Where do YOU Want to Live? Choice Not Always Clear Cut
You want a home near elementary schools, because you have children ranging in age from 9-12. You want to be near a thoroughfare, because you want the fastest route to and from work. A community club or recreation centre is important, with all of your kids in sports. Shopping centres nearby means walking distance to get a few bags of groceries. And, of course, good medical facilities – even a hospital – in striking distance, is vital. Sounds like a utopian community, doesn’t it?
But there is also a downside to each of the amenities and advantages that you have listed as priorities, even if such a community was readily accessible. It is the negatives that we often fail to contemplate when purchasing a home.
This is particularly true for first-time buyers.
Yes, the elementary school is important. But, with the children reaching the point where they will move on to middle, and then high school, looking a few years into the future becomes of greater concern, as the kids are unlikely to want to give up established friendships quickly. So, a balance of advanced schooling and elementary facilities is the key.
A thoroughfare offers obvious disadvantages, with vehicle noise, exhaust fumes and more frequent construction headaches. Consider, as well, that one of the partners in the household is likely to change jobs in the next eight years, and that thoroughfare is less significant. To be sure it is an important factor, think about driving the route during peak hours, before buying. Or check on construction history and the city’s five-year capital project plans for the area.
Community clubs and recreation complexes offer few downsides, except for the increased traffic and parking issues, as well as a general increase in graffiti near many public venues, according to the Center for Problem-Oriented Policing.
Similarly, shopping centres provide the same downsides.
The hospital – a vital consideration – is more likely to be an annoyance than a benefit, with sirens and parking as issues. Most of us are aware, as well, that all but the most urgent health issues require a much longer wait than a clinic or doctor’s office, so, instead, seek out a mall with a physician or clinic in it.
While many realtors and home vendors promote their listings using these most popular demand items, resist the urge to “follow the herd.” Instead, assess what is important to you, in the short, near and long term. Resist the popular trends and “hot” communities as the utopian area or market. “Popular” and “hot” often equal “pricey.”
Look to patterns, dynamics and directions of a community, rather than what that community now may be. Some of the best deals may be available in emerging or revitalizing communities, rather than in “in” markets. Those emerging centres may also offer the greatest potential for property appreciation.
The cautions listed should not be interpreted to mean, however, that you should shy away from a property because it has all the amenities listed, or because it is in an established, vibrant and “hot” community. Rather, your focus should be on identifying items important to you, today. If it is your intention to remain in this new home for a longer period, consider future needs. However, if the house is a short-term stopover of a few years or less, consider its marketability at the end of that period.
In short, you are investing in your life, not an inanimate, impersonal building. Your home, like the turtle’s shell, is uniquely yours, and should reflect the wants and desires you harbour as much as your needs and priorities. Utopia, indeed, is personal!