Choose a Home and Deal with Its Surroundings

This happens quite often enough. Some homeowners start off by being very happy with their new purchase, but they end up being disappointed. Is it because the property no longer suits their needs? On the contrary! The problem is the area, the neighbours, the public services. Before buying the property, these homeowners thought it was unnecessary to explore the neighbourhood. Bad idea!

You are so excited to have found the property of your dreams that you immediately sign the papers because you are afraid someone else will buy it. The seller, on the other hand, is happy the house is selling quickly, especially if he gets the price he asked for. With no bad intentions in mind, he exaggerates the advantages that come with buying the home. “How far from downtown Montréal?” “Thirty minutes” (when it actually takes an hour) “Where is the nearest subway station?” “A ten-minute walk, at most!” (by bus, maybe) And so on.

The buyer and the seller are both feeling anxious. They’re in a hurry to close the deal. They create illusions. We believe what we want to believe. It’s normal.

If you want to purchase a home in the suburbs, before you do, take the time to drive to the city center and in the worst possible conditions. In town, take the time to walk to the nearest subway station, at a normal pace. Do the same with the grocery store, school, daycare, and convenience store.

Spend a day walking around the area where the desired property is located. Roam the streets, literally. Observe the surroundings, chit-chat with people, especially the neighbours, walk through parks, take the pulse of the neighbourhood. How many businesses have closed down lately? How is the snow removal in winter? Are zoning changes expected? How is the school transportation? What are the residents most proud of? What do they like the most? What do they like the least?

The most reliable source of information is often taxi and bus drivers, waiters in restaurants, police officers, and hairdressers. We once knew a producer who, before putting tickets on sale, went to the most popular hairdresser in town to spread the word. Hairdressers know a lot about what’s going on in the neighbourhood.


Buying a property and then learning that the neighbour is an outlaw motorcycle gang member has happened in the past. The children of both families had time to socialize. When the biker became the focus of media attention, the value of the property depreciated.

Before scratching off certain cities from your list because the cost of properties is too high compared with those in the suburbs, do the math and compare the cost and efficiency of the services offered. Then, complete your evaluation by taking a stroll in the neighbourhoods that might interest you. In other words, go around the garden literally and figuratively.

And although your real-estate broker is competent and has been working in the area for a long time, he or she doesn’t know everything. Keep in mind: the broker can’t live and breathe the neighbourhood as you would.