Have you been searching for a new home for a while now with no luck? Have you been unable to see anything on www.realtor.ca for Toronto in your price range? Do you find yourself browsing just a little outside of Toronto’s boundaries, in sheer frustration over lack of options? If so, you’re not alone.
In the current real estate market, thousands of Toronto home buyers are looking to Mississauga, Oakville and other areas of the 905 to find a more affordable home. Although the 905 is going through it’s own hectic, double-digit price increases, you can still get more out here in a quality neighbourhood than what you can get in a quality neighbourhood in Toronto. You probably didn’t really want to move to the ‘burbs’, but you might now have little choice if you desire that ideal home with everything on your wish list.
My family was in the same situation even back in the 1980’s. Originally from the Woodbine & Danforth area in the east end of Toronto, my parents decided to move us out to Mississauga to get a much larger home for the budget. They didn’t love the idea of leaving the city; our family lived a block away, we were walking distance to the subway, and we had all the amenities of the Danforth within walking distance. But as the family grew, the squeeze of daily life was getting too hard to handle. We needed more space and my parents wanted to raise my brother and I in the best neighbourhood they could afford. The best choice for them was to consider Mississauga.
Almost half of my business these days is with buyers relocating to the west GTA; not just Mississauga, but Milton, Oakville, Burlington and Georgetown. Given the difference between Toronto and the 905, its critical that you choose to work with a highly skilled, local professional who can guide you through the ins and outs of these villages. Despite what they may look like at first glance, each village is not at all the same. Much like Toronto, if you cross certain streets you will find yourself in a completely different village with a different vibe, amenities, and demographics. If you want to make your move successful, you need to be sure you are well advised about the best neighbourhoods for your needs.
It is critical to focus on your lifestyle needs just as much as on the house, so that this transition doesn’t come with surprising disappointments. You are not just buying a property, but a neighbourhood and a way of life. Different people have different priorities in terms of commute time, access to downtown Toronto, proximity to restaurants and nightlife, access to parks and green space, or quality of schools, etc…this all has to come into play. It IS possible to tailor your search to the life you want, so that your move from Toronto to the 905 is a successful one.
Below, I’ve described the different kinds of Toronto buyers I’ve worked with over the last few years, and then outlined the neighbourhoods that best fit the desired lifestyle.
Lifestyle Profile: The Toronto Die-Hard
Many buyers I work with absolutely love the Toronto lifestyle, and don’t want to lose access to the city. This may not necessarily mean just young single professionals who go out every night, but couples and young families who love what the city has to offer. If this sounds like you, we must factor this in to our search. The following neighbourhoods offer a wide range of housing styles, from apartments to large family homes, so no matter what housing style you want for your family, the key factor is that they all border on Toronto and provide easy access to the city.
Located on the border of Toronto, Applewood will remind you of popular neighbourhoods in Etobicoke such as Markland Wood, Eatonville and Bloor/Islington. Homes in this area were built in the 1960’s and 70’s, and offer mature trees and larger lots compared to newer sub division homes. Popular home styles include traditional 2 story detached homes, split levels, bungalows and town homes. This area is in demand and undergoing intense renovation, but there is always a possibility to find a diamond in the rough; a good home that needs some cosmetic updating.
If you can handle a newer suburban area, Rathwood offers big brick detached homes, built mostly in the 1980s. Although the homes look suburban, you are still close to the subway to commute into Toronto, and you are also close to Mississauga City Centre, which is quickly developing into its own urban destination. Your money stretches further here than in Applewood and you can get a bigger home, although your backyard might be a bit smaller. This is a good area for buyers who don’t want to deal with the possibility of older home issues such cinder block foundations and aluminum wiring. This area is generally full of owners who have maintained their home over the years, although they might now be cosmetically outdated.
