“Location, location, location,” remains a crucial driver of real estate demand according to RE/MAX’s latest survey on livability. The fact that 89 per cent of respondents would recommend their neighborhood to others suggests that buyers continue to prioritize livability factors.
Canadians ranked access to shopping, dining and green spaces as their main concerns when choosing where to live. Proximity to public transit, work, preferred schools and cultural and community centres followed.
Price and value are naturally top of mind for buyers. But livability factors are what make your house a home.— Christopher Alexander, executive vice-president and regional director for RE/MAX INTEGRA’s Ontario-Atlantic region.
That said, priorities differ based on market demographics – particularly at the upper end, where such factors as proximity to airports or private schools can matter a lot.
In many cases, time matters more to the affluent than money, so anything that can save even a few minutes matters a lot.
“The luxury buyer is a different animal,” Alexander says. “When you spend $2-million to $3-million or more for a property, a good location is a must.”
Space and more space
Paul Bigioni, co-developer of The Fairway Collection at Deer Creek, a burgeoning development of luxury homes in Ajax, about 25 minutes east of Toronto, says that priorities differ among market segments – often in obvious ways.
“Access to public transit is important in the broader market,” Bigioni says. “But less so at the luxury end. Our clients care more about access to Highway 407 because most own cars and plan to work in the area.”
The Fairway Collection’s one-acre developments, which come with full access to municipal services, are particularly prized by Toronto buyers, because many other properties with similar-sized lots require septic tanks and/or drilled wells.
Bigioni and his development staff have already sold six of the 27 planned houses, which start at $2.5-million, and the company has another four under construction. These include a planned new model home, as the initial one has already sold.
“Our properties will all have their own look and design along with some custom features,” says Bigioni. “However, we are building now because our clients want to see their homes before they buy them.”
Amenities and people
According to one developer, real estate buyers at the luxury end of the spectrum, many of whom are older, increasingly prioritize community and the ability to live close to people they like.
“Clients often conduct property searches in pairs – for example sisters-in-law who bring along their husbands,” says Remo Niceforo, president of Monaco, a six-storey, 126-unit condominium project in downtown Collingwood, Ont., which is moving into the construction phase later this year.
“The idea is to buy properties close together so that they can spend more time together.”
The Monaco development offers a range of attractions – including proximity to Georgian Bay, Blue Mountain Resort and ski facilities, downtown shopping and restaurants – that appeal to clients clustered in their late 50s to early 60s. Many of these buyers are acquiring the properties as a first step in phasing into retirement.
“Our buyers are generally very concerned about community,” says Niceforo.
“Many visit six or seven times to get a really good feel for the area before putting in an offer.”
Prices at Monaco range between $500,000 and $1.2-million. However, a large percentage of clients are Toronto residents who view their purchases as a way of downsizing from their existing properties, from which they will be able to extract cash to finances future expenses.
“In Toronto, 80 per cent of condominium buyers view their purchases primarily as an investment,” Niceforo says.
“With us it’s the opposite. Our clients see their properties as future homes."
All about community
The importance of community is particularly prized by senior luxury property buyers. Opportunities to socialize, whether at church, on breaks while swimming laps at the local pool or chatting with other pet owners while walking the dog, become increasingly important.
“The concept of community is integral to our clients,” says Cassandra Soares, a spokesperson for Rosehaven Homes, which has built 7,000 townhouses and detached homes for people in all walks of life.
“Whether its connecting with neighbours or enjoying nearby conveniences, we work hard to develop locations that ensure every purchaser can connect with others as much as with their home,” Soares says.
The city of Toronto ranked highly for livability in terms of availability of retail options, population growth and access to health-care facilities. Green spaces were particularly prized, however areas with the best options – Rosedale, Leaside and The Beaches, also tend to be the most expensive.
“Canadians spend more than two thirds of their time in their own neighbourhoods,” says Alexander. “So it’s hardly surprising that proximity and livability are so important.”
Insights from the RE/MAX 2019 Liveability Report
- 89% Of Canadians would recommend their neighbourhood to others.
- 6 in 10 Canadians put easy access to shopping, dining and green spaces at the top of their livability criteria.
- 36% of Canadians put proximity to public transit at the top of their list.
- 2/3 Of Canadians’ time is spent in their own neighbourhood, with the rate even higher among baby boomers.
- #1 The downtown core of Toronto, south of Bloor Street, reigns supreme for proximity to public transit and walkability.
This content was produced by The Globe and Mail’s Globe Content Studio, in consultation with an advertiser. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved in its creation.