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Searching for home

Home is more than a dwelling…if you’re lucky, it’s also a neighbourhood. I’ve lived in a lot of neighbourhoods over the years, but I’ve never felt the same sense of community that I do now. And I didn’t always feel it here, but I do now. I love my neighbourhood. I love the densely populated, crazy, multi-cultural mix of kids and dogs and families and singles and child-free couples and gays and straights and young and old in this eclectic mix of low-income, non-profit, cooperative and high-end housing. I love all the gardens and the trees and the dog park and the river and my neighbours. I love that I can have three conversations on the way to the corner store. I love the clamor of a gazillion urchins playing an impromptu game of pick-up soccer on the cul-de-sac below my balcony. I love the Chinese shops on Somerset Street and the Italian restaurants on Preston Street. I love that I can walk to work and walk to the Parkdale market and walk pretty much everywhere I want to go.

I love my neighbourhood and I don’t want to leave.

But I cannot afford to buy a house in my neighbourhood. Despite the fact that the child poverty rate is almost 50% in my immediate neighbourhood, homes for sale around here are not at entry-level prices. My next choice would be Mechanicsville, one neighbourhood over to the west. Densely populated but different, with no front lawns and front porches butting up against the sidewalks, and little elbow room between the houses. Mechancsville is proud but poor working-class housing, and some would argue that there’s not even that much pride there. It’s unpretentious living at its best, and it’s still walking distance to downtown. Mechanicsville has character; I could make myself at home there.

But I’ve been looking for six months now, and I might be a little bit late to the Mechanicsville real estate party. There’s just not that much in the <$200K range anymore and I lost one bidding war in Mechanicsville already.

Last night my agent took me to see a place in the Carlington area (MLS: 643193 ). It’s a nice house, clean, hardwood floors, a finished basement, good condition, tastefully painted, 3 bedrooms, a tiny yard, affordable. It’s got a lot going for it. I’m seriously considering it, and my agent says I should move fast if I want this one. I like the house…I just feel weird about living in Carlington. It’s not my neighbourhood. I’d have to take a bus to work. I wouldn’t have a dog park, or a gazillion screaming urchins playing soccer below my balcony. Or a balcony. Or a river.

So here’s a question for all of you: Would you continue to rent in the neighbourhood you love, or would you buy in a neighbourhood that doesn’t feel like home?

5 comments to Searching for home

  • Dakota

    Would I move to a neighbourhood that doesn’t feel like home? No, not if I could help it. I think that home is more then a house alone. It’s the feel of the neighbourhood, the people, shops, markets etc. But in the end it’s all about priorities, isn’t it? What is more important to you, a lovely spacious house or al the things you have right now? Think about it, take your time if you need to…there will always be other lovely houses!
    Oh, and if you do decide to go for the house, living in a new neighbourhood isn’t all bad. You’ll get used to it and you will meet all sort of new people pretty soon.

  • If I could afford the rent, I’d stay in my home neighbourhood.

  • All good points Dakota – thank you. I wish I had the clarity to know my priorities without having to think about them. David, I can afford the rent now, but I think it would be nice not to have to pay rent forever, especially since I will be one of the unpensioned masses. Roy, on the other hand, makes a case for NOT buying a home, for economic reasons. He challenged me to do the math…I’m not sure if I’ve taken everything into consideration, or if perhaps some of my assumptions are wrong, but the preliminary calculations show that he might be right.

    Mostly I haven’t decided yet on this house. I’m going to ride my bike over there today and explore the neighbourhood some more.

  • Gillian

    Yeah, do the math! In fact do it with help, so that you consider everything. Is electricity included with the rental? You certainly have to pay it at the house. Heat, property taxes, where is the bus or other transport vs now? How much will you have to spend on maintenance, both time and money, for the house? That’s not cheap. But at least after 10 or 20 years, you have some equity, maybe have paid off the mortgage and when you sell, you have something to show for it. If you buy, put every cent you can spare against the mortgage…odd jobs, inheritance, Xmas gift, etc. And get an open mortgage which you can pay down extra whenever. Also pay ever 2 wks rather than monthly. You save that way too.

    I used to work on Parkdale so I know your area a bit.

  • Thanks Gillian – I do pay heat & hydro in addition to rent now…and I don’t really get extra money like odd jobs, inheritances and xmas gifts. Unfortunately. (But I did buy another lottery ticket, so you never know.) What are the advantages/disadvantages of an open mortgage?

    I used to work with a Gillian on Parkdale (55 Parkdale, across from Statistics Canada) in the 90s – you wouldn’t be the same Gillian, would you?