Located on the lakeshore, Lakeview is an up and coming area that is attracting a lot of investors who are waiting for it to become the next ‘Port Credit’. Inspiration Lakeview is Mississauga’s official plan for developing the last parcel of waterfront property in the area and this will completely change the Village. The only downside is that we are still a decade away from seeing the full realization of the vision, so it isn’t quite there yet.
Lakeview has a real mix of homes built pre- WW2 to the 1960’s. You will also find custom infill homes as developers buy up small bungalows and build custom homes. This area is very similar to Alderwood and Mimico in Toronto. The advantage of Lakeview is that you are very close to the city, and there are some lovely smaller sub-neighbourhoods in Lakeview such as Orchard heights and Applewood Acres.
If there’s is one thing I love about Toronto, it’s the village flavour that you get from all the different neighbourhoods in the city. Originally from the east end of Toronto myself, I miss being able to walk to the Danforth with all the shops and restaurants to enjoy. For many people in Toronto, loosing this aspect of their lifestyle is a deal breaker for moving outside the city. Before Mississauga was formed in the 1970s, a handful of villages existed as independent entities, with their own history and culture dating as far back as 300 years. So if it’s not Toronto itself that you are in love with, but more just the proximity to charming village streets full of shops, restaurants and history, Mississauga has 3 distinct villages on offer, Port Credit, Clarkson and Streetsville, all with their own GO Train station to Toronto.
I also like to include Olde Oakville, Kerr Village, Bronte Village and Downtown Burlington as well. Yes, the commute times from Oakville and Burlington are longer, but these 4 villages also have quick access to the Lakeshore Go Train line. So it is definitely a matter of deciding how important commute time is to your lifestyle.
Port Credit has undergone a massive revitalization over the past 20 years. Small in size but large in culture, Port Credit has a high concentration of restaurants and nightlife along Lakeshore Rd. The area has beautiful walking trails and in the summer there is always something to do. Festivals such as the South Side Shuffle Blues & Jazz Festival, ‘Paint the Town Red’ Canada Day Celebrations and Busker Fest are just some of the events that keeps this area busy in the summer. Port Credit has a high walk score, and is only a quick 15 minute Go Train ride to Union Station in Toronto which is another reason why it is in such high demand. Homes in Port Credit vary widely from small older homes, custom build luxury homes, high rise condos and luxury town homes.
Located in the north west part of the city, Streetsville looks like that typical charming little town you’ll find all throughout Ontario, except that Streetsville is located in the the heart of the city and close to all of the amenities in Mississauga. Home to the largest amount of historic buildings in Mississauga, Streetsville offers a slower pace compared to Port Credit but has just as strong community spirit. Events such as the Bread and Honey Festival and the Santa Clause parade are annual traditions. Streetsville is a good choice for families since it has great schools and its own GO Train station for commuters. Homes in Streetsville range widely from luxury homes, historic homes, townhouses to older style wide lot homes built in the 1960’s.
Smaller than either Port Credit or Streetsville, Clarkson is developing a distinct character of it’s own with independent shops and restaurants opening up along the lakeshore. Even famous chef Massimo Capra has opened his new restaurant, Capra’s, in the heart of Clarkson Village along lakeshore road. Located a few minutes west of Port Credit, Clarkson has it’s own Go Train Station making it a popular destination for commuters to Toronto. Clarkson boasts multiple lakeshore parks including Jack Darling Park and Rattray Marsh, as well as historic sites like the Bradley Museum.
Homes in Clarkson vary widely, and it is a more densely populated area. Around Bromsgrove road and Inverhouse, there is a high proportion of semi-detached back-splits that are still relatively affordable, given its convenient location. There is also a high density of town home complexes, some of which are less desirable. But on the other end, areas east of Southdown Road and Rattray Marsh are full of quality, high end homes and are in high demand due to their access to good schools.
