Where to Buy Now 2013: the city’s top 10 neighbourhoods for high-return real estate

Where to Buy Now 2013: the city’s top 10 neighbourhoods for high-return real estate

Where to Buy Now 2013Ten years ago, it was Leaside. Five years ago, Leslieville. Buyers are always looking for the next hot zone—places with great housing stock, lots of green space, good shops and restaurants and, most important of all, high resale value. Here, 10 Toronto neighbourhoods on the verge of greatness.

All statistics courtesy of Adam Brind, Core Assets Inc. Real Estate Brokerage

Seaton Village Because it’s a family-centric neighbourhood that’s right next door to (and infinitely cheaper than) the Annex Seaton Village Average home price: $679,796 in 2012, up 17% from 2011 | Average days on the market: 22 | Average property taxes: $7,068

Buyers with Annex aspirations would do well to look at Seaton Village. Nicknamed the West Annex, the mini ’hood has some of the same Victorian housing stock as its multi-million-dollar neighbour, and it’s way more affordable—for the time being, anyway. The average selling price in Seaton Village jumped nearly $100,000 in the past year. Like the Annex, the neighbourhood is popular with the arts-and-letters set, including writer Ann-Marie MacDonald and lawyer Lucas Lung. The ruling demographic happens to be young families with kids. It’s a place with quiet side streets lined with mature trees and solid brick houses. There’s the newly redesigned Vermont Square Park (with a playground named after poet and area resident Dennis Lee). Neighbours hang out on porches nestled close together and trade intel on the community website and notice board at seatonvillage.ca. Rounding out the Norman Rockwell tableau are great schools (including Palmerston Avenue Junior Public School) and lively street parties. Woodbine-Lumsden Because here, $400,000 houses are not only gettable—they’re nice Woodbine-Lumsden Average home price: $405,236 in 2012, up 16% from 2011 | Average days on the market: 14 | Average property taxes: $2,016

Woodbine-Lumsden is the perfect compromise between city and suburb. The Don Valley Parkway curves around the top of the neighbourhood, while subway access and the big-box stores off of Danforth are just to the south. Though homes tend to be clustered close together on long lots, there’s an abundance of detached houses in all manner of styles: bungalows with gable roofs, countrified barn-like designs and newly renovated, two-and-a-half-storey homes covered in stucco. Despite a 16 per cent bump in property prices over the last year, the area is still surprisingly affordable, with plenty of solid, two- to three-bedroom stock in the $400,000s. Long the domain of senior citizens who have lived in the neighbourhood for decades, Woodbine-Lumsden is being colonized by the stroller class snapping up and modernizing the older homes. Construction workers and reno vans are practically fixtures on every other side street. Corso Italia Because, with its main drag, gently sloping streets and dearth of condos, the area’s like a European village Corso Italia Average home price: $548,585 in 2012, up 4% from 2011 | Average days on the market: 18 | Average property taxes: $3,128

Though semis are prevalent, Corso Italia has a generous supply of detached homes—the Holy Grail of Toronto’s housing market. Freestanding properties are pulling young families to St. Clair West, which happens to be a rare condo-free zone. In 2012 alone, 100 houses changed hands in and around the neighbourhood (including Wychwood and Humewood-Cedarvale, both next door), 60 of which were detached. St. Clair buzzes with street life—plus there’s good produce, Neapolitan pizza and strong espresso. Italian and Portuguese flags fly next to old-fashioned street lamps. And while many parts of Toronto are prairie-flat, Corso Italia has its share of curvy, undulating side streets that make for a pretty residential landscape. Off St. Clair, there’s Via Italia, a street that rolls gently down toward the Davenport escarpment, where homes have been carved into the hillside overlooking the city. L’Amoreaux Because it’s one of the few 416 pockets with room to breathe L’Amoreaux Average home price: $385,131 in 2012, up 4% from 2011 | Average days on the market: 20 | Average property taxes: $2,202

Listed as one of the top 10 neighbourhoods in our last Real Estate issue, L’Amoreaux remains one of the most value-filled areas outside the city core. Lakeside communities in Scarborough have seen slow-and-steady price increases over the past several years, but L’Amoreaux, in the northwestern part of the suburb, is reliably stable: the average condo price is under $400,000, while houses run between $500,000 and $600,000. L’Amoreaux’s Huntingwood area is particularly favoured by families looking for double-car garages and half-acre lots—and a location that’s not too far from the 401. The housing stock includes ample four-bedroom homes and split-levels, mostly built between the ’50s and ’70s. King-size L’Amoreaux Park has a popular rec centre, tennis courts and a water playground. A number of neighbourhood schools consistently score high academic rankings and run specialty programs, including Timberbank Junior Public School, which focuses on the arts. Moss Park Because the downtown east side is the last development frontier near the core

Moss Park (Photo: Cityscape and diner by Sam Javanrouh)

Average home price: $478,790 in 2012, up 15% from 2011 | Average days on the market: 24 | Average property taxes: $3,035

A five-minute streetcar ride from King and Bay, Moss Park is far closer to the financial core than the condo enclaves in Liberty Village and West Queen West—making it a more attractive buy in a softer condo market. The neighbourhood is also home to unsung, under-renoed heritage architecture. It’s flanked by successfully developed pockets like Corktown, St. Lawrence Market and the Distillery District. Prices have started to climb as young professionals and downsizers looking for city-centre proximity move in. Among the newest condo developments are the 02 Maisonettes at George and Shuter (winner of an innovative building award), the Modern at Richmond and Sherbourne, the Pace at Jarvis and Dundas, and the Ivory on Adelaide near Sherbourne. “Buyers say, ‘I’d never live here,’ ” says Toronto realtor Adam Brind. “But people used to say that about King and Bathurst 15 years ago.” Davisville Because, for all its urban splendour, it could and probably should be a lot pricier

