Choosing your "home, sweet home"
When it comes to buying the perfect home, there's
no such thing as one type fits all.
A young couple planning a family might want a suburban
house with a huge yard for romping dogs and youngsters. A single
professional who racks up record frequent-flyer miles might consider
a low-maintenance condo a "home nirvana," while an empty-nest
older couple might find their perfect abode in a planned community
that offers extra amenities for seniors.
The one thing these folks have in common is that they
are part of a growing trend: buyers who are considering their lifestyle
needs -- not just a house's price tag -- when they choose their
home sweet home.
Fortunately, today's market offers housing options
to suit every buyer's fancy, from traditional single-family homes
to urban lofts, condominiums and townhouses.
While some people jump into the home-buying process
with a very clear vision of their ideal home, Bruce Sworik, a broker
with Sutton Select Realty, in London, Ont., says most of his clients
are still working that out.
"Spend time with an agent to ascertain what you're
looking for. Lots of buyers don't know what they want. What you
want and what you need (can be) a lot different. Everybody wants
a double-car garage and an in-ground pool, but what they really
need first is four bedrooms for the kids."
Colin Holliday-Scott, a Realtor with Royal Lepage
in Victoria, B.C., agrees that developing your home wish list goes
far beyond selecting the ideal number of bedrooms and bathrooms.
"People's homes should reflect the kind of people
they are in the best possible light and most people don't understand
that. Usually, people don't know what they should be living in and
they need someone to tell them."
In the 1930s and '40s, people purchased their ideal
homes but now the market is so limited, "it's so expensive
to get that white picket fence. Or all those ideas of a cottage
by the sea when you retire are not always an option," says
Another big issue when choosing your ideal home is
privacy. "Your location of decks and patios is very important
these days -- you don't want people looking down on you knowing
exactly what you are doing, but lack of privacy is something we
live with more and more because of the amount of space that we have."
Last but not least, consider how much time you want
to spend driving. "In Victoria it isn't a problem, but in Vancouver
it's nothing to drive an hour and a half to work and back,"
These are the most readily available housing options
on the market:
Single-Family Home (SFH): This
is the kind of house that comes to most people's minds: a detached
home on its own plot. "Single-family homes in Canada are not
the perfect white picket fence portrayed in so many movies -- there
are many factors that go into the perfect home such as location,
price and the personality of the home buyer," says Robert Linney,
communications director for the Canadian Real Estate Association
SFHs remain the most popular Canadian home option,
according to Statistics Canada.
choice for people who want freedom in how they care for their home
and who are willing to take responsibility for maintenance. If you
want to paint your house purple with a red front door, the choice
Other pluses: In
most parts of the country, SFHs are reliable financial investments
that appreciate steadily over time. They are great for families
with kids and usually offer the greatest amount of privacy.
Cons: Possibly higher
purchase price and maintenance expenses than other housing options,
depending on home's age and condition.
Condominium: You own
the airspace between the condo's walls (but not the building or
land) and share common space, such as parking and recreation areas.
"Condos have become a major part of the real estate landscape
for Toronto and Vancouver," says Linney. Condos account for
12.7 percent of homes in Toronto, according to the Toronto Real
Estate Board (TREB).
are great for owners who want to do minimal maintenance or who travel
a lot. The condo association often provides landscaping and exterior
building maintenance. Security can be better, since neighbours are
close. Can be less expensive than SFHs, though some new luxury condos
are quite pricey. May offer amenities such as a clubhouse and covered
parking. Also, condos in urban centres may be within walking distance
of upscale retail shops and restaurants.
Cons: They are usually
smaller than SFHs and feature less privacy and more noise, since
you may have upstairs and downstairs neighbours. Resale prices may
not be as strong as for a SFH.
Townhouse or row house: These
are similar to condos, except that units may not be connected. They
often consist of several levels and a private garage.
Pros: Same as condos,
but with less noise since you probably won't have anyone living
above or below you. They are increasingly available in urban areas
and currently account for 5.7 percent of home sales in Toronto,
according to TREB.
Cons: They may be
more expensive than a condo. The owner may also have responsibility
for landscaping -- a pro if you have a green thumb!
Still not sure? Bankrate has lots of information for
Melanie Chambers is a writer
in London, Ont.