Olde Oakville is a vibrant village along lakeshore, east of 16 mile creek. There is theatre, museums, lakeside parks and tons of independent shops, restaurants and bistros. Its not quite Yorkdale, but it’s the closest thing you’ll find in the 905. This is the historic core of Oakville, and so homes here easily reach the millions. There is infill happening with condos and towns, but the price is still high. It’s and excellent area for families as the schools are fantastic. With the Lakeshore GO Train line at Trafalgar, commuting to Toronto is still relatively easy. For anyone seeking high quality living with a small village feel, Olde Oakville is worth consideration.
This village is a prime example of gentrification. Not too long ago, this was the sad little secret of Oakville, where no one went, as it had many old high rises and low-end retail stores. In the past 10 years, Kerr Village has eared a second look, and is especially popular with young professionals. There are a lot of war-time bungalow homes that are being fully renovated in craftsman and mid century modern styles. Hip & Happening is the name of the game. Located on the west side of 16 mile creek, it is just as close to the Trafalgar GO Train Station as is Olde Oakville, so commuting into Downtown Toronto is still very doable.
Bronte is a charming little village that often gets overlooked between Oakville and Burlington. With its own Marina and festivals, summer in Bronte Village is bustling. It has many unique restaurants and shops, and is definitely experiencing a revival due to is location. Home here used to be relatively cheap because in Oakville, where all schools are excellent, the schools in Bronte weren’t quite as good, and so many people chose to live elsewhere, despite its charm. Now, new interest and redevelopment has seen investment in tear downs and custom new builds. With its own GO Train Station at Wyecroft and 3rd Line, commuting into the city is still an option. Older areas have tree lined streets and are all a short stroll to the lakefront. If you want the added bonus of a marina, Bronte Village might be just for you.
Even though Burlington is the furthest Village from Toronto, It is arguably the best. Tied, or second only to Port Credit, in my opinion. My wife grew up in Burlington and she always spoke of how boring downtown Burlington was for decades; there were so many empty storefronts and only a handful of coffee shops. Village Square, a unique retail concept of cobblestone walkways connecting multiple shops sat endlessly vacant. So, now that we live in Mississauga, it really bugs her that Downtown Burlington has finally got its act together. It is so vibrant, that cool and interesting shops, restaurants and bistros have popped up far beyond the main drag of Brant Street, and you will find little surprises from Locust St on the west to Martha St on the east. Spencer Smith park is a massive waterfront park that includes a pier, lookout, kids park, splash pad and Spencer’s restaurant. It hosts the annual Sound of Music Festival and many other events throughout the year. With the GO Train line at Brant Street and Fairview, you can consider west Burlington if you need to commute to downtown Toronto and want to feel like you are living in a village.
Mississauga has some of the most exclusive neighbourhoods anywhere in the GTA and there is something for even the most discerning taste. Custom designed homes on larger lots with close access to the Go Train and the QEW appeal to executives who would like a more quiet lifestyle compared to the city. A similar home in Rosedale would be double to triple the price or even more.
I also like to include in the list the areas of Morrison in Oakville and Roseland in Burlington. Though further out, they still have decent access to downtown Toronto via the lakeshore GO Train line and offer an abundance of beautiful homes options, from historic and charming to stunning new custom built homes.
Located just north of Port Credit, Mineola is a neighbourhood of custom homes built on large lots with tons of trees. If you want to feel like you live in the country, while only being a 25 minute drive to downtown Toronto, then this is the area for you. One client said to me “It feels like Switzerland!”, as he was new to Canada. Now, I have never been to Switzerland to verify, but I’ll take his word for it. If you’ve never been to Mineola, it will be the the most pleasant surprise of your day. It is exclusive, private, and overflowing with trees and beautiful homes.
