Property Biz Canada

Torontonians moving to the lake: Hamilton or Prince Edward County


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Torontonians are cashing in their homes in droves and flocking to a nearby city that has a growing reputation for its trendy arts community, made-over high-end neighbourhoods and where quality of life is still affordable. When others in the city hear that expats from the big smoke are fueling the treasonous expansion of Hamilton, they must be shocked beyond belief. Hamilton was known for decades as a town of smoke, steel and sweat on the shores of Lake Ontario, but it is now getting a reputation for its Alberta-like growth — a reputation as a smart real estate investment and a place where its hard to keep up with all the positive change. Still others from Toronto are selling their homes while the market remains high and are taking early retirement or working online and using their equity to buy a waterfront property in places like Prince Edward County, where commuting down the 401 on occasion for a meeting seems worth it for the improved quality of life. There are plenty of places for people to move when they want to escape the big city, but Hamilton and Prince Edward county stand out for two distinct groups. Those who want to keep their Toronto careers who cash in on average home prices north of $500,000 and can still find a bigger home with a bigger yard and pocket the difference when they hit Hamilton. Plenty of places to go. Hamilton a popular choice. However, that difference is getting smaller as Hamilton's rapid growth continues. Hamilton's average house price nearly doubled from 2002-2012, up from $183,442 in 2002 to $360,059 last year, said a study from REMAX Canada released Thursday. That's an increase of 96 per cent. Diane Brown is one of the top agents in Hamilton for Coldwell Banker Pinnacle. She tells Property Biz Canada that their office tracks where customers come from, adding 17 per cent – or nearly one-in-five, came from Toronto in 2012. “That's quite high, but it's getting more and more,” she said. “Access by GO Buses and GO Train make it so much easier to get to Toronto in just over 30 minutes. If you have to drive, it can be a two-hour drive each way.” “We've got a lot more to offer now in Hamilton. The arts are one thing that is drawing a lot of people from Toronto,” said Brown, adding there are several different areas to choose from. “Aberdeen near the escarpment was always a nice area for those who could afford it, but now the North West is becoming a a price range where young couples can afford it and its got a lot of restaurants and parks and arts. It's probably more young couples coming from Toronto.” She said the grimy image is something that the city has worked very hard to change. “When people would drive past Hamilton's, going to Niagara from Toronto, when they go over the bridge all they see is Stelco puffing smoke out. They are realizing that the city isn't just a smoke stack.” Last summer, Real Estate Investment Network named Hamilton for the second straight year as the top city in Canada to invest in residential real estate. Magazine founding partner Don Campbell said the growth of a major industrial park and the highly rated McMaster University both helped the city spark an “entrepreneurial spirit.” Currently, REIN ranks Hamilton third behind Calgary and Edmonton as the best place to invest in in residential real estate. Hamilton was chosen because of its diversifying economy and job growth, the Edmonton Journal reported February 12. Last August, Hamilton was named the best place to invest in real estate in Ontario for the second straight year. East of Toronto, Prince Edward County For those who would sooner settle up the shore of Lake Ontario towards Kingston, an increasingly popular destination is Prince Edward County, which is like a northern version of the California's wine country. Among those who have bought homes there is Hamilton's Diane Brown and her family, who escape on their boat and tie up at their waterfront property in the County. Real Estate Broker Geoff Church was the one who introduced his real estate colleague to the area. Church, who works for Royal LePage ProAlliance, says there are two distinct markets. “There's the retirement market and then there's the seasonal and weekend home market. The stronger of the two is people retiring here as they want to escape the hustle and bustle of Toronto and cash out.” Church said they can trade a nice home in Toronto for a nice waterfront place. Those new residents then find that they have a much more relaxed lifestyle, while having access to the amenities that they need. “In the last year, we are seeing people in their mid-40s who have done well in the city and are making a lifestyle change to live most of the week in a place like Prince Edward County and then go back to the city for perhaps three days in the middle of the week,” Church explained. “And you can accomplish that by staying in a hotel or having a small apartment.” Church said there are some customers who have purchased homes and then work online from the County while maintaining jobs elsewhere. “I have sold a few homes to people like that. They may only need to go to Toronto one day a month or something like that for a meeting,” said Church, who added the region's population grows by about 650 people a year – not enough to change its laid-back feel. People leaving Ottawa too In the last couple of years, the Ottawa market has also extended to the County with a larger client base moving out of the capital for many of the same reasons. “It offers a lifestyle that people want desperately these days. They can leave the traffic behind, we've got peace and quiet if you want it, we've got great restaurants, wineries, fishing, boating, scenery and that is why people come here.” Church said in some ways it does resemble the California wine regions, while he also likened it to the Maritimes for its lifestyle. “There is a real sense of community. People still say hello to each other here.”

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