Expensive is a relative term.
Mean and crabby Donald Trump, for examle, probably has a different idea of what is expensive compared to you and me. Even with everyday folks like us, there is some variety depending on how much you earn, where you want to live, and whether you are buying your first home. Expensive also have a lot to do with time. Ten years ago, expensive would be a $350,000 to $400,000 house in Leslieville that would have been detached and nicely renovated. These days that’s a bargain for any house in Toronto. Whatever amount of money you earn, it is safe to say that Toronto is an expensive place. It’s not Vancouver or New York, but it is more expensive than it used to be, and this gives people the sense that they want to flee expensive or belong to it.
What I find interesting is how expensive shifts around in Toronto, and how our expectations for expensive have shifted.
For example, a home would have been considered a luxury home 10 years ago if it sold for more than a million dollars. These days, a luxury home has a new benchmark of $1.8 million. I’m not sure why this number has been chosen, but it seems to be the number that is used most recently to describe luxury Toronto homes. I imagine, it’s hard to believe that a house selling for a mere $1.7 million could not be luxurious, but we are seeing more houses in need of a good gutting hitting the million dollar mark in many parts of the city.
Some areas of Toronto were not expensive before, and are increasingly so now. Leslieville, the Junction, and Roncey are all good example of neighbourhoods that were once early emerging neighbourhoods where many could buy their first home. There was a time when these neigbhourhoods were not even middle class, and even a little scary. Well, maybe not Roncey, but Leslieville and the Junction were once fairly dismal locations with sad businesses and houses in need of some love. Nowadays, it seems that many neighbourhoods with housing stock is becoming increasingly more expensive. I can take the Junction Triangle, right next to the Junction. Once upon a time Lansdowne and Bloor seemed too sketchy and stripper-club heavy to buy in, and now it doesn’t even seem to matter.
I’m sure this is not news to anyone who follows real estate. Real estate is a game of strategy, in part, and I think you have to get in with a neighbourhood while it’s on the upswing before it’s expensive. The pace of a neighbourhoods ascenion into expensive depends on the infrastructure of the area, the stock of homes, the location, transit and the community involvement. Schools are important too, even if you do not plan to have any kids. Great school zones do influence prices in an area.
The other thing to keep in mind when is comes to expensive is how expensive filters down.
At first, when one neighbourhood becomes too expensive for first time buyers, then the adjacent neighbourhood may benefit. It seems that a lot of the neighbourhoods primarily filled with houses are filling up fast with new homebuyers and then heading in the expensive direction. The change can be swift. Still, there are some neighobourhoods that are still within reach. The Danforth Village and the area up by St. Clair and Dufferin are two neighbourhoods that would fit that description. Those are areas where you could still buy a house with a middle class, first-time buyer income. Then there’s Hamilton. Such a bargain by Toronto standards, but prices there are going up fast too.
Also, there are some housing types that are more affordable than others. Expensive trickles down by property type. Detached is the most expensive, followed closely by semis and row house, then condo townhomes or converted lofts, two bedroom condos, boutique condos and well-run large condos and poorly-run large condos.
Even if you have never owned a property and think all this real estate investment seems like a crazy idea right now, or maybe even forever, you are not immune to expensive. Rents have gone up substantially as well. If you choose to sit on the sidelines and watch real estate pass you by without any interest in it, you will feel the increase of expensive as rents rise in tandem. Of course, this is very beneficial to folks like me who do have rental property. I like to think I am fair to my tenants and I’m a reasonable lord of the land, but I still notice that each time my tenants move, I can charge a little more money, and over time, I make more money – though the government does take some of that away.
You would be pretty out-of-the loop not have noticed that Toronto has become more expensive that it used to be. With this truth in mind, you may want to ask yourself whether you can make the changing environment work to your advantage or be a bystander in a city that will very likely continue to get more expensive over the long haul, even if values slip temporarily. If you want to flee expensive, it is possible to buy something that is not expensive, but that’s no promise that it won’t become expensive. If you want to induldge in expensive, then you are increasingly having more and more neighbourhoods and properties that will cater to you in our city.