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  #1  
Old Posted Jul 23, 2009, 8:30 PM
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Housing Choices - where you choose to live

A thread to discuss housing choices, where you live and why. Where you plan on living in various stages in your life and some of the advantages and disadvantages of urban and suburban life.
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  #2  
Old Posted Jul 23, 2009, 10:21 PM
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Great idea for a topic. I guess I'll go first:

I live in Tuscany, in a single family home. Moved from Beaumont (Edmonton suburb) in 1997. Grew up in a series of small Alberta towns.

Why we bought in Tuscany:
1. wanted a single family home, with yard etc for the future family. Growing up in a small town, I guess that is what I was used to and we really didn't think of 'condo' when it came to family plans.
2. didn't want to live that far out, but similar homes closer to DT (Varsity, Dalhousie etc) were running at 3x the price at the time. We just could not financially swing it. Anything closer to DT than that and you are looking at smaller homes and / or major reno's.
3. didn't want to live in the NE or SE. The deep SW was too far and transportation was already an issue. That left the west side of town, or the NW. We just really liked the NW.
4. my house has a view of the mountains. For a prairie boy that was a major drawing card.
5. transportation routes to the places we generally go (west or north of Calgary) is actually great from Tuscany.
6. other than schools (which weren't there when we bought, but are there now), most services that we want and utilize are relatively close by.

The Pros:
1. it's a quiet lifestyle, which I personally prefer. I'm not much of a people person so being around crowds doesn't do it for me.
2. cost of living is pretty good. Modern home means energy efficient. Taxes are reasonable.
3. transportation is generally pretty good
4. most neighbors are of a similar type (ie have kids) so my kids aren't isolated.
5. can sent the kids our to play in the backyard without having to watch them too closely. You can't do that in a tower.

The cons:
1. the commute. While it isn't that bad really, it's 80 minutes out of my life every day that I'll never get back.
2. sporting facilities are far away, and lacking in general. By that I mean hockey rinks for myself and the kids. Too many players chasing too little ice time.
3. 13 continuous years of road construction on my commuting routes is really starting to annoy me.

Ideally we would have chosen to live in a community like Varsity or Dalhousie but as I mentioned earlier the cost of houses was jsut too much to justify. I have nothing against 'urban' dwellers and as a matter of fact I love coming down to the beltline periodically to see what's happening. If it weren't for the kids I could see myself living in one of the new towers for sure.

People with families will almost always choose the suburbs simply for the open spaces and privacy they provide. The City should be commended to trying to encourage grwoth in the innner city but it will be next to impossible to eliminate growth of the suburbs. There are just too many people who either want to live there, or can't afford to buy a house anywhere else. If you cut down on too much choice, people wil simply go elsewhere (Cochrane, Airdrie etc) which will jsut compound the problems.
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  #3  
Old Posted Jul 24, 2009, 1:30 AM
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Royal Oak, single family home. We both come from living in houses, one of us in the burbs and small towns and the other closer to inner city, probably close to something like Lions Park station or similar in age and proximity to downtown. We've both also spent years in apartments.

Within a few months of moving to Calgary we both fell in love with the NW and it's not like we didn't look - when you don't know a soul in a city it's easy to spend every weekend just driving around, learning the city and checking out every last neighbourhood. While we tossed around the thought of buying, it wasn't serious until the boom took hold of this city. Watching house prices increase each month got a bit scary, so for fun we started looking into it more seriously.

Pretty quickly, just like lubicon, we learned how expensive it would be to live anywhere close to downtown. Even Dalhousie or Brentwood was damned expensive for what you got. So, it was either a small condo or the burbs, or a REAL fixer-upper, and neither of us are any good or motivated at that. However, what really made up our minds was this - in 2005 it was cheaper in most cases to buy a brand-new home than just about anything else, unless you wanted a very run down place or maybe something in the sketchier parts of the NE/SE. Well, that decided it - having your own place, never lived i, where you get to pick every last detail of your colours and materials and whatnot - it's awesome. It's even better than a brand new car. Spent a couple of months browsing showhomes and narrowing down the parts of the city we liked, and at the time it came down to 2 areas really - Royal Oak or Tuscany. I INSISTED on living with C-Train access, now or near future, so Panorama hills etc were out. Also wanted to be very close to Banff considering I now drive out there 20+ times a year. Royal Oak was just a bit more convenient to get in and out of, and I liked the houses available, so sold!

