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Should You Move to the 905?
July 9, 2015
By Sam Reiss

It seems unbelievable, but once again the prognosticators are saying the Toronto housing market isn’t cooling off anytime soon. The average price of a detached home in Toronto last month was more than $1 million, up 14.2% over last year; the Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB) says the average selling price for all homes was up 12.3% year-over-year in June, at $639,184. The MLS Home Price Composite Index says the increase is closer to 9%, using a matrix that looks at price changes in “typical” homes in each market, but that’s still remarkable. The TREB release says we can expect home prices to “trend strongly” upward, with both Toronto and Vancouver posting house prices that are rising faster than inflation.

Predictions are that the Bank of Canada will lower its key interest rate even more from 0.75% next week, aimed at stimulating growth in the rest of the country, but that could mean an even more biased sellers’ market in Toronto and Vancouver.

Reading this, my first thought was, “A million! Wow, I remember when $1 million was really worth something ... ” I’ll admit such a thought made me feel about a million years old. But it’s true - you don’t have to be ancient to remember when being a millionaire was aspirational, almost beyond comprehension. These days, even if the bank owns most of your Toronto detached, if you stay the course you will one day be a millionaire without putting any effort into it beyond making mortgage payments.


It’s all moot, though, for those who can’t afford a million-dollar price of admission. Last month I wrote a bit about a couple of further-afield communities, including Thunder Bay and Windsor, that offer reasonable housing, but many of our lives are tied to the GTA and we simply don’t want to go that far. The good news is that there are closer options that are eminently livable, and still let you meet a friend for lunch on Bloor Street.

While detached home prices in the 905 went up 15% to a bit over $738,000, still pretty steep by any common sense standard, they’re downright affordable by comparison.

These communities aren’t also-rans. In its June issue, Barrie went up 78 spots to place 42nd on MoneySense Magazine’s list of the top 209 places to live in Canada. Burlington, always a favourite on the list, ranked third; Oakville ranked sixth. When it comes to raising a family, some of our nearby communities are hard to beat. Halton Hills ranked 9th for best place to raise kids; Milton ranked eighth, Oakville fourth, and Burlington second.

The Durham Region Association of Realtors said in a release yesterday that the average home price there is now $452,412, a year-over-year increase of 14.4%. It’s among the most reasonably priced areas in the GTA, with genuine deals still to be had - you can actually still buy a detached home in Oshawa or Bowmanville, for example, for about $200,000. Uxbridge, Pickering and Whitby boast the highest home prices, and there are some really beautiful areas in each, along with active sports, arts and recreational communities.

While the idea of a huge treed lot and a fenced yard for the kids can seem idyllic to some families with younger children, it bears remembering that kids grow up quickly, and teenagers stranded, carless, in a town where not much is going on tend to go looking for trouble. These communities are not just close enough to make Toronto accessible, but many have decent transit systems of their own, too.

They’re also becoming as multicultural as the city itself, which in addition to being good for nurturing prejudice-free, open-minded kids, tends to be attractive to businesses and investors who create jobs. For example, the City of Vaughan says there are 70 languages spoken there.

There’s a world of middle ground between hardcore urban and small town life, and the suburbs of the 905 can mean no-compromise living. Toronto is a great city, and the reasons to live in it are numerous. But there’s a wealth of great options right on our doorstep.