How to Pick a Community

When working with buyers that grew up in Calgary, they often have a good idea where they want to live. They may be “north” people or “south” people. They may want to be in walking distance to work or in close proximity to their family members.

But working with clients relocating to Calgary from somewhere else is always a fun exploratory mission! If they don’t have strong family or friend ties yet that dictate what area of the city they want to be in, there are so many options and factors to consider!

1. Price and property type. I put these two together because they give me a general framework for where to start our search. If someone wants to spend $350,000 and be close to downtown, they certainly can be – but only in a condo. If they want to be in a single-family home for $350,000, it simply won’t be an option to be close to downtown and we will be looking at farther-out suburbs. I recommend confirming what price range you can afford (and are comfortable spending) with the help of a mortgage broker to establish your price range first. Most buyers will have a sense of whether they are looking for apartment condo or single-family homes, though some may be open to products in the middle, such as duplexes and townhomes. There are pros and cons to all of these property types and I’m happy to discuss!

2. Commute to work. The commute to work is an important consideration for most people. Some want to walk or bike to work. Some are open to taking public transit. Some will be driving. And especially now, some work from home. If you work from home, are retired, or your work place may change over time, it opens up your geographic options. You may even start to look at some bedroom communities like Okotoks or Cochrane.

3. Commute to your hobbies. We spend a lot of our lives working! But when we aren’t working, we want to have easy access to the things we love to do. This may mean being able to walk (or take an e-scooter!) for yoga, coffee or dinner on the town. It may mean having larger-scale outdoor spaces nearby, such as Fish Creek or Nose Hill parks or the Bow River pathway to go running or biking. It may simply mean living close to the people you love so you can get together easily and often. For those with mountain hobbies, the drive time to the west edge of the city is important. For those that travel often by air, the distance to the airport may be important. A religious, cultural or community institution may be somewhere that you visit frequently, so you want to make that easy.

4. Demographics. Many young families want to live where there are other young families, so that there will be kids at the playgrounds and friends nearby. Younger buyers may want to live in a more vibrant, urban location with like-minded people. Those looking for quieter living may want to choose an age-restricted condo complex or a less dense neighbourhood. Some want to live in an area with more affluent people and some love a big mix of people.

5. The feel. If demographics and commute time are for the analytical thinkers, there is an intangible that is for the feelers out there! I’ve had clients say things like “I don’t know why, but I just don’t like X neighbourhood” or “I’ve always loved the feel of X neighbourhood”. I may have some reasons to suggest – things like lot width, density and zoning that affect property types; age and architectural style of the neighbourhood; availability of business or parks, etc. But sometimes two neighbourhoods that are fairly similar on these indicators may still have different levels of appeal for a buyer.

On a micro level, the location within a neighbourhood may also start to be narrowed down. Perhaps you like certain streets in a neighbourhood but want to stay away from road noise or less desirable commercial development on the main drag. Perhaps in a large neighbourhood, you want to stick to one side of it so that it’s truly walking distance to your favourite park (and you have no excuse not to go for a run!).

There are great resources on the City of Calgary website to compare community profiles, crime stats and flood mapping, but two things that I recommend doing to clients if they are exploring what areas they want to live in are:

  • Explore by foot or bicycle. Driving through a neighbourhood is important and can give you a quicker overview of what it has to offer. You can often cross some areas off your list this way. But if you are looking for your dream neighbourhood, there is no substitute for slowing down and seeing things from a pedestrian point of view.
  • Test the commute. It’s one thing to drive to check out houses on a Saturday afternoon or see what Google says the commute time is, but it’s another to get in your car on a snowy Monday morning and see how slow and/or stressful a commute is. I recommend getting up way too early once or twice, driving to the new potential community and then driving or taking transit at the time you normally would to get into work.

One of the benefits of working with a professional realtor for your house search is having someone to explore all of these questions with you and guide you through the process! If I can help anyone you know find their next home, please reach out today 🙂

– Amie