Home Values

Bedroom community boom: Why more buyers are looking beyond London

More and more buyers are looking for inexpensive homes and tight-knit communities in Ilderton and Thorndale.

Buyers in Middlesex and Thames Centre are drawn by affordability and community spirit

Thorndale is becoming more and more popular as buyers look for affordable home prices outside London. (Amanda Margison/CBC News)

CBC London has learned of a mob roaming the streets of Thorndale.

A welcome mob.

Tabby Leifso is the ringleader. Every few weeks she marshals a group of "mobbers," serenading families with an original "Welcome to Thorndale" song and leaving them with a package of baked goods and business cards. 

She said newcomers are usually receptive. The only problem is that she has a hard time keeping up with demand. 

Tabby Leifso has been busy welcoming newcomers to Thorndale—sometimes she'll sing for as many as seven families in a night. (Submitted)

"People are definitely moving in faster than I can mob them," said Leifso, adding that she recently mobbed seven families in one night, and already has another seven or eight on her to-do list.

Leifso's brisk business proves that the London housing boom has stretched beyond the suburbs, and into surrounding towns.

CBC has learned that "bedroom communities" north of London like Thorndale, Ilderton and Lucan have experienced significant growth in the past few years, and an additional bump in 2017 tied to the hot housing markets in London and the General Toronto Area (GTA).

Getting more for less

The most obvious appeal for many buyers is the cost.

"It's a great place to live, it's affordable, affordable taxes, building permit fees are very reasonable we understand and development charges as well," said Arnie Marsman, the director of planning and development services for Middlesex Centre.

Affordability was a significant draw for Sean Hunt, who moved to Ilderton from London about two years ago.

Sean Hunt moved to Ilderton two years ago, drawn by inexpensive home prices and a tight-knit community. (Submitted)

He said his property taxes are now a "fraction" of what they were in his previous neighbourhood. 

"Basically we found the same house in a smaller community with a quite a bit more sense of the community for quite a bit less money," he said. 

Thorndale boosters also make a strong case for affordability.

The Trails at Wye Creek was one of the first subdivisions to be built following the development of Thorndale's sewage treatment plant, and is responsible for much of the growth that Thorndale has seen in the past few years. The company's website features a prominent red banner that boasts, "Only 10 minutes from London and property taxes 28% less!"

"You get a little bit more lot for less cost than some of the bigger urban areas," said developer Jane Elliott, adding that her company has other projects planned for Thorndale that they plan to bring forward in the next few years.

Of course, the jump in demand means that prices in these areas are bound to go up.

Bonnie Baker Hodgins, a realtor who sells homes in Thorndale, Lucan and Ilderton, said that the average home price in all three areas has gone up in the last year.

"These numbers tell the story," she said in an e-mail statement. 

Don't call them bedroom communities

Rising prices don't necessarily mean that demand will die down anytime soon. Affordability is just one reason why some buyers prefer to live outside of London.

Despite the increasing development in London's bedroom communities, residents say that they still feel like they're living in small, tight-knit towns. 

"People have called our town 'Pleasantville' or things like that, so we're really just striving to keep that sense of community and belonging and pride in your neighbourhood, where sometimes you really don't see that in cities," said Leifso.

In fact, some say that the term "bedroom community" is a bit of a misnomer, as it implies that people aren't invested in where they live. 

"It is a community into itself. It's not just houses at the periphery of London where people work in London," said Sean Hunt, who said that he met more people after two weeks in Ilderton than he did in two years in his old neighbourhood.

More growth on horizon

Builders in Thorndale work on a new development. (Amanda Margison/CBC News)

The momentum around bedroom communities is likely to continue in the next few years, said Phil Masschelein, vice- president of neighbourhood developments with Sifton properties.

They have two new developments on the books for Ilderton, one in Thorndale and a longer-term project planned for Dorchester.

"Our intention specifically is to have more of these sort of bedroom communities that are just outside of London, and it's because of the demand," he said. "We definitely see that demand increasing and continuing."

Starting Monday, CBC London begins of week long series called Home Values.

We'll be looking at the real estate market in London and area.

We'll ask people why they live where they live.  We'll ask them why they love their homes.

We'll also delve into the issues surrounding rent and affordability in London.

And, on Friday Sept. 15, London Morning will broadcast live from Ilderton, one of the communities that has been attracting new residents.

About the Author

Paula Duhatschek


Paula Duhatschek is an associate producer and reporter with CBC London. You can reach her at paula.duhatschek@cbc.ca.