Personal Finance By Peter Tremblay 155 Views

A waterfront Toronto neighbourhood you can afford

More and more of us dream of owning our own home but at the same time feel priced out of Toronto’s real estate market. As the cost of a house in the city continues to skyrocket, we feel we’ll never be able to find something we can afford—at least not without mortgaging our lives in the process. Most of us know someone who ended up buying an affordable home outside the city only to spend hours a day commuting when that time could be spent with family and friends.

But there are still good options for those of us who want to own a home in the city without taking out a mortgage we can’t afford. With a little research and some help from the right financial institution, owning a home in Toronto remains possible.

There are several up-and-coming neighbourhoods in the city that are fun, safe, and still offer homes that sell for less than $1 million. For example, let’s look at Mimico, a small enclave located on Lake Ontario in the suburb of Etobicoke, just west of Toronto’s pre-amalgamation border. This one-time sawmill settlement retains a lot of the flavour of a small Ontario town, is just minutes from the downtown core, and is home to a vibrant, diverse community.

Unlike the Beaches, its posh east-end counterpart, some portions of Mimico’s main streets can seem a little industrial, but there are still wide sections of Lake Shore Boulevard and Royal York Road that feel like a town within the city, lined with small homes and an eclectic group of local businesses, including bakeries, locally run boutiques, plenty of great eateries, and even a tavern with an on-site microbrewery. Once you’re off the main drag, however, Mimico reveals treasures Beaches residents can only dream of.

Mimico’s gem is its picturesque waterfront area. A multi-use trail offers a route for walking, biking, or skating that stretches more than three kilometres, from the pedestrian bridge at the Humber River through the extensive Humber Bay Park and the smaller but still lovely Mimico Waterfront Park. While the Beaches offers a traditional sandy boardwalk, the path here traverses a variety of terrains and features plenty of green space, wetlands, a lookout point, a lakeside gazebo, and a butterfly sanctuary. If you’re a cyclist, Mimico’s waterfront connects to the Mark Goodman Trail, making for a quick and heart-pumping commute to the downtown.

Mimico has excellent recreation facilities, including an arena used for hockey, skating, and lacrosse. Residents are deeply invested in a number of area traditions, such as a tulip festival, a pumpkin parade, and an annual Christmas tree lighting.

Although Mimico can feel like a small town of its own, it’s more connected than you might expect. Union Station is only 15 minutes away by GO train—which is actually less time than it takes to get there by TTC from the Roncesvalles area. The Queen streetcar also passes through Mimico on its way to New Toronto and Long Branch, and busses run north to the Bloor–Danforth subway line. For drivers, the Gardiner Expressway runs directly along Mimico’s northern edge.

Many of the homes here date from the turn of the 20th century, with some larger mansions along Lake Shore Boulevard and a number of newer condos near the water. The average sale price of a house in Mimico is around $700,000 (the most affordable homes are fixer-upper bungalows dating from the 1920s to 1940s), though prices can go as high as $800,000, and some larger homes are starting to crack the $1 million mark.

Partnering with the right financial institution can make owning a home in a neighbourhood like Mimico even more affordable. We contacted HSBC to ask how they’re helping customers navigate—and afford—today’s real estate market.

“Many people really want to get into the market before prices climb again, but feel they don’t have a large enough down payment to get started.” says Barry Gollom, Senior Vice-President of Products and Customer Experience at HSBC Bank Canada. “To support their ambition, we have a special high-ratio mortgage rate offer. A high-ratio mortgage—any mortgage where the down payment is less than 20 per cent—helps people and families get into a home, so they can start building equity before they have the 20 per cent down payment.”

The high-ratio mortgage may be exactly what some first time buyers need in order to get onto the property ladder. Especially in today’s market. One thing to consider is that homeowners who put down less than 20 per cent will incur mortgage loan insurance costs on top of their mortgage. To help budget for these extra costs, it’s good to know that HSBC’s high-ratio mortgage rate is offered below the bank’s standard mortgage rates.

Perhaps most importantly, HSBC understands that a mortgage isn’t a simple digital transaction that you can manage on a smartphone, and will set you up with a Mortgage Specialist to talk you through each step of the home buying process and determine which rate is best suited to your specific needs. This way you’re more comfortable throughout the home buying journey and can keep your focus on what’s important – the dream of owning your own home.