Pros: Affordable. Quiet. Plenty of walking areas and park space (eventually, that's still being worked on). No kids so none of those reasons apply, but still, we wanted at least a small yard for maybe a hot tub in the future. We're both very private and quiet people so to be honest the isolation of the burbs is welcome. Meeting new people is pretty easy as EVERYONE is new and no one knows anyone. Easy to get in and out of the city, especially for those 6:30am ski departures. And train access, so the commute isn't half bad. We've long since outgrown (I don't mean maturity wise, we've just gotten boring in our "old age" while the rest of you keep it real) crowds, festivals, the bar scene - all the fun and exciting stuff an urban presence brings. We hit some every year but it's certainly not the focus of everyday life. We actually have groceries and some other stores within a 5-10 minute walking distance which is always a bonus on a nice day. Plus a tiny mountain view from upstairs. More noticeable is the GREAT views we get every time we leave the house and drive south on Stoney, and coming back to the house as well. I see the mountains on every clear day.

Cons: really, the commute. That's about it. I don't mind though as I've always taken public transit both to work and to school (such a waste to drive if you don't have to) and I've been reading obsessively for decades as a result. I hardly notice the time even though yeah, it's 45-60 minutes EACH WAY 200+ days a year. I'd spend that time reading otherwise anyway, so it's not really taking much away from my life. The lack of flexibility and waking up that much earlier are the real con for me.

The very rare occasions I want to drink socially, it's a pain. NO ONE lives by us that we know beyond a few neighbours. And all the fun stuff (Flames, Stampede, good clubs) are downtown. So it's pricey cab-wise. I totally understand folks who do this on a regular basis living downtown - if I was 10 years younger I think I'd be living in the east Beltline without question. Otherwise it's just not a problem.

It's funny, because most of what people say is "young families like the suburbs". Well, while I don't have a head full of grey, we're not young and we don't (nor will we ever) have kids. We're the ultimate yuppies and DINKs. But it still is exactly what we wanted and need.

Oh yeah, and we did look at Okotoks/Airdrie/Strathmore/etc - coulda saved a bunch of money that way. However I couldn't live with myself driving into the city every day, let alone driving or even owning *2* cars. Such a stupid waste of money, gas, the environment. There's a certain appeal to the smaller centres but I must say I do enjoy the feel of a big city, and all the amenities it provides, even if I don't want to live right in the middle of them. Also I detest real urban American-style urban sprawl - at least Calgary contains itself within contiguous areas for the most part. So I guess you could say I'm fully cognizant of sprawl/environmental issues, and try very hard to mitigate them - but I still live on just about the extreme edge of the city. I'm not sure if that makes me a hypocrite or a semi-responsible suburbanite or just plain stupid. We do our best to keep our entire footprint down but yeah, I do have a yard, and I do love the new massive road systems being put in primarily to support the suburbs.
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Old Posted Jul 24, 2009, 2:33 AM
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I live in Marda Loop in a house with 3 other roommates, but I'm moving to a 550ft² apartment in Mission with my girlfriend in August. In my mind less is more/smaller is better. I don't own much, and I'd like to keep it that way so I choose to live in a small place. I really don't spend much time at home. I don't own a TV. I'm pretty much only home to eat, sleep, and shower. I prefer getting out and living as much as possible. In the inner-city you can do that easy without a car. I can ride my bike to the public library, talisman center, public parks, ect.

You can still do that in the suburbs, but I find I'm prone to driving way more than necessary when I'm living in the suburbs.
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Old Posted Jul 24, 2009, 2:35 AM
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How about yourself Wooster?
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Old Posted Jul 24, 2009, 3:39 AM
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Good questionaire in the Herald today. Basically asking if it was more affordable, would live Downtown? Was surpised at the response, 33% yes -67% no! I thought a higher percentage would have said yes...
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Old Posted Jul 24, 2009, 5:16 AM
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Live in Martindale, grew up in Whitehorn. Having grown up here, I know that the NE is a wonderful place to live, pretty much close to everything, well served by LRT, roads are generally pretty good. I love living in a multicultural area too, and most of the friends live in the NE. The construction company for which I work is owned by my parents, and I work in their house - in the house I grew up in. So, I can easily bike to work, tried biking through the winter, except this winter was tough with the snow not melting for a while.

