"Drive til you qualify." I've heard this phrase used more and more over the past year. It is currently been thrown around in North American cities where downtown prices have increased more than the suburbs and commuting is painful. Cities like Toronto. Basically, the logic of "drive til you qualify" goes something like this: If you cannot afford a house downtown, then you keep on driving until you are able to find a house in your price range. For those with more money to put down on their home or for those who qualify for mighty mortgages, they won't have to drive very far. They could land in Cabbagetown in the east, still walkable to downtown or Little Italy in the west, just a touch west of downtown with a thriving established neighbourhood. Still can't afford here? Then you keep on driving. Try the advanced emerging neigbhourhood of Leslieville in the east or The Junction in the west. Still too much? Then try an early emerging neigbhourhood like The Danforth Village in the east or Oakwood or Caledonia in the west. Thinking that will tap out more than you can afford, then you keep on driving out of town for some of the lowest prices in the GTA in Durham region or in Hamilton to the west.
I'm sure you understand my logic here. Though there are exceptions to this rule, it would largely appear that houses cost less the further you drive, for the most part.
But the thing to remember is that there are exceptions. And if you cannot afford to buy a house in High Park, then there are still choices for you. I often talk about the benefits of owning a house, but I think if you want to buck the "drive 'til you qualify" trend, your best bet is to look at a condo. Why? you ask. Well, condos have not increased in price as much as houses. So, they are much more affordable. There is a better supply chain when it comes to condos. More keep coming out to accommodate the demand. With houses, the demand is greater than the supply.
To be clear, it's not that "drive to qualify" does not effect condos at all. It is true that condos in downtown Toronto will be more expensive than ones in Hamilton, but you can still live in a central, established neighbourhood in a Toronto condo for a reasonable price. I currently have a boutique-style condo with parking and a locker in Little Italy that is 764 square feet with unobstructed south-facing views and a modern kitchen and washrooms. It is available at $489K. You would have to drive pretty far to find a house at that price, and it would not have the pizzazz of Little Italy. If 489K is too rich for your blood, there are still options for less that will keep you in a central location.
My point here is that if you are one of those downtown Toronto folks who needs to be in the city, you can find a property downtown to live in. You have to choose your condo carefully. Not all condos are created equal, but you can afford to be in the centre of it all and you don't have to drive til you qualify.