It’s no secret that Toronto is an expensive city to live in. As average prices in the 416 continue to creep up, a lot of would-be Toronto Buyers are asking themselves:
Should I move to the ‘burbs? Is it time to embrace the 905?
Below, we explore the pros and cons of moving to the ‘burbs in four of favourite categories: Time, Money, Type of Home and Lifestyle…because you’re usually compromising one or two for the others.
Money, Money, Money
Where Can You Afford to Live? How affordable are Toronto’s Suburbs?
True, many of Toronto’s suburbs are more affordable than Toronto – but don’t be fooled into thinking that real estate in the 905 is a bargain. Let’s have a look at the cost of the average property in the Greater Toronto Area in 2019:
It gets even more interesting when you look at the average cost to buy a home, by community, across the 905. Click the tabs along the top to see home prices in Mississauga, Oakville, Ajax, Whitby and more.
Remember: these stats represent the average price for all property types – so the average price in Toronto is affected by the disproportionate number of condo sales in comparison to the rest of the GTA. It isn’t easy to find a detached house in Toronto for under $900,000. But there are still affordable communities for houses near Toronto, in particular in the Durham and Peel regions.
Other Financial Considerations
When debating between the 905 and the 416, you’ll need to consider:
Land Transfer Tax
Residents of the City of Toronto have to pay the Toronto Land Transfer Tax on top of the Ontario land transfer tax. On a million-dollar home, that’s an extra $16,475, bringing total land transfer taxes payable to $32,950. That’s not an insignificant amount of cash.
Transportation, Transit and Commuting Costs
Will you need to buy a second car if you move to the ‘burbs? How will that affect your gas, car maintenance, and insurance expenses? If you keep your Toronto job and aren’t planning on the long car commute daily, you’ll need to consider GoTrain and TTC costs (as well as longer commute times).
A 2018 CMHC study exploring the tradeoffs between commuting and affordability found that 905 commuters spend $500-800 a month commuting, significantly more than the average cost of $200/month in the 416 (excluding parking costs, which can add up quickly). The study found that people commuting from Mississauga, Richmond Hill and Pickering spend about $400 per month.
To get a better understanding of commuting costs from the 905, we used the GoTransit fare calculator. For our calculations, we assumed the average adult commuter would get a PRESTO card (and thus be eligible for discounts) and would travel 40 times per month:
- Ajax to Union Station – $3,683/year
- Dixie GO Station in Mississauga to Union: $2,577/year
- Oakville GO Station to Union: $3,493/year
- Richmond Hill GO Station to Union: $2,937/year
- Caledon GO Station to Union$4,953
- TTC Metropass if you don’t work at Union Station: $1,824/year
Some communities offer local transit discounts for regular GO customers too.
Other Costs to Consider: Salaries and Daycare
If you decide against commuting and choose instead to ditch your Toronto job and look for work closer to your new home outside of the city, your job opportunities and salary may be affected negatively.
You might also incur additional daycare or pet expenses because of the longer days spent away from home.
Types of Homes: 905 vs 416
One of the biggest differences between the 416 and the 905 is the size and type of homes available:
- In Toronto, you’ll find far more condo options than anywhere else in the 905, though there are increasingly more condo towers being built in the 905.
- With land at a premium in the 416, there are a lot more semi-detached and row houses than in the 905 (where you may not find them at all). While there are plenty of detached house options in Toronto too, they come at a hefty premium vs outside of the city, where the single. detached house rules.
- Toronto lot sizes are significantly smaller than in the 905, so backyards are a lot smaller and the houses are closer together than in the ‘burbs.
- Smaller lot sizes also mean smaller houses, so if square footage is important to you, head to the 905. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a 3,500 sqft house in Toronto – 3-bedroom homes under 2,000 sqft are more the norm (and 1,500 sqft homes are extremely common in central Toronto).
- Century homes dominate in Toronto, where newly built houses less than 10 years old are rare and it’s near-impossible to buy a lot to build on, without having to tear something down first. In the burbs: you’ll find newer homes, planned communities and lots you can build on.
When debating whether you should move to the ‘burbs, be honest with yourself: would you take advantage of a bigger yard or would you curse that lawn and garden and all the work they entail? Are you longing to fill a 3,500 sqft house with furniture or would you rather minimize your material belongings and spend that money travelling the world? How important is style of home and character to you?
Your Time and Lifestyle
When it comes to evaluating whether you want to live in Toronto or the 905, you’ll need to do some soul-searching about the kind of lifestyle you want and the value of your time and how you want to spend it.
Safety and Crime
Living in a safe community is important to many Buyers. Macleans 2020 Most Dangerous Places Report ranked cities across Canada (it’s a fascinating read). Of the 237 cities analyzed, the most dangerous cities were found to be:
- Toronto (#39)
- Hamilton (#75)
- Mississauga/Brampton (#106)
- Durham Region (#135)
- York Region (#165)
- Halton Region (#215)
When it comes to commuting, it’s not just about money – it’s about time too. The CMHC study found that 67% of commuters drive into the city and spend an average of 45 minutes one way (or 1.5 hours a day). For those who use public transit, it takes them on average, more than an hour to commute one way, or 10 hours per week.
Proximity to Amenities
Depending on the suburb and neighbourhood you choose, you aren’t likely to have the same variety of amenities nearby (though greenspaces may be much more plentiful). Are you the type of person who likes to stroll and visit the local butcher, baker and cheese shop? Or will a visit to Costco be enough? These days, the conveniences of companies like Instacart – who deliver your groceries to you – can make living in the suburbs almost as convenient as living downtown.
Where do your family and friends live?
Will moving to the ‘burbs mean being able to spend more time with the people you love or will you be sacrificing that time commuting? 20% of Ontario Buyers consider proximity to friends and family one of the top 3 factors in deciding where to live. (Source: OREA Home Buyer & Seller Report 2020)
If you’re moving to the 905, you’ll find your public transit options aren’t as numerous as they are in Toronto, but you may be surprised at how many options exist.
How important is walkability?
While many of Toronto’s suburbs have great walkable neighbourhoods, it won’t be as easy to find trendy restaurants, craft brewpubs, foodie shops and cafes at your doorstep – and often, you’ll need to drive to go to the gym or grocery store. If you’re living in the city now, do you take advantage of all it has to offer? Or are you more likely to binge-watch Netflix on your couch?
Schools and kid-friendliness
If you have kids (or are planning to), the quality of schools and family-friendliness can be an important consideration in deciding to move to the 905. What kind of an environment do you want your kids growing up in? Some people want to give their kids an urban experience, while others want a quieter, smaller community. How do you feel about the school options in the city vs. the ‘burbs?
So Should You Move to the 905?
Making the choice to uproot from city living to ‘the burbs is a BIG decision. In the 905/GTA, you’ll find more affordable housing, a less hectic lifestyle, safer neighbourhoods and bigger homes – and that can be tempting.
We work with a lot of people who are choosing to move to the 905:
- First-time Buyers priced out of the Toronto real estate market
- People choosing the 905 lifestyle over the hustle and bustle of Toronto
- Toronto homeowners cashing out on the equity of their home and heading to the 905
If a move to the 905 is something you’re considering, we can help! We have BREL agents and partners working across the GTA.