I like the suburb life, I don't need to be in the centre of the action, though I do wish that I could walk to a few more places.
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Old Posted Jul 24, 2009, 5:53 AM
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We live in Coventry Hills.

When we started shopping for houses, we looked in our price range mainly in the North because:

- We both knew the north half of the city better than the south
- I worked downtown and my wife worked at the Deerfoot business park
- We're both from Edmonton and go there regularly
- We were somewhat resigned that our price range meant we'd live in the far suburbs, and from my experience in the city, far North in Calgary is a hell of a lot closer to downtown than the far South.

We wanted to live in one of the communities along the Crowchild NW corridor but we were somewhat priced out with the exception of Royal Oak and the occasional place in Tuscany. The Northeast (Saddle ridge etc) was well within our price range but we felt that the drive downtown was longer than I liked. The Northern Hills area, on the other hand has better access to Deerfoot, closer shopping and services and was a little more established than the NE. We focused on Country/Coventry Hills and found a place within walking distance of the Superstore.

In general, we like where we live. The area's got lots of services, stores and restautants -- since the T&T Supermarket opened up it's much better. Access is good -- my commute is about 25 minutes in the morning and 35 minutes on the way back, and since the Ring Road opened we can get to the NW very easily now (12 minutes to Bowness Park!) All we need is a sushi place, some tennis courts and the north-central C-Train and it would be perfect
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  #9  
Old Posted Jul 24, 2009, 6:08 AM
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I purchased over ten years ago, at the start of first crazy upswing in house prices.

At the time, I was living in Bridgeland in a basement suite that I loved - great Italian landlords who would bring me real Italian food leftovers after every party they had. I had a view of downtown, to this day some of my best downtown pictures are right out the front door, owing to the fact that the suite was on a south facing hillside. The local was great - going for ice cream on 1st and 10th was a common evening pass time in the summer, and walking the streets was great, especially under some of the tree covered ones. My biggest complaint was the lack of a decent grocery store nearby.

So, when looking to purchase, I wanted to buy in Bridgeland. Unfortunately, the prices had climbed to that point that I couldn't afford anything other than a dump in that community. I briefly considered a new house - and discarded the idea as all communities I could afford were far north or far south - I HATE long commutes. I wanted my own yard, as I wanted to garden, so an apartment was out (flower boxes don't cut it). I won't touch any condo arrangement as I want control over my property maintenance - I have heard too many stupid condo board stories from many people.

I narrowed down my search to an area roughly bordering Mcknight on the North, Canyon Meadows on the south, nothing on the west side of town (owing to me working on the east side) and nothing in the east/NE starting with Forest Lawn and moving north (with a few exceptions). I looked at possible affordable houses in Queensland, Ogden, Renfrew, South Calgary, and Mayland Heights. I was mostly looking as small houses with small yards. Location is way more important to me than size of house - I'm the only one living in a house - I don't need anything over 1000 sqft. A bigger yard would be nice, but as long as I have something I can play in the dirt in, I'm happy. Oh, and a garage got big bonus points - if there wasn't room to build a garage, I wasn't going to buy it at the end of the day.

I ended up in Mayland Heights based on a combination of house condition and location. Better locations such as Renfrew and South Calgary had dumpy houses in my price range. Ogden offered a kick-ass property but less desirable location. Queensland and Mayland Heights were close - same type of small house with similar desirable amenities nearby. Queensland had a kickass commute to my job of the day, but not so good to downtown. Mayland Heights won out on better proximity to downtown and a better house w. a garage - and it's just across the Nose valley from Bridgeland! Oh, and I have a downtown view with mountains in the back, at least from 2nd story. Funny how that worked out.

I would be interested in hearing from you folks who chose the 'burbs (I consider myself to be near-beltline) - what it would take to buy an apartment condo if you were shopping now? Price? Missing Features? Etc?

For me, I would first say that if I had been buying in the last five years, price would've done it for me. No fancy Arriva for me - I'd have been stuck buying some crappy 4th tier 500 sqft place - no houses was affordable to me at the insane market owing to my wages not increasing the way housing prices did. I'd have been looking at around $200K max, not much available at that price last year. I just did a quick dig on realtor.ca and there is much more available now - like ~119 properties in the beltline. Around five years ago, there were a few condo renovation projects that I was aware of that were just within that price - I mighta gave up my property control for one of those.

