If you’re wondering how Brantford, Ont. became MoneySense pick for the best place to buy real estate in Canada, take a stroll down a grocery store aisle to the Nutella section.
The beloved chocolate hazelnut spread is made in Brantford. So are Tic Tacs and Ferrero Rocher chocolates. A plant operated by Tic Tac and Nutella-maker Ferrero has become so important to the Brantford economy, the city hosts a World Nutella Day celebration every February.
While other municipalities across Southwestern Ontario and the Midwestern U.S. fell into a state of despair and disrepair in the wake of tough times for the manufacturing industry, Brantford has diversified its economy and thrived. Its low unemployment rate and affordable yet steadily rising housing prices pushed the city to the top spot in our annual ranking of the best places to buy property in Canada’s major urban centres.
In addition to Ferrero, Brantford mayor Chris Friel focused on courting Japanese and European companies in the food processing and advanced manufacturing industries. Brantford’s downtown has also experienced a significant boost from Conestoga College and Wilfrid Laurier University, which have campuses in the city.
Friel says Brantford’s affordability and strong economy make it attractive to buyers in the Greater Toronto Area.
“You can sell your home in Mississauga for $720,000 and buy the same home in Brantford for $420,000,” says Brantford mayor Chris Friel. “You have all the amenities you need, and yet you’re only five minutes away from beautiful little towns and a rural area.”
Brantford may not have seen the skyrocketing property values of Vancouver or Toronto in recent years, with the average new detached home selling for just over half a million dollars in 2017. But someone who bought that house in Brantford in 2007 would have generated an annual rate of return of 8.5 per cent over 10 years, better than the 7.1 per cent generated by the average single family home in the Greater Toronto Area over the same period.
The fact Brantford declared a state of emergency in February because of floods caused by ice jams might give some would-be homebuyers pause. But Friel said the flooding was contained to a localized area and didn’t affect the vast majority of properties.
Even though Brantford is more than 100 kilometres away from Toronto’s downtown, it’s still considered part of the Greater Golden Horseshoe, an area stretching from Niagara to Peterborough, Ont. that has experienced a lift in housing values as priced-out Toronto buyers look farther afield.
Friel says the new Brantford residents he talks to are attracted by more than the ability to finally qualify for a mortgage. He says families feel safe letting their children walk to school, enjoying the small town lifestyle while retaining the perks of city living.
“A lot of the people I talk to, it’s not so much that they were pushed out (of the Greater Toronto Area),” Friel says. “They saw the opportunity during that market to be able to put some money in their pockets.”
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