With more and more Canadians working from home, there has never been as much flexibility to live wherever you want. No longer shackled to a desk in a big (and expensive) city, millennials are moving to a small town in search of greater housing affordability. Every decision has its pros and cons. Here are some key factors to consider when deciding to leave a big city for a smaller community.
Upside: (More) Affordable Homes
If you are looking for value, you are more likely to find it in a smaller city or rural area. Just look at the average home prices in Toronto, and you can see the allure of a smaller town. For many, home-ownership in larger urban centres is simply out of reach.
The pandemic prompted many to leave their 450-sq.-ft. condo behind in favour of a home with more space and a yard in a smaller town.
Another upside: Because your home is often less expensive than one in a large city, it allows you to put more money toward other things, such as renovations, kids or saving for retirement.
Upside: Getting More Out of Your Home
With a larger home comes the ability to do more with the space, with room to start a family, add a home office or gym, and have a yard to enjoy more time outside.
Upside: Access to Nature
Suburbs, small towns and rural areas are typically less dense, with more access to forests, provincial parks and conservation areas. You’ll also have greater accessibility to properties with larger yards where you can enjoy outdoor living space, including a deck, mature trees and maybe even a pool.
In a city, you have more entertainment options but typically have to travel to experience nature. In a rural area, the opposite is true. You are immersed in nature but will have to travel to a more urban area to take in a night of theatre, a sporting event or concert, or experience some global cuisine.
If being surrounded by nature sounds more appealing, a small town could be a good option for you.
Upside: Less traffic
If you have experienced rush hour in a major city such as Vancouver, Toronto or Montreal, you likely dream of ditching the commute and traffic congestion. A small town may offer the chance to get some of that time back. Fewer people means less traffic. Imagine if having to wait at a traffic light was the worst part of your commute. Many small towns offer just that.
Upside: Lower Auto Insurance Rates
The reality is that driving in a busier urban centre is more dangerous. Car insurance rates reflect that. For example, you’ll find all of Ontario’s highest car insurance rates in the GTA. Meanwhile, smaller towns such as Port Hope and Brockville have some of the lowest rates. Moving to a smaller town can potentially save on car insurance costs.
Downside: Rising Housing Prices
The popularity of rural areas has recently led to rising prices in some suburban and rural areas. In fact, in many areas, prices are rising more sharply in suburbs and small towns than in urban centres.
A typical home in Canada now costs $780,400, up 34 per cent ($200,000) since March 2020. So, if you are looking for a small-town deal, you will probably not find the bargain you could have pre-pandemic.
Downside: You are Going to Need a Car (or Two)
One significant upside of an urban centre is its walkability and public transit options. You can walk to your local cafe, hop on the subway, and be at work. If you want to head out to a restaurant or go for drinks with friends, there’s an Uber or taxi practically at your door at any given moment.
Small towns do not offer the same walkability and transit that big cities do. If you plan to move to a smaller town, especially a rural one, plan to also buy a car. An average Canadian spends $11,433 on their car, including the costs of financing and maintenance, plus an additional $2,142 on gasoline (although with recent spikes in gas prices, that number is likely much higher now). If you are car-free in the city, you must factor those costs into your move.
If you have a family, you may need to add a second car to the equation, upping the costs.
Downside: Less Entertainment & Service Options
You have to ask yourself what is important to you. If frequenting the hottest new restaurants, going to the big hockey game, or checking out your favourite artist at a cool concert venue are on the list, rural life may not be for you.
If you live near a larger city, you can always travel into town to get your entertainment fix. But, if you want it to be part of a typical weekend, you may want to look into a medium-sized city that offers concerts, restaurants and nightlife, albeit on a smaller scale.
On top of this, some rural areas have fewer services such as medical facilities, grocery stores, gyms and banks. Be sure to examine the rural area you are considering, to see how long it will take to travel to get groceries, personal services like hair appointments, and to see your doctor.
Downside: Internet Connectivity
Internet speed isn’t something that you worry about in the city. In rural areas, high-speed Internet connectivity is less available, slower and more expensive. Be sure to ask your real estate agent if the homes you are looking at have a high-speed Internet connection.
Weighing the Pros and Cons
Moving out of the city isn’t an easy decision. If you are looking for a more affordable option that is a little quieter and closer to nature, then moving to a smaller town is an excellent option for you. You may have to say goodbye to your favourite tapas place and that great spot for a late-night burrito, but if that’s okay with you, then talk to a real estate agent about making a move.