I would've been tempted by downtown apartments by the following features: Green space to walk in on the property or nearby, (MUST) a grocery store within walking distance, (MUST) a relatively quiet street, a baloney with some sort of a view, a rooftop garden, greenhouse / sunroom for the winter, library/museum within walking distance, (MUST) a car parking spot - highly preferable indoors, some interesting pubs within walking distance, storage space for bicycles etc., (MUST) walking distance to LRT, perceived safe neighborhood, 2nd bedroom for computer lab, (MUST) soundproofing so I can't hear my neighbors.

Putting my current house at it's current market value in that mix, I'd probably end up picking that, considering I can afford it again at today's wages and today's house prices. I'll leave you to figure out how that worked out Any apartments being built or built have LESS of the above desirable things that my house has - the gap is getting narrower though.
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Old Posted Jul 24, 2009, 1:50 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DavidKuitunen View Post
You can still do that in the suburbs, but I find I'm prone to driving way more than necessary when I'm living in the suburbs.
I can certainly concur on this one. Plus the fact that it's just so damned convenient to drive in the burbs, because at least in Calgary within 5 minutes you can be on an expressway... I guess even the core is like this because of Deerfoot, but still.

I drive way more than necessary but that's ok, I LOVE driving. Just cruising around, checking out new places, and enjoying the feeling of the wheel.

But yeah - even when I have things within walking distance, sometimes we drive somewhere else "just because". It does tend to get wasteful.
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Old Posted Jul 24, 2009, 1:58 PM
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How about yourself Wooster?
Currently, I live in Toronto. 28 storey rental building at Yonge and St. Clair. 1 bdrm apartment with my girlfriend.
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  #12  
Old Posted Jul 24, 2009, 2:00 PM
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Good questionaire in the Herald today. Basically asking if it was more affordable, would live Downtown? Was surpised at the response, 33% yes -67% no! I thought a higher percentage would have said yes...
That might stem from the fact that people have a very narrow definition of 'downtown' in Calgary. Most people probably think that to mean 'where the tall office towers are'. A more effective question might have asked whether they would live 'in or around downtown' if housing was more affordable.
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Old Posted Jul 24, 2009, 2:24 PM
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Ok my turn.

Grew up in the suburbs of Calgary (Hawkwood in the NW). Became increasingly frustrated with having to drive everywhere or swallow the big bill for cab rides to and from the inner city when meeting up with friends.

Moved into a new condo in Bridgeland (phase 1 of The Bridges) in 2005, 1 bedroom that had a nice view of downtown. Around the end of 2005 I put down the deposit on my place at arriVa, craving an even more urban existance.

Met my wife in 2006 and the rest is history. We are now living in our 2 bedroom in arriVa with our new daughter and are loving it. We have plenty of space (we tend to be minimalists with "stuff", so a lot of the baby gifts we have been gettting are being returned) and no need to think about leaving for a few more years.

My wife LOVES to garden. We tried growing some simple veggies in pots on the balcony last year to some limited success. So this year we got a plot at the Inglewood community garden, and it has been a blast. A quick drive over from our place and we have met so many new people and made some new connections.

Loooking past living in arriVa we will probably end up in one of the two choices:

-single family
-townhouse

We have spent a lot of time looking at single family in Inglewood, Ramsay, Mission, Bankview, and a few other very inner-city neighbourhoods. The emphasis is on a nice house (3 bedroom) with not a lot of fixing up to be done, and a yard that is large enough to have a decent sized garden. We'd rather have a larger public greenspace closer by for the kid to play in.

Townhomes have a rather limited selection in the 3 bedroom range, mainly sending our focus towards the ones in Erlton. The location is still fantastic and with the potential of the Anthem properties being developed the neighbourhood has nowhere to go but up.

Long story short, we will continue to live in the inner-city for hopefully the rest of our lives, and raise our family there. We just love the ability to abandon the car and get almost everywhere on foot/stroller. While others sit in traffic or on transit for upwards of over an hour each way to work I've already been home for over 40 minutes being able to spend that quality time with my family. To be able to walk into the core on any given weekend in the summer and run into a festival or event going on. That's why we love it!
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Old Posted Jul 24, 2009, 2:34 PM
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^^^ Bigtime you should be the poster child for the benefits of inner city living. Good on you and your family for realizing the potential.
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Old Posted Jul 24, 2009, 2:35 PM
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I ended up in Mayland Heights based on a combination of house condition and location.

