So you’re looking to buy a new house – and pouring over all of the great real estate offerings in the Montreal Area. Each property slideshow conjures images of a new era of domestic bliss in your mind. It’s an exciting time, full of possibilities. But while you’re envisioning yourself in that new place, don’t forget to consider the big picture. You’ll be calling a new neighbourhood “home” too.
Read on to determine what information you need to know about choosing your new neighbourhood.
It’s not merely a question of “good neighbourhoods” and “bad neighbourhoods”. What you want, ideally, is a neighbourhood that offers the specific qualities required to enrich your life (both now and during the years to come). Those requirements will vary greatly from homebuyer to homebuyer, and you’ll want to sit down and create a personalized list of make or break criteria before beginning your search. This article touches on several common concerns that people might have when assessing a new neighbourhood, and provides a few tips on how to acquire the information you need, but, ultimately, only you can decide where your new home should be!
Your children will be spending a huge amount of time in schools over the next few years – so make sure they’ll be getting the best experience possible. This is particularly important in Quebec, where French and English schooling options may differ greatly in any given area. You can do some of this legwork via the internet, now that academic performance rankings are so readily available.
However, average test scores won’t tell you very much about school culture and the kinds of friends your children will be likely to make. The best way to find out about that is to visit the neighbourhood and talk to the people with kids who live there. Perhaps the local school has great extracurricular programs or particularly beloved teachers in the subjects that are dearest to your children’s hearts. Those would be good things to know.
Moreover, even if you don’t have kids, you’ll want to learn as much as you can about the educational options in the neighbourhood – because somewhere down the line a good school district report card will boost your resale value.
The last thing you want is to put yourself, your loved ones or your property in harm’s way. Fortunately, you can get a good read on a neighbourhood’s susceptibility to various types of criminal activity with just a few quick internet searches.
If you want to conduct a more thorough investigation (and of course that’s always encouraged), you can learn a great deal by walking around the area. If you see a lot of bars and security barriers on the doors and windows, that’s probably not the best sign.
Graffiti on the walls can sometimes appear charming, in the right downtown context, but be sure to verify whether any of those markings are gang-related. Chat with your potential neighbours whenever possible – they’re an important resource. And of course the local police station will have valuable street-level information that goes well beyond printed crime statistics.
Perhaps a formerly dangerous area has been improving of late (as is often the case with “gentrifying” neighbourhoods)? Conversely, the trend may be headed in the opposite direction – a situation that could have dire consequences for resale value (not to mention peace of mind).
Try to imagine what your daily life in this new area would be like. Will this be a pleasant place to take an afternoon stroll in? What kind of commuting options does it offer? Will your home be close enough to the things that are important to you? Depending upon age, family size and personal inclination, those things could include: cafes, depanneurs, parks and recreational facilities, grocery stores, hospitals or clinics, highways, metro or bus stops, bookstores, cinemas, shopping malls or a variety of interesting restaurants to choose from.
Proximity to any or all of these amenities could be essential to your quality of life – or it may be completely immaterial to you. Some homebuyers will place more emphasis upon access to green space, eliminating noise pollution and getting away from excessive traffic than upon immediate access to stores and cultural venues.
Others will be quite willing to put up with urban annoyance in exchange for a life that limits their dependence on a car. In either case (and in every case in between), there is no substitute for walking or driving around the area in question. However, free internet tools like Google Maps Street View or Walk Score.com can help to narrow down your search considerably.
The Greater Montreal Area offers an incredibly diverse array of neighbourhoods. Any one of them could be exactly right – or particularly wrong – for you. To conduct the most effective and satisfying house-hunt, you’ll want to consider many factors that aren’t listed in the ad.
One of the best ways to do that is to work in close partnership with a reputable real estate broker. Whether you’ve already identified the perfect neighbourhood or are just beginning to work through that process, I invite you to contact me for a no-obligation consultation.
An earlier version of this article I wrote appeared in the Montreal Times newspaper.
I'm Andrew Mitchell, Chartered Real Estate Broker and Owner of Vistacor Realty Group. I help buyers, sellers and investors in the West Island, Montreal and Vaudreuil-Soulanges areas buy and sell homes. My goal is to provide you with useful, straight-forward insights and relevant real estate market updates. Contact me with any questions. Follow me on twitter here.