Where to Buy Now: 5 best neighbourhoods for first-time buyers

Where to Buy Now: 5 best neighbourhoods for first-time buyers

Buying your first place? Congratulations! A low price is likely a prime consideration but not the only thing on your wish list. You’re probably looking to save money in other areas as well. Perhaps you want a place close to work, to minimize commuting costs. If DIY is your thing, you could get a deal on a handyman special and then invest some elbow grease in renovations. Since life doesn’t end when you get a mortgage, you probably wouldn’t mind being near good restaurants, gyms, and entertainment. And if you’re looking at this as a starter home, resale potential is key.

If you want to live near downtown and don’t mind a fixer-upper — one in 10 houses in the ’hood needs “major repairs,” according to Statistics Canada — Carlington offers lots of solid vintage houses for the money. (Over 40 per cent of the houses were built before 1960.) “These are really well-built houses,” says Rob Marland, a sales representative with Ottawa’s Royal LePage Performance Realty Brokerage, noting that many have a poured-concrete or concrete-block foundation, wood framing, and copper plumbing. Good-sized lots also attract space-starved renters. Cundasawmy says she often works with first-time buyers who start looking appreciatively at Carlington once they’ve realized they can’t afford what they want in Centretown. “They think, ‘Well, I could get a whole house, with a yard for the dog.’ ” Finally, you don’t necessarily need a car. If you’re a cyclist, it’s a 13-minute ride to Tunney’s Pasture, 15 minutes to Carleton University, or half an hour to city hall.

Borders: Clyde Avenue, the Queensway, Carling Avenue, Fisher Avenue, Kingston Avenue, Caldwell Avenue, Bellevue Manor Park
Condo prices (monthly average): $242,450 to $341,950
Condos sold last year: 7
Non-condo prices (monthly average): $351,800 to $514,933
Non-condos sold last year: 78

Meet the Neighbours in Carlington
Varun, a self-employed manufacturer, and Cynthia, a preschool teacher, live in Carlington with their two young children. They bought the 1950s-era three-bedroom bungalow in the fall of 2018 after living there as tenants for two years.
We talked to them about why they chose Carlington, and why they love their ‘hood.

Varun and Cynthia with their children in their Carlington house.  Photo by RuivoBrown

Our street: Trenton Avenue is a quiet street near the Central Experimental Farm. We get a great view of the sunrise over the farm fields while making coffee in the morning, and we’re just a few doors down from a park that has a play structure and a kiddie pool.

Previous residence: We rented an old two-bedroom semi-detached house in Hintonburg.

Prime motivators: We found it hard to find an affordable rental in Hintonburg. We found this place in Carlington and gave it a shot. It took some adjustment, but we really started enjoying being here. Accessibility to bike paths, having the farm to the east and south, being a quick ride to all the shops and restaurants on Wellington, and being so close to the park for the kids sealed the deal for us.

Favourite places in the ‘hood: It’s such an easy drive or ride down Holland to get to Wellington West. We mostly go for groceries or to hit up coffee shops. The Carlington Community Health Centre has a fantastic playgroup and lots of great resources. There are countless parks, skating rinks, splash pads, and wading pools in the neighbourhood. We haven’t had a chance yet, but we’d like to go sledding at the old Carlington ski hill.

“Here’s my thought about first-timers and Centretown. They often have freehold tastes, condo budgets. Few of them end up being able to afford to buy there because they want so much more than a little condo,” says Anneke Cundasawmy, a sales representative with RE/MAX Hallmark Realty Group, Brokerage. Rob Marland, a sales representative with Ottawa’s Royal LePage Performance Realty Brokerage agrees, noting that some of his first-time buyers in 2018 paid up to $600,000 for the perk of walking to work, restaurants, and the canal. But don’t despair; if you can live in a tiny space, you can find a home for less than $300,000. And when you want to move to a place where you can eat dinner without sitting in the kitchen sink, places in Centretown generally sell quickly.

Borders: Bronson Avenue, Wellington Street, Elgin Street, the Queensway
Condo prices (monthly average): $340,873 to $529,499
Condos sold last year: 316
Non-condo prices (monthly average): $501,950 to $793,033
Non-condos sold last year: 38

For one of Ottawa’s oldest areas, The Market has a lot of new housing. Roughly one-quarter of the ’hood’s dwellings have been built since the turn of the millennium, many of them small condos. If you like to hang with a young crowd, you’re in luck, as 24 per cent of The Market’s residents are aged 25 to 34. Don’t have a car? The Rideau LRT station is due to open this year. Clubs, galleries, shopping, and the Rideau Canal are on your doorstep. All this makes The Market a very popular choice for first-time buyers — if you can get a foot in the door. Here’s the hitch: Most of those little apartments aren’t cheap. Don’t let that discourage you, though; if you’re willing to live in an older property or in a spot the size of a postage stamp, you, too, can spend the night sipping cocktails at the Mercury Lounge before walking home.

Borders: Sussex Drive, King Edward Avenue, Rideau Street
Condo prices (monthly average): $345,050 to $506,971
Condos sold last year: 113
Non-condo prices (monthly average): $414,450 to $769,450
Non-condos sold last year: 30

The ByWard Market offers a vibrant nightlife. Photo by RuivoBrown

You might wonder why this neighbourhood makes the list of first-time ’hoods, as it’s not exactly cheap. However, if you work in one of the two big high-tech business parks on March Road and want a short commute that doesn’t involve the Queensway, it’s an excellent alternative to pricier Kanata neighbourhoods, such as Kanata Lakes. And it’s close to lots of great recreational amenities, such as the Richcraft Recreation Complex, the hiking and mountain-biking trails in the South March Highlands Conservation Forest, and the public Loch March golf club (where you can play nine holes for $22). But here’s a tip: If you want to buy here, you have to be quick and aggressive. Cundasawmy recalls listing a house in this ’hood for a client. “We went to market, and it was a frenzy.” In the end, the house attracted eight offers and sold for $65,000 over asking.

Borders: Old Second Line Road, Old Carp Road, Windance Crescent, Celtic Ridge Crescent, Klondike Road, March Valley Road, Terry Fox Drive
Condo prices (monthly average): $257,500 to $292,900
Condos sold last year: 4
Non-condo prices (monthly average): $361,000 to $484,300
Non-condos sold last year: 206

Also in this series: 
Where to Buy Now: 5 best neighbourhoods for growing families
Where to Buy Now: 5 best neighbourhoods if cost is no issue
Where to Buy Now: 5 best neighbourhoods for retirees

Looking for a condo inside the Greenbelt for less than $250,000? This neighbourhood just north of the airport offers lots of potential. In fact, Cundasawmy says it often attracts entire extended families. “The sister-in-law talks the in-law into buying on the same street. ‘Come on, get on the property ladder, and we’ll be able to look after each other’s kids.’ ” The drawbacks include airplane noise, a decided lack of nightlife — a few pubs and the South Keys Cineplex are about it — and a slow commute to downtown. It’s only 13 kilometres to city hall (as compared to 16 kilometres from similarly priced Convent Glen North in Orleans), but you’ll spend a lot of those clicks crawling on Bronson, Bank, or one of the canal-side parkways — unless you hop on the Trillium Line at Greenboro. The proposed addition of stations at South Keys and the EY Centre in 2021 might make this area an even more attractive option.

Borders: Uplands Drive, Paul Anka Drive, McCarthy Road, CN Rail line, O Train line, lands north of the airport
Condo prices (monthly average): $199,533 to $281,200
Condos sold last year: 64
Non-condo prices (monthly average): $493,229 to $612,400
Non-condos sold last year: 51