Mayland Heights, Calgary's little secret. I could easily see myself living in Mayland Heights.

As you can attest from my handle, I live in Ramsay. Bought my first house in Ramsay around 11 years ago for $132,000, put about $30K into it and sold it 4 years ago for $258,000. I would have kept it if I could, but needed the money to upgrade to a better place in Ramsay. Bought the new place about a month before the property values started going nuts.

I bought in Ramsay, because I wanted to live inner city. I figured it was only going to be a matter of time before others saw the merits of living in Ramsay. That, and I can't stand the suburbs. Spent my teenage years in the burbs and hated it. Too far from anything.

I've mentioned it here before, living in Ramsay is like living in a small town with all the big city amenities very close at hand. It's like a 20 minute walk to downtown, 10 minute walk to the Saddledome. I can walk my dogs to the off leash area on Scottsman Hill and less than a 5 minute drive to the Deerfoot and about a minute to Blackfoot trail.

We have the only roofed outdoor rink in Western Canada, which will soon be renovated. They're putting in an ice plant to increase the skating season.

As it's inner city, Ramsay still has it's issues, but they're getting fewer and farther between.
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Old Posted Jul 24, 2009, 2:48 PM
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Ramsay does indeed rule, what a great little community!

Anyone that hasn't been down there should really take an afternoon and walk it, check out whole streets of homes that have amazing gardening on their little front lawns. The people out and chatting with neighbours, just the feel in the community. It is fantastic!
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Old Posted Jul 24, 2009, 3:09 PM
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Ramsay does indeed rule, what a great little community!

Anyone that hasn't been down there should really take an afternoon and walk it, check out whole streets of homes that have amazing gardening on their little front lawns. The people out and chatting with neighbours, just the feel in the community. It is fantastic!
It's not all crack whores in Ramsay.
The Bigtimes would make awesome Ramsarians.
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Old Posted Jul 24, 2009, 3:30 PM
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Currently living in an 800 sq ft condo by myself in Airdrie (a PofV project... ). Bought it on spec in 2005 as it was all I could afford on my own after living in rentals in various downtown Calgary locations. The fact that I commute to and from the Calgary airport for work helped in the choice ultimately. I had a roommate for a brief period, but it didn't work out and I ended up having to kick him out. Left a bad taste in my mouth so now I live hand to mouth, but oh well. Being on the road up to 18 days a month I appreciate condo living for the security and knowledge that my place is fairly safe. However, I feel that the Condo Board and the Management Company aren't managing the premises very well. They can't seem to keep the costs in check therefore the condo fees go up and we recently got a special assessment. Also, the general condition of the grounds leave something to be desired.

I am currently dating someone who owns a great house along a greenstrip in Royal Oak and the plan was for me to sell or rent out my condo so I could move to Royal Oak this fall. But due to there being a glut of condos on the market here in Airdrie, I doubt mine would sell for any significant profit in my pocket and I would lose money renting it out, so I've had to put the move on hold for another year or so until the market picks up again.

When I was renting, I was living in places like the CBD, Bridgeland, and 17th Ave SW area, all of which I loved. Royal Oak would not exactly be my first choice. Sure there is a yard for the dog and there's lots of space in the house, but I loved being close to where all the amenities and fun are. I wish I could convince my significant other to consider a house in Parkdale, Inglewood, Bridgeland, or somewhere inner city, but that would be a futile attempt. He has always lived in the 'burbs and his job is close Royal Oak, so getting him to see the benefits of living close in would be a real chore.
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Old Posted Jul 24, 2009, 3:39 PM
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That might stem from the fact that people have a very narrow definition of 'downtown' in Calgary. Most people probably think that to mean 'where the tall office towers are'. A more effective question might have asked whether they would live 'in or around downtown' if housing was more affordable.
There's that and it probably reflects the Heralds demographics.
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Old Posted Jul 24, 2009, 3:44 PM
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Walk to the Saddledome... drool. BT and ramsay, you guys have it made on that count. That may be the single biggest thing that would bring me downtown.

YYC - that's a tough break. I had concerns over the same sort of issue with my SO, because to be honest I just couldn't see things working out long term if one of us had to be "convinced" to live somewhere else. Thankfully it became a