When my husband and I bought our home eight years ago, location was a major determining factor. Not only was it close to a large beautiful park, it was five blocks from a commercial strip where we could buy groceries, eat out, or go see a movie.
Best of all, it was near public transit, so we could get by with owning one car – and neither of has to endure driving to work during the hellish rush-hour commute.
Well, it turns out that living near public transit is a low priority for many other Canadians. A Bank of Montreal poll released Thursday found that the safety of a neighbourhood is the most important feature of a home's location, chosen by 63 per cent of those surveyed.
The online survey of 2,000 Canadians, conducted by Pollara between Feb. 25 and March 5 of this year, found that living on a quiet street was a priority for 43 per cent, having good neighbours was listed by 30 per cent, having a short commute to work was chosen by 28 per cent and being near family and friends was ranked high by 25 per cent.
Being near stores and restaurants was a priority for 23 per cent while being near public transit was chosen by 19 per cent.
First-time home buyers, however, expressed different priorities. For example, having a short commute to work was more important to them (34 per cent versus 28 per cent for the national average), as was living near public transit (28 per cent versus 19 per cent).
Meanwhile, living on a quiet street was less important to them than to repeat buyers (30 per cent versus 43 per cent), as was having good neighbours (21 per cent versus 30 per cent).
John Andrew, a professor at Queen's University's school of urban and regional planning, said "safety" is not something buyers normally pay attention to, in part because information on things like break-ins and violent crimes is not available at neighbourhood levels and "perceptions of safety and crime are notoriously inaccurate."
What doesn't surprise him, however, is the divergence between how first-time home and repeat buyers rated their priorities.
Commuting time is a big factor for first-time home buyers because they, by definition, are buying less expensive homes that require longer commuting times, Prof. Andrew said. "Older, wealthier people buying their second, third or fourth home can typically buy their way out of the commuting problem, at least to a considerable extent."
"Conversely, older people value a quiet street more because the younger first-time home buyer can't even hope to buy a house on a quiet street, so they don't worry about it much. They just hope to not commute 2.5-plus hours a day to and from work," he added.
My husband and I certainly wanted to a avoid a long commute to work. And there are, of course, some downsides to where we live. Traffic spikes in summer months when people flock to the park, and our neighbours to one side are renters who couldn't be bothered to clean up the garbage scattered by raccoons, rake the lawn or fix the dilapidated porch.
But when I need to pick up some milk, make an emergency trip to the pharmacy or just take the kids for an ice cream cone, I love that I can do that easily and quickly on foot.