While the BREL team is well on its way to having our own baseball team of kids (the 9th BREL team little arrives next month), we also have a healthy complement of confirmed kid-free agents – including Brendan and myself.
Whether by choice or by circumstance, being kid-free offers some real advantages in Toronto’s real estate market. Here are 9 tips to make your kid-free status work for you:
1. Stay away from the ‘great schools’ neighbourhoods
One of the best parts about being a kid-free homebuyer in Toronto is that you don’t have to worry about schools. You don’t have to check school catchment areas and ratings, and you don’t have to worry about daycare and extracurricular activity options. But there’s a more significant advantage than just saved time and hassles: you can avoid the inflated house prices that go along with those great school districts. Studies have shown that homes in Toronto’s best school districts sell for 20-30% more than those in average school districts. Anecdotally, we regularly see similar homes in the same neighbourhood (but in different school districts) sell for tens of thousands or even $100K+ apart.
Certain neighbourhoods in Toronto are known for their schools, and people go to great lengths to get an address that will allow their kids to qualify to attend. If you’re kid-free, avoid the hot school neighbourhoods to save cash or score a better house or more walkable community for the same price.
Pro Tip: If you’re buying a house in a mediocre school district, recognize that you’ll be impacted when you sell too, so enjoy the discounted price at the front-end, but expect to get dinged for it when you sell too.
2. Consider living on a busy or main street
Homes on busy roads are generally cheaper, mostly because families with young children tend to avoid them, so lower demand = lower prices. You’ll still want to consider how higher traffic and more noise will affect you (including how easy it is to get in or out of your driveway)….but buying a home on a main street might be a great way to save some $$.
3. Buy a two bedroom house – heck, consider a one bedroom house!
If you’re going after the same type of house as all the families with kids, you’ll find yourself in greater competition than you would if you choose to go after a house that the 3+ person families are avoiding: the two-bedroom house. You might also be lucky and find a one-bedroom house that has optimized the rest of the interior space for living, entertaining or working from home.
Pro Tip: If you buy a 3-bedroom home and don’t have enough overnight guests to make good use of all the bedrooms, consider converting that 3rd bedroom into a home office, gym, craft or yoga room or giant walk-in closet. It can be re-converted to a bedroom when it comes time to sell and you’ll enjoy more of your home while you live there.
4. Do you really need that finished basement? Could your basement be income-producing?
Whether you’re single or coupled, if you don’t have kids, you likely need less space. Finished basements in Toronto are expensive, and there’s nothing worse than paying for something you don’t need. If you need the space, then, by all means, use it – but the $50,000+ premium you pay for a finished basement translates to a $250 payment every month for 25 years. If you aren’t going to use the basement, is that really the best use of your money?
Pro tip: If you buy a home with a finished basement and don’t need the space, consider converting it into a basement apartment and renting it out. Toronto’s low vacancy rates mean it’ll likely be easy to find a tenant and offset the cost of your mortgage. You can read more about the legalities of basement apartments here.
5. Consider the one-bathroom house
Houses with more than one bathroom are priced at a premium, so if you don’t have to worry about sharing the washroom with a brood of kids who’ve somehow all managed to get the flu at the same time, consider the one-bathroom house. They’re not only cheaper – the demand is significantly less for them too, so you might find yourself avoiding a bidding war and getting into a better neighbourhood than you might otherwise.
Pro Tip: Even though we don’t have kids, having multiple bathrooms has saved my marriage more than once. If you’re coupled, make sure you’re ok with sharing a bathroom.
6. Take advantage of the seasonality of real estate
Most families with kids will do anything to avoid moving at the start and end of the school year so these might be prime times to score the house of your dreams. That house that wants to close September 15th? Perfect! Kid families also tend to take househunting pauses during the month of December and March break so you might be able to avoid competition by buying during these months too.
7. Consider a multi-storey townhouse
Families with toddlers don’t tend to be drawn to townhouses with three stories or more (nobody wants to manage that many baby gates), and many prefer a grassy yard to a rooftop terrace. I still miss my King West townhouse, and I haven’t lived there in 10 years. Townhouse bonus: you don’t have to worry about the unsexy side of home ownership. You can read more about townhouses here)
8. Don’t forget about condos!
While Canadian homebuyers are starting to raise families in condos, most Toronto condos are still very much no-kid zones.
Pro Tip: Just because you don’t have kids doesn’t mean you don’t like kids…but many of us kid-free people do prefer kid-free environments. If you’re looking to avoid having kids as neighbours, seek out condos with adult amenities vs play rooms and kid-friendly facilities.
Pro Tip #2: Some of Toronto’s condo districts are in great school districts and tend to attract families with littles (see Point #1). If you’re looking to avoid the pitter-patter of other people’s kids, avoid these condos.
9. Move less often
Life transitions are one of the top reasons people move, so if you aren’t planning on having kids or won’t have to adjust your space requirements because the kids are now teenagers and travel in a pack, you’ll need to move less often. Hello, savings in land transfer taxes, real estate commission and moving costs! If you plan on staying in your home longer and can afford it, consider buying your second home first. Invest the unsexy money to protect your investment and renovate to create the perfect home for you. Related: Should You Buy Your Second Home First?
If you’re kid-free and buying a home in Toronto, we can relate – and we can help you capitalize on your investment too. You can get in touch with us here.
Buying with kids and tortured yourself by reading this to see how the other half lives? Don’t worry, we can help too…and we’ve written a series of guides to help you get through buying, selling and moving with kids too.