When I started thinking about the new apartment, I had a very specific criteria in mind. I didn’t set out to go beyond those tight guidelines. The next place I live in will be somewhere I’d like to genuinely call home for a long time. In two months, I looked through a lot of online ads. :p
It is weird, considering for a year and a half, I didn’t do too badly helping people find homes for themselves. Knowing what I know now about Toronto real estate, as well as my own experience, I think I’d tweak the advice I give to people from now on. For example: there is no shame in renting.
I can go into the economy of it all, the advantages of renting vs. selling, market statistics, the appreciation of value, all that real estate stuff. I will tell you, if you have a decent downpayment (aim for at least 20%), and you take your time looking at a good neighbourhood and property, then yes, it makes total sense purchasing your own home.
But for the rest of us who won’t be looking into home ownership anytime soon, you can save a lot of money renting your place, if you consider keeping your living costs at about 30% of your income. You can grow your money in other ways (investment/retirement funds, savings, etc., seriously ask a financial planner!)
The challenge is finding a place you can call home if you go this route long term. After all, beyond being affordable, you want to be able to personalize this place and feel comfortable here. You don’t want your neighbours to be jerks, and you don’t want a landlord that’ll regularly freak out if you just wanted to hang a picture (you probably wouldn’t be surprised at how many landlords/property managers didn’t email me back after I told them I had two cats…)
And then you want to find a neighbourhood that you can feel comfortable with. I’ve always believed that part of being home is the neighbourhood. Is it close to everything you need, like schools and grocery stores? If you don’t have a car, is your neighbourhood walkable? Do you have a reasonable commute to work? If you don’t feel like the neighbourhood could work for you right then and there, then why invest there?
Like I said… I had a criteria in mind. I wanted to live somewhere that was within that rent-to-income ratio, that was in the neighbourhood that I wanted to live in, and that felt like it could be home for the long-term. This was a bit of a challenge.