Is Kitchener Waterloo a good place to live, work and buy a house?

CheechOne of the most important decisions most people will ever make in life is where to live. The city or town you choose to live in has a massive impact on lifestyle and happiness, job opportunities and income; where you live slowly determines who you are. 

Sometimes in life you get lucky. You join a great company. You choose a great city and neighbourhood. You marry the right person. You don’t know when you marry, move or get that job what the future holds. If you are thinking at all, you are only working with the information you have, which is limited.

I’ve been very lucky.

 

In terms of real estate, it pays to live in a big city

Recently, my favourite blogs/news sources, the Atlantic published an article “It pays to live in the big city”. In terms of appreciation in the value of residential real estate, a country’s largest cities tend to consistently out perform (roar ahead) of the national average. Australia, Belgium, Canada, Switzerland as a whole all lag behind their largest cities Sydney, Brussels, Toronto and Zurich.

Think of it this way, what would have been a better investment in 1970, a three bedroom bungalow in Scarborough or one in Stratford?

 

Moving to Kitchener Waterloo for work 

A recent Survey from BMO Capital Markets ranked Kitchener Waterloo in the top ten “Best Cities in Canada to move for work”. 

The survey looked at Canada’s largest cities, considering cost of living (cost of housing, taxes…)  and employment (wages, unemployment).

 

Here’s how we stacked up:

Median income: $56,300

Jobless rate: 7.3%

Change in number of jobs since start of year (2013): +0.3%

Median house price: $324,200

1-bedroom rent: $786

 

Airport? Check. Movie Theatre? Check.

Every year for the past eight years, Moneysense has ranked 200 Canadian cities in their list of Best Places to live in Canada. They use a number of factors, trying to determine overall quality of life. These factors include:

House prices

Local salaries

Weather

Crime rate

Access to hospitals

Cultural activities

And although statistics don’t capture the personality, scenery or the human factor of a place, the Moneysense study does include things like access to an airport, and whether or not there is a theatre in town, giving a pretty good idea of what it would be like to live there.

 

Out of 200 cities categorized:

Waterloo came in at 46

Kitchener 68

Cambridge 82

 

Top Ten Metropolitan Area

The cities of Kitchener, Waterloo and Cambridge are not huge, but combining them into Waterloo Region makes us the tenth largest metropolitan areas in Canada. That’s important, not only for bragging rights, but it puts us on the list for national and international companies looking to set up shop, musicians and celebrities touring across Canada and other things.

 

Top Ten 

The City of Kitchener published the Top 10 Reasons to Live Here. Lifestyle, cultural amenities, diversity, recreational facilities, schools, hospitals, resilient and diversified economy are on the list.

Waterloo Region is also quickly growing, urbanizing with new condo projects and the LRT.

It’s got a low crime rate.

It’s connected to Toronto by the GoTrain and 45 minutes on the 401 (not during the morning rush).

 

Happiness

We have cheap or free on street parking.

We are reliant on the automobile. That’s are bad thing. But as we urbanize, we are becoming less reliant on the car. The universities, high tech and insurance companies have taken over old factories and shopping malls in Kitchener’s core. More people have the opportunity to walk to work and with the LRT, this will only improve.

I recently spent a couple of weeks in Orlando Florida. It has a real car culture and a real lack of personality – no downtown. The most dynamic economies of the 20th century produced the most miserable cities. Toronto, Atlanta, Miami, Phoenix are totally dominated by cars.

There have been numerous studies linking dissatisfaction to the length of commute. Everything in Kitchener Waterloo is 20 minutes away, well not really, but it’s pretty sweet and you can’t say that in Toronto, Vancouver or Ottawa.

 

Some negatives

Let’s be fair, it’s not all wine and roses, rainbows and unicorns.

We have a shortage of family physicians.

Our water is hard. Many people think it tastes bad and you will need to have a water softener.

Kitchener Waterloo is not on a major body of water. That’s just weird. Most cities are built on a lake or a large river. Sorry Grand River, you’re not a roaring white water thrill ride, and we never see you.

A lot of snow in the winter. Humid in the summer.

Sometimes it smells like farm.

 

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I moved my family here 14 years ago. We laughed when we first visited Kitchener Waterloo. We said, “We’re going to live here?”. We were moving from Taipei, a city of about 3million. But we quickly adjusted to a new lifestyle and grew to love living here.

As far as I’m concerned, it’s all about neighbourhood. If you have a comfortable home in a neighbourhood well-suited to your lifestyle, you’re golden. You’ll never be happier anywhere else. Call or email if you need my help understanding our neighbourhoods.

2 Comments

  • Melany says:

    Hello Keith,

    I read your article and found it very helpful. I was wondering if you could recommend any neighborhoods in and around Waterloo. My husband and I are looking to move there this year. We are looking at two possibilities, staying in the center so that I can walk or bike to work or moving to a more secluded area where we can enjoy nice hikes. We will rent for the first year to really get a feel of the area. Any suggestions? Places to consider and places to avoid.

    Thanks,
    Melany

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