As Mississauga’s oldest luxury neighbourhood, Lorne Park used to be the cottage country for Toronto Elite before Word War 2. Lorne park is unique in that it is a kid friendly luxury neighbourhood, somewhat akin to High Park, with excellent schools. This is a good area if you want to save on private school costs because the public schools are so good. The architecture varies wildly throughout Lorne Park and no one picture can do it justice. A small percentage of it is the shady, tree lined streets where small cottages of days gone by have been replaced with large custom built estates. Most of Lorne Park was in-filled from the 1950’s to 2000’s by a variety of subdivision builders, and you will see large family homes from each decade in different areas of the Village. One of the most in demand subdivision is Watercolours, a small number of streets with modern executive homes. All of Lorne Park has easy access to the Go Train and QEW and is excellent for upper class families looking for space and amenities.
These villages lie along the east side of the Credit River, just south of Dundas. These are only a handful of streets but they are not to be missed. Luckily, most of the city forgets about them since they are small pockets of side streets with no reason for through-traffic. They are quiet, sleepy streets loaded with a variety of custom, executive and heritage homes. Most of these homes are older, there are very few brand new options, so that is something to consider for these areas. If you are a lover of character streets with a variety of housing, you will love Gordon Woods and Erindale.
These villages lie along the west side of the credit river, between Dundas and the the QEW. These are two highly exclusive communities that are very popular with luxury buyers. Sherwood Forest is a collection of large detached homes with custom homes mixed throughout. It’s a great pocket for families. Along Mississauga Rd are some of the most exclusive homes in all of Canada, and is a very good location for the prestige buyer who wants to impress.
Morrison is the Mini Hamptons of the GTA. It’s stately, exclusive, gorgeous and envy-inducing. It’s not the flash of new money that buys a 14 bedroom spec home off Mississauga Road, it’s the refined old world elegance of fine living. Its just east of Old Oakville, some include it as part of this Village. So you are only a short walk to the hustle and activity that the lakeshore village provides. If you are concerned about your child’s education, despite the fact that all the schools in Oakville are top notch, Appleby College is just a short drive west on lakeshore road for the best experience for your children as well. Most residents are industry leaders, CEO’s, board Exec’s, Entrepreneurs and Investors. If you want the best that Oakville has to offer, Morrison is the place for you.
Roseland is a gorgeous period neighbourhood full of stately homes from the 1930’s up to today. Many of the smaller homes have been torn down to make way for impressive custom homes, but there is still a significant number of period homes that give this area incredible charm. Combined with tons of trees and no sidewalks, its hard not to love the area. It feels very much like an old Toronto neighbourhood, with the added bonus of being right along the lakefront and walking distance to downtown. If you don’t need to be in Toronto every day or don’t mind an extra 10 minutes on your commute, Roseland is worth a look.
Sometimes you have to move for purely economic reasons. You need a home and it just isn’t going to happen with the prices in Toronto. Having a home while still being able to get into the city is the priority. Below are 2 of the more popular neighbourhoods for entry level and mid level homes that will get you more house for the dollar. There are many many other good family neighbourhoods, but I have highlighted these two because they have their own GO Train line that enable a commute to downtown Toronto.
Located just west of Streetsville, Meadowvale is another planned community built in the 1970’s. The area is known for its walking trails, and two man made lakes that are popular with joggers and people who like the outdoors. The area has plenty of trees and the property sizes are larger than comparable properties in newer subdivisions. This neighbourhood is a great family area, with lots of kids and good schools. For this reason, many young families have been pouring in, and fixing up these older homes and the area is showing a new vibrancy it hasn’t seen in decades.
Located west of Meadowvale, Lisgar is a large development of newer homes that appeals to buyers who don’t want to deal with issues of an older house. This ain’t Toronto, and you will be getting a decent size home on a small lot with few trees and even fewer amenities within walking distance. The area does boast the unique, higher end development called Trelawny Estates, but mostly they are average homes with average curb appeal. What is has in spades is access to transportation. Not only with it’s own GO Train Line, but bordering on the 401, 407 and all the other highways that connect through. For this reason, this is a high demand commuter neighbourhood. The area has good schools and is full of children, so it’s a good choice for families, as long as you have a car to get around or like to shop online.