Dear Urbaneer: Should I Sacrifice Location To Get More House?

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Welcome to this month’s installment of Dear Urbaneer, where we dispense advice and a sympathetic ear to our clients who are wondering about all matters real estate. This time, we are helping clients who are trying to decide if a property fits their needs or not, and wonder what kind of compromises will help them strike the right balance. They asked:

Dear Urbaneer:

When we set out on our house hunt, we thought the hard part was going to be finding a house in this market, which is in part true. We’ve found a contender that fits most of our needs, but isn’t in the location that we had hoped.  What we hadn’t anticipated was how hard it would be when we did find a home, in terms of prioritizing our wish lists in order to reconcile with the property in question (or not). Adding to the emotional pressures already present in our house hunt to date (the fear of missing out), we’re also experiencing stress from the pressure of making the ‘right’ decision. We’re open to compromise, but how do we know if we are making a good decision? Can we still be happy even if we decide to leave a few items off our list or if we change our location altogether?

Searching For ‘The One’



Here’s my response:

Dear ‘The One’:

You’ve touched on a great point and brought to light yet another point of view in this hyper-charged real estate market in Toronto. It’s fraught with emotions (as we discussed in “Dear Urbaneer: Help! Buying a Home is Emotionally Exhausting!). Of all the emotions present, perhaps the only thing greater than the fear of missing out (FOMO) is the fear of Buyer’s remorse.

Like all solid, long-term decisions, there is an element of trust in your instincts when buying a home. To draw a parallel, when you select your mate, you assume that you are going to be together forever based on a number of criteria that you’ve assessed. But even though you’ve got that list assembled, it’s a bit of a leap of faith to actually jump in when the moment comes. The same can be said for buying a house – especially if you’ve got an eye to the long term. How do you know that you can create that “Home” that you are dreaming of? And if you need to compromise on your housing wish list, are you cutting yourself short, or are you keeping your dream elusively at bay by being unwilling to budge?

When building your house hunting wish list, there are three basic categories that your list will be split into: property size, location and condition. No matter what type of home you are after, these criteria will apply across the board; it’s what form these criteria take and what importance (or value- financial and emotional) that you place upon them that will really guide your housing search, and ultimately your housing choice.

While these criteria are common, they are deeply personal, which is why it is difficult to provide advice on if any of those three is a worthwhile trade off when trying to find a balance in compromise. I discussed this recently in “How to Search For Your Next Property Purchase”, which explored the relationship between housing criteria and derivation of physical and emotional value.

But, while ultimately only you know what will make you happy, I do have some points that you should consider as you set up the framework for your decision, increasing your likelihood of satisfaction and happiness with your purchase.



Consider This Example

I recently sold a ‘cozy’ renovated detached two bedroom house on a small lot to a family who chose this home over an upgraded ,more spacious three bedroom semi with a larger lot on the same street. While on the surface one might have thought that the three bedroom semi may have been a more logical purchase, since it was more spatially appropriate for their growing family, they didn’t favour it. So you see, logic doesn’t uniformly apply when matching property to person.

These Buyers felt that the detached home, although smaller, was a better fit for them, because they valued housing type (being detached meant more privacy and less concern about noise) over physical housing size and also, because they liked that the smaller home was fully renovated to their taste already (which meant fewer repairs and renovations). They were willing to compromise (and be creative) in their accommodation of the space, in order to meet their top priorities. You could show the same property to other Buyers of similar demographic and socio-economic background, who would elect the opposite scenario because they seek physical space at the top of their list and maybe welcome the opportunity to put their own stamp on their dwelling.

The question is: what matters to you the most?



Location, Location, Location

Location, location, location is indeed the mantra of real estate, mostly because a home’s location (i.e. proximity to green space, public transit and amenities) will ultimately dictate a property’s long-term longevity in terms of asset growth. (Here’s one of our past posts called On Choosing A Winning Location). But it has another more subtle influence. Your home’s location will contribute (or potentially detract) from your overall quality of life while living in your home.

Specifically to your question about compromising on location, there are a number of sub-factors to consider. Why do you have the location that you desire in mind? Is it because of proximity to work? Is it because you like the community? Is it because the area is well located to the amenities that you covet the most? If you shift location, you will need to compromise on some of these. How will that factor in?



The Commuting Question

For example, how much more time or difficulty will your commute to work be if you elect another neighbourhood over the one that you thought you wanted? Is it worth it to you personally in order to “get more house” or tick off other boxes on your wish list, as the case may be?

Does public transit support your commute easily, or can you expect more travel time? If you are commuting by driving yourself, are you faced with more rush hour gridlock (and high blood pressure)? Are you willing to forgo extra time daily on sleep, exercise, family time, hobbies, socializing, etc. in order to secure that home that you’re considering?  If you balance out all of these and the location still seems appealing, then you’ve got your answer.

I encourage you to read our popular post “What Are The Real Financial, Emotional And Health Costs of Commuting?” to help develop a pros and cons list.



Picture your Life

How does this new location compare to the original locations you’ve been considering, when it comes to how you engage (or want to engage) in city life (walking to the subway/streetcar, running errands to the butcher or baker, nightlife, boutique shopping, great cafes/restaurants/bars nearby to meet up with friends and family, etc.). Keep in mind that being a ten minute walk versus a twenty minute walk is quite significant when it’s minus-freezing in Ontario!

Are schools a consideration for you? What are the neighbourhood schools like? Do they have daycare, or is this a likely extra step to add to your commute?

How does this new location create opportunities for you to engage in your hobbies or exercise routine? Does it provide constraints?

If you can imagine what life will be like considering these questions if you shift location, you’ll get a good idea of whether or not this is a reasonable compromise for you. If the desired property offsets any sacrifices you’d make in terms of convenience, then you’ll be better able to prioritize.



The New Math

If you are deciding between one or more homes with differing criteria, contrast them in this new context.  Take each of the houses and based on the criteria of 1) location, 2) condition/style and 3) size/parking, give each category a rank out of 10. Total the three categories to arrive at a final number for each house.

Which one is the winner? It can help to inject a deeply pragmatic system like this into an emotional process to help ground judgment.


Is your house hunt creating more questions than answers? My team and I can help by employing our decades of experience and sound knowledge of the market to help you arrive at conclusions that will ensure that you find the right property to meet your needs-today and tomorrow too! Please know we’re here to help!


~ Steven and the urbaneer team
– we’re here to earn your trust, then your business –

Steven Fudge, Sales Representative
& The Innovative Urbaneer Team
Bosley Real Estate Ltd., Brokerage – (416) 322-8000

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