Davisville (Photo: Portrait by Anna Lisa Sang)

Average home price: $681,277 in 2012, up 11% from 2011 | Average days on the market: 21 | Average property taxes: $3,935

We singled out this flourishing midtown ’hood in our 2012 Real Estate issue because it’s the last remaining city pocket off the Yonge line where you can buy a house for under $1 million. This year, prices are inching upward in Davisville, but it still has outstanding value, lovely housing stock (a lot of English-looking storybook cottages), a boutique culture on Bayview and Mount Pleasant, and high-scoring public schools. The most eager buyers here are priced-out-of-Leaside couples with kids wanting to upsize their square footage. Meanwhile, first-time buyers are filling up the condos that have taken over much of Merton Avenue. Everyone benefits from recent residents’ initiatives in the neighbourhood: a new summertime farmers’ market in June Rowlands Park, a doors-open “Restaurantacular” event along Mount Pleasant, and a new park at the corner of Dunfield and Soudan. Islington Village Because central Etobicoke is a pleasing mix of old world and new blood

Islington Village (Photo: Islington Village by Anna Lisa Sang)

Average home price: $560,074 in 2012, up 9% from 2011 | Average days on the market: 29 | Average property taxes: $3,382

According to stereotypes, the suburbs are made up of drab streets and paint-by-numbers houses. But Islington Village is way more diverse. Sure, the $1-million detached houses are big and suburban, and many have two-car garages (bungalows and small two-bedroom houses go for about $700,000). That’s good value. Meanwhile, Bloor and Islington has office towers to the east and an influx of new condos and townhouses along the western tail of the Bloor subway line. The shopping strip along Dundas West has a historical feel and decent walkability. Businesses on the main drag are covered with murals by local artists like John Kuna—the large-scale works depict the early settlers of the area. Farther north, there’s everything an upwardly mobile family could ask for: yards large enough for swimming pools, quiet winding side streets, and the verdant Islington Golf Club. Greenwood-Coxwell Because it’s an understated, under-the-radar pocket among the red-hot east end neighbourhoods Greenwood-Coxwell Average home price: $462,405 in 2012, down 0.6% from 2011 | Average days on the market: 16 | Average property taxes: $2,460

For house hunters drained by bidding wars in the east end, Greenwood-Coxwell offers a reprieve. It hasn’t been hit with the same frenzy of jam-packed open houses—yet. Greenwood may soon go the way of neighbourhoods like Riverside and Leslieville to the west, the Beach to the southeast and Danforth Village to the north—all of which are, for the moment, pricier and less accessible. Toronto broker Adam Brind of Core Assets Real Estate calls Greenwood’s properties “stepping stone houses” for the under-40 families who have started moving in. “You get more for your dollar. For $650,000, instead of a tiny semi in the Beach, you could get a detached here,” he says. There are stirrings of neighbourhood pride, too: the new group Friends of Monarch Park has spruced up the local green space (the park has a pool with a two-storey water slide, and a skating rink in winter). For buyers looking for a live-work space, the commercial-residential loft buildings along Gerrard and Queen East are some of the best bargains in the city. Upper Yorkville Because the 10 new condo buildings in the neighbourhood are a big score for city-loving downsizers

Upper Yorkville (Photo: The Florian courtesy of beintoronto.com)

Average home price: $1,003,974 in 2012, up 3% from 2011 | Average days on the market: 24 | Average property taxes: $5,530

Yorkville hasn’t been up-and-coming since Joni Mitchell played its coffee houses. But the north end of the neighbourhood (dubbed Upper Yorkville or Lower Rosedale by realtors) has been reshaped by an entirely new skyline. No fewer than 10 new condo projects—from Bedford and Avenue Road to Yonge and Davenport—are under construction, making this the city’s new hot zone for luxury developers marketing their amenities-rich units to downsizers. The projects include the mid-rise boutique building at 277 Davenport (priced at $1,150 per square foot) and the high-rise Florian tower on McMurrich (priced between $1200 and $2000 per square foot). Off Bay, the Four Seasons Private Residence is the jewel in the crown of the new crop, and the first to extend Yorkville’s borders a little farther east. Within a few minutes’ walk are Bloor West’s mink mile, Pusateri’s, Whole Foods, Ramsden Park, Rosedale and the Shops at Summerhill. Dovercourt Village Because it’s shape-shifting into a neighbourhood that appeals to families and young urbanites alike Dovercourt Village Average home price: $657,209 in 2012, up 21% from 2011 | Average days on the market: 35 | Average property taxes: $3,074

Who’s moving to Dovercourt? Condo owners wanting to trade skyscrapers for front lawns and families looking for a third bedroom. Once overrun with rooming houses, the area’s Edwardian-style properties are being remodelled by buyers keen to live close to the Bloor subway line. The entire village is in reno mode, including the Bloorcourt stretch of Bloor West. Since 2010, it’s turned into a scene-maker’s stomping grounds, with new bars, restaurants, bakeries and indie coffee joints (including Ortolan, Drift Bar, Bakerbots and The Common). Recently, the Bloorcourt and Bloordale BIAs partnered with the city to overhaul the fairly unremarkable stretch of Bloor from Crawford to Lansdowne. The revival is still in the consultation phase, but locals are lobbying for streetfront planters, bump-outs and—because every emerging neighbourhood needs one—space for a Bloor Street farmers’ market.