We used to think that bigger was always better. And when it came to real estate, we were willing to suffer long commute times and sacrifice amenities for what we thought was a good price for a good amount of land.
But over the last decade, homeowners and homebuyers have shown a shift in the traditional real estate market mentality. In 2012 especially, the average family is choosing location, proximity to amenities and upgraded living over acreage.
“It all comes down to choosing a community that suits the lifestyle and needs of your family,” says Stephanie Palmer, director of sales and marketing at Armco Communities. “For some, an urban setting close to all amenities is key, for other families, schools play a big factor when deciding where to live.”
Armco Communities and Clayton Developments Ltd. are two of the largest community developers in the Halifax Regional Municipality who specialize in offering unique neighbourhood experiences. With suburban living comes the notion of affordability, but community developers are now seeing homeowners take an interest in smaller lots with less land – but in prime locations.
“Location, location, location,” says Christina Baker, regional sales manager for Clayton Developments Ltd. “Smart, innovative design and convenient access to amenities and services are the driving factors behind homeowners choosing our developments – along with the quality of our builders and the very structured price points that are offered.”
Both Baker and Palmer are noticing that the modern homebuyer is choosing a community based on the right lifestyle fit and the best investment. And noise pollution, green space, accessibility, community services, commercial opportunities and proximity to friends and family are all
factors that make a specific location more or less desirable.
“Homeowners today are also looking to express originality in their homes,” says Palmer. “That means community developers must offer a broad range of single family homes, apartments, condos and town homes all in one community to appeal to different needs and lifestyles.”
Sunset Ridge for example, an Armco development, offers a real mix of housing options. From semi-detached homes, single family homes, apartment and commercial – mixed density living is a way of diversifying the neighbourhood and bringing a blend of people together from all walks of life.
The Parks of West Bedford, the newest Clayton development and the gated community of Summerfield in Portland Hills are also offering a new kind of community. A community within a community.
“We took into consideration Nova Scotia’s aging population and created a series of bungalow-townhouse-condos and one-storey homes that address the needs of lifestyle buyers downsizing or with limited mobility,” says Baker. “It’s important for developing communities to offer something for everyone.”
While location is still a dominating factor in choosing the right community, developers are focused on the transformation of areas that some may consider, too suburban. These neighbourhoods can be converted into convenient and functional communities with proper planning.
Their secret – bring amenities, conveniences and a comfortable lifestyle to the homeowner.
“We understand that the two-storey home with living room, formal dining room and backyard isn’t for everyone,” says Palmer. “So we are bringing variety into our developments by offering different home options and also a variety of amenities like walking trails, recreation centres, supported commercial, playgrounds, and even integrating schools into the new community.”
Buying into a community and how homebuyers choose the right location to invest is a very unique personal experience. Real estate agents can help with the research and understanding of certain areas, but it is the responsibility of the buyer to research builders, community developers and surrounding neighbourhoods because ultimately, it is the buyer who will be making the decision that is best for his or her family and lifestyle.
“The Internet lets us research developers and builders – their practices and previous,” says Baker. “Home buying should be a joyful, stress free and pleasant experience. And there are many resources available at our fingertips.”
Community developers such as Armco and Clayton try to make the process of buying or building a home as easy and enjoyable as possible by providing detailed community descriptions for buyers, an extensive choice of floor plans and lot sizes. Baker explains that Clayton for example,
offers preset colour pallets chosen by design professionals to guarantee a beautiful end result and a one-stop-shop for all design aspects of the building process.
“We pay close attention to our design guidelines to maintain a high standard in quality of the homes and avoid the cookie-cutter effect,” says Baker. “Offering a variety of colour pallets means you and your neighbours on either side will have a different exterior design. And homeowners don’t have to travel from store to store choosing siding, brick, roof shingles and paint – they can do that with ease and convenience through the developer.”
This mandate to preserve individuality in homes within a community shows an effort on behalf of HRM developers to listen to the needs and wants of the buyer.
The key is offering something for everyone and realizing that smaller homes fully upgraded and centrally located are the latest trend on the real estate market. The real estate market in HRM is a growing and ever-changing scene. One that community developers must observe, nurture and adapt as the trends come.
Due to the complexity and intricacy of community design in 2012, homeowners will be sure to find a number of communities that match their wish list. Breaking it down to location, price and proximity to amenities that align with the family’s lifestyle will help guide any buyer in the right direction – whether it be into suburbia or straight downtown.