If you have a family, we don’t need to tell you how much your priorities change. Somewhere along the way, you traded happy hours for playdates and started declining invitations that would keep you out past 9pm. Your tiny loft apartment’s feeling more suffocating than cozy these days, and you’re finding yourself daydreaming about extra bedrooms and yard space.
It’s time for a change. Whether you’re looking to rent or buy, you need to plant yourself in a neighbourhood that gets you and your family’s needs.
So what are some key factors to consider as you begin your search?
You knew this one would top the list. If your kids are in school, you need a neighbourhood that provides a supportive environment for them to learn and develop life skills. When considering location, pay attention to the schools in the vicinity. Are they well-regarded by local residents? Are they on the way to work, or in the opposite direction of your commute? A family-friendly neighbourhood provides enough high-quality options that you don’t feel stuck. Look for diversity of offerings as well. Do nearby schools offer specific features that interest you, like language immersion or arts programs? If your kids are in elementary school and you want to put down roots, make sure to check out the quality and location of high schools as well.
If you live in a city, noise is everywhere. At any given time, you can hear the honking chaos of nearby traffic, the dull roar of a plane flying overhead, the loud chatter of pedestrians, or the thumping bass of a house party down the street. Don’t underestimate the negative effects of constant noise: it’s correlated with high stress levels, poor concentration, sleep deprivation, and irritation.
Let's be realistic. Unless you’re planning a move to an isolated cabin in the mountains, you’re not going to eliminate all noise. Your downstairs neighbour’s yippy dogs are unlikely to shut up anytime soon, even if you try to bribe them with treats. But you can choose to live in a location that will minimize noise as much as possible. Try to avoid student areas and neighbourhoods with a high concentration of nightlife. Look for a spot with some distance from major highways and streets. When you find a location that’s peaceful and quiet, your home will feel like a refuge. You and your family members will sleep better, rest better, and enjoy fewer distractions.
If you’re looking for opportunities to stay active and build neighbourhood camaraderie, it’s hard to beat a local park. Look for features like playgrounds, public pools, community centers with family activities, and areas to play sports and run around. Who knows—you may meet some of your best friends at the baseball field or at the dog park. Green spaces connect kids to each other, to their families, and to their environments. Even a small corner park provides an opportunity to trade in screen time for adventure and discovery.
If you’ve ever dragged a stroller up and down a flight of stairs at a subway station, you can appreciate the convenience of a car-friendly neighbourhood. Look for access to major traffic arteries and ample parking. It won’t matter if you live near grocery stores, restaurants, and other amenities if you have to drive in circles for 45 minutes to snag a parking spot. Make it easy on yourself and your schedule by looking for a neighbourhood that makes life easier, not harder, for drivers.
5) Low Crime Rates
You baby-proof your home. You take your kids to the doctor’s office. You do everything in your power to keep your family healthy and safe, so why wouldn’t you consider neighbourhood safety when choosing a place to live? Aside from looking at crime data, get a feel for safety by visiting a neighbourhood at night. Are there kids riding their bikes on the street? Are there families out for an evening walk? Are the streets well-lit? If the only people walking around at night look sketchy or nervous, it’s probably not the place for your family. Take notice of the local businesses and avoid neighbourhoods with a high concentration of adult-only businesses and late night bars.
So there you have it. No neighbourhood is perfect, but there’s one out there that’s perfectly suited to your family’s lifestyle. Keep these 5 characteristics in mind, and you’re well on your way to discovering it. Happy hunting!