just as you can read reviews of every restaurant online, you can find lots of information about different neighbourhoods both on the internet and through other sources. But only you can be the final judge on how you feel about it! 

I recommend driving or walking around a few times, at different times of the day and on different days of the week, to get a better sense of what life is like there. Take a look at the neighbours’ homes and consider how well they’re kept. Notice whether the local residents are out walking around and ask yourself whether you’d feel comfortable walking a dog around the block. Notice how busy the traffic is and take a moment to talk to potential neighbours if you see them out and about. Get your own impression of the community and make that the biggest decision-maker in your neighbourhood selection. After all, it’s you that could be living there! 

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