Historically, some of the appeal of buying a home in Hamilton had to do with it being a cost-effective alternative to Toronto. But as home prices continued to rise across Southern Ontario, the price of real estate in Hamilton reached parity with other cities in the GTHA, and it became just as challenging to buy a home in Hamilton as everywhere else.
In fast, competitive real estate markets, you essentially have to be ready to purchase at a moment’s notice before you start looking at homes. Buyers are usually encouraged to apply for a mortgage pre-approval before looking at any listings to be able to act faster when needed and to hard-cap a price range. This (ideally) keeps buyers from exceeding their actual budget on a home they love but can’t afford.
To ensure that you can realistically and comfortably afford a mortgage, however, you have to be honest about your finances and habits and create as detailed a budget as possible. In fact, whether you’re buying or selling in Hamilton, a common piece of advice is to make a detailed list of all of your closing and related expenses and to overbudget for them.
These are some of the reasons for Hamilton’s popularity and what to look for when buying a home in Hamilton or anywhere else.
An Introduction to Hamilton
Here are a few things you should know about living in Hamilton.
Hamilton’s Ideal Location
Hamilton is situated in the middle of Southern Ontario’s Golden Horseshoe and has breathtaking views along its Lake Ontario waterfront. It’s approximately 66 km from Niagara Falls and the American Border at Buffalo, New York, and 61 km from Toronto, with plenty of other cities and tourist destinations on the way to either one.
Along with its extensive Lake Ontario coastline, Hamilton is home to many conservation areas, outdoor activity centres, and, of course, Hamilton Mountain – meaning that Hamilton caters to nature and city life enthusiasts alike.
The Hamilton Economy
Because of its history as an iron and steel manufacturing hub, Hamilton will always be known as Steeltown. And while manufacturing is still a staple of the Hamilton economy, it has been and continues to modernize as it now includes other industries like construction, life sciences, healthcare, education, agribusiness and tech.
Hamilton’s Educational Institutions
Hamilton’s globally-esteemed McMaster University attracts students from around the world to their Engineering, Medical and Computer Science programs, to name just a few. It’s also home to several other respected post-secondary institutions like McMaster Divinity College and Mohawk College.
The Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board consists of 99 schools serving 50,000 Elementary and Secondary School students.
Transportation Options in Hamilton
For those who need to commute to work, Hamilton has access to two major Ontario highways, the 403 and the QEW. In the Hamilton downtown core, however, the cost and frustration of driving and parking a car incentivize many Hamiltonians to use either HSA or GO Transit services to get them around.
Hamilton is still in Canada, after all, which makes for cold winters; however, thanks to Lake Ontario, Hamilton usually hits temperatures at or below freezing for about 129 days of the year, and the average temperature rarely dips below -10°C.
Like other cities on Lake Ontario, summers in Hamilton are warm and humid, with an average July temperature of 22°C.
How to Choose the Right Hamilton Home
Follow these tips to help optimize the return on your investment whenever you buy a home.
Plan Ahead When Deciding on the Size of the Property
The conventional wisdom is to buy a home larger than your current need and to “grow into it” as your family grows and needs more space. This also gives you the option of future renos and landscaping projects if you plan on spending the foreseeable future in your next home.
Don’t Skip the Home Inspection
When viewing homes, these are a few of the crucial things to look for, as repairing them can cost a small fortune:
- Exterior cracks
- Uneven floors
- Inefficient windows
- Old shingles or a leaky roof
- The age and state of the furnace or HVAC system
- Plumbing leaks
Know Your Tax and Cost of Living Expenses
These are just some of the expenses you should look into before buying a home:
- Property taxes
- Homeowner and auto insurance
- Utility costs
The Quality of Nearby Schools
Accessibility of quality schools factors into the value of a home in the present and moving forward. Check out the Frasier Institute website to find out how schools performed in the neighbourhoods you are considering.
Nearby Amenities and Potential Transportation Upgrades
Look for desirable locations with access to nearby parks, community centres, shopping malls, a hospital, etc., or up-and-coming neighbourhoods in new developments. You can also check out GO Transit’s future transit page and the Government of Ontario’s highway program website to learn of any future transportation projects planned for the area.
A Last Piece of Advice – Don’t Lose Your Mortgage Approval
From the day you start viewing Hamilton properties until the day you close on a home and the mortgage funds are actually released, don’t buy any big-ticket items like appliances or a car on credit. It’s also not advisable to change jobs after you’ve been approved for a mortgage. These actions can cause you to lose eligibility for the pre-approved mortgage and your dream home.