GTA homebuyers choose convenience over size

Prospective homebuyers say they'd rather live in a neighbourhood that's walkable and easy to get around than in an area where they have to depend on a car, even if it means being in a smaller house.

Accessibility more important than a large home, say 80% of Toronto-area residents in Environics poll

Prospective homebuyers say they'd rather live in a neighbourhood that's walkable and easy to get around than in an area where they have to depend on a car, even if it means living in a smaller house, according to a new poll

More than 80 per cent of respondents in the poll, conducted by Environics and on behalf of energy think-tank Pembina Institute and RBC, said the neighbourhood was the determining factor in where they would buy a home.

The findings are consistent with results the same polling firm found two years ago, when they asked would-be buyers the same question: If the costs were the same, what type of home would you buy, and where would it be?

This time, the polling company questioned 1,014 residents in the Greater Toronto Area in May for their thoughts on homebuying decisions.

The survey doesn't directly compare downtown living with suburban locales, and notes that many suburbs are getting more location efficient with factors like shopping, transit and walkability.

But the overall trend is very much that given two houses of equal cost, most people would prefer to live in the more accessible one — even if it's smaller.

Four out of five respondents said they would choose to live in an urban or suburban neighbourhood where they can walk to stores, restaurants and other amenities, and they can access frequent rapid transit. They would choose these neighbourhoods even if it means trading a large house and yard for a modest house, townhouse or condo.

Those on the two ends of the age spectrum are most likely to value convenience and accessibility, with people between age 18 and 34, or older than 60, being most likely to value that in a home.

But even large families are becoming more likely to downsize and go local.

In the 2012 Environics poll, 51 per cent of respondents with three or more children said they would prefer to live in a car-dependent suburb, as long as they had a bigger house. In this year's survey, that ratio dropped to 40 per cent.

Seniors and young people would pay a higher price to live in a walkable, transit-friendly neighbourhood, even if it means giving up a larger detached home and yard. The same is true of families with one child or less.

However, more than a third (36 per cent) of respondents said they would still prefer the largest home possible for the money, even if it means living in a suburb with no large public transportation system.


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