How to choose the best Toronto neighbourhood for you

As they say, location, location, location. But for renters, the right location doesn’t mean the same spot for everyone. Choosing the best neighbourhood, and even the best street, for you depends on a ton of factors that deserve some serious thought before beginning your house hunt.

For one thing, renters in Toronto are faced with a massively competitive rental market, where rentals may come available and get rented out within the same day. So knowing that will – and won’t – work for you on your hunt for a home will go a long way toward saving time and saving you from the misery of moving to an area that definitely doesn’t suit your style.

For a ‘hood-by-‘hood breakdown of what to expect from all of Toronto’s neighbourhoods, check our neighbourhood guides.

In the meantime, here are some of the key points to consider when deciding which neighbourhood could be your next home.

Young professional couples without kids

The commute. Research your commute to work thoroughly. Which neighbourhoods have the best transit connections and which make the drive to the office most bearable during rush hour. Remember that although your rental might not be far from work, some of Toronto’s roads get positively clogged with traffic at rush hour.

The neighbours. Young professionals aren’t likely to be too happy in a neighbourhood that’s mostly families and seniors. Scope out the neighbours and make sure they match your age group pretty closely. Also get a feel for the local style – some neighbourhoods rock that trendy, hipster thing while others feel a little more traditional.

The amenities. Is there local entertainment nearby, like bars, nightclubs, art galleries, theatre or shopping areas? What about outdoor areas like parks and trails? More importantly, maybe, are the basic services like grocery stores, clinics, liquor stores, restaurants and cafes.

Singles and living with roommates

The commute, neighbours and amenities. Most of the same points as above apply. But you may need to consider some extra amenities, like places where you can go to escape the roommates for a while, or to study, like cafes and libraries. You’ll also want to scope out cheap food and takeout places, especially for students who are strapped for time. Thing about the nights when you’re going to party hard – will the taxi fare cost a small fortune, or is there late-night transit that can get you home safely. You’ll have to balance that with being as close to work or school as possible, to minimize the commute time.

Families with children

The schools. Finding elementary schools nearby for young children is a must, but consider the years beyond elementary – are there middle and high schools nearby? A bit of research on what special programs each school offers, plus how it ranks against other Toronto schools can give families a good picture of the best neighbourhood for them. Try the Fraser Institute’s ranking site.

The safety factor. Living in a safe neighbourhood is crucial for raising a family. Ask around about neighbourhoods that you’re considering to find out whether the area is known to be safe or has a seedy reputation.

The neighbours. Living in a neighbourhood that has similarly-aged kids for your children to play with can make your family’s life a lot easier and happier.

The outdoors. Parks and trails are pretty much a must for families.

The extras. Are there sporting, arts and recreation centres around? Since kids’ educations don’t stop when they leave the classroom, living close to recreational and extra-curricular programs makes kids’ lives fuller and parents’ lives easier. And if day care is a reality for your family, check around to see if there are reputable child care centres in the neighbourhood you’re eyeing up, to save you from long drives.

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Born on the Prairies, Erin Cardone grew up knowing there was more to life than canola fields and AAA Alberta Angus. So she escaped, living in Europe and Australia, white-knuckling it through plates of calf brains and raw horse meat, and learning languages she can't remember anymore. After a stint as a jaded, skeptical journalist, she changed tack and began writing rather awesome blogs and showing businesses that advertising is dead, so long live social media, with her businesses Legendary Social Media. She now splits her time between various Canadian cities, Costa Rica and wherever else the wind blows.

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