In the real estate market, does size really matter?

Suburbs vs. city: Choosing where to live is a question of money and lifestyle

When deciding to buy a house, not only do people look into what they can afford, but also what they value in their lives.

Daniela Teixeira, who is four months pregnant, owns a home with her fiancé in the Dufferin and Eglinton avenues area in downtown Toronto.

Teixeira works for a roofing company and lately has been questioning whether the couple should move to the suburbs or stay where they are.

While there are pros and cons to both downtown and suburb living, with Toronto’s notoriously expensive housing market, Teixeira says she is leaning toward a move to the suburbs so the couple could save some much needed money for her family.

Daniela Teixeira and her fiance are thinking about relocating to the suburbs.
Daniela Teixeira, 22, and Christopher Xavier, 24, own a home in Toronto, but are thinking about relocating to the suburbs. (Supplied photo)

“I live in a house that’s about 1,500 square feet and it’s going for $900,000, which I personally would never pay,” Teixeira said.

“But if you go to Ajax, I find you get more value for your dollar. When it comes to the housing market, you’re a lot richer in the suburbs.”

However, according to John Pasalis, president of Realosophy Reality Inc. Brokerage, not all city living is expensive. In his 13 years of real estate experience, he has witnessed many changes in Toronto’s market, but insisted there are still affordable options.

GTA Housing Facts

— According to the Canadian Real Estates Association, Toronto housing has the second highest average cost in Canada as of September, 2015 ($627,395).

— Vancouver is the most expensive in the country ($857,015).

— In a report recently released by the Durham Region Association of Realtors, the average price for a house is $438,462.

— Oshawa has the lowest average cost of $351,234. Uxbridge has the highest at $592,497.

Pasalis explained how areas of Scarborough and  Etobicoke can carry a similar prices to that of homes outside of Toronto, though they often builds from the 60s rather than the 80s, which is typically the age of a home in the suburbs.

If someone opts to buy something constructed more recently, they may get similar quality but far less quantity.

“You end up spending roughly the same but you get a smaller house,” Pasalis said.

“You don’t get a master bedroom, you don’t get a walk in closet, or you just get a smaller house in general. So those are many of the compromises people make.”

Pasalis doesn’t believe people buy real estate solely on size. Some will spend the extra money to live in the city if they work there. Financially, the suburbs seem to have the upper hand but mentally, living closer to home helps people relax.

John Pasalis, founder of Realosophy, says houses are valued at more than size
John Pasalis, founder of Realosophy, says houses are valued at more than size. (Photo courtesy of John Pasalis)

“It’s what people value,” he says.

“The people who value short commutes, not being on the road, having more time with family and all those things prefer that. Not saying people that live in Whitby don’t because they might work in Whitby.

So if they work in Whitby, it’s a plus for them because you get to have both. But if you work in downtown (but live in the suburbs), you tend to value things like space and a yard … it’s not that they don’t value the time they could’ve had if they weren’t commuting, but they value the time they do have that they are in their huge backyard and it’s more private and they are not piled on top of their neighbours. They don’t have to worry about hearing their neighbours because they are in a semi.”

For the past 13 years, Candace Bynoe, 22, has lived with her parents in Ajax. Now that she’s finished university and is working full-time, she is planning to make a move. Bynoe says she feels secluded in Ajax, which has inspired her to go house shopping in North York. Her job is based in the Durham Region, but she is willing to pay more in housing for the perks of living in Toronto.

“It’s more convenient, it’s close to everything,” Bynoe said.

“Whenever you are trying to do something, make connections, you have to go to Toronto no matter what. So it’s hard to live down here.”

Townhouse on East York Avenue. Average price for a house on this street is roughly $600,000.
A townhouse on East York Avenue. Average price for a house on this street is roughly $600,000. Ajax has the highest average price per townhouse in the Durham Region, which is $343,621.

Meanwhile, for Teixeira a move toward suburban life isn’t only the financial aspect, but also how her life is changing. As a soon-to-be mom, she feels her children should be the first priority when choosing a location.

“I like it (the suburbs) personally because I find it’s more community oriented,” Teixeira said.

“I like it a lot more and I feel a lot safer. In the city, I live in an area where it’s unpredictable. Now that I’m pregnant, I am considering moving back to Ajax because that’s where I want to raise my kids. I find it’s a lot safer for children, the communities are a lot better for it and it is how it is. I mean a lot of people raise their kids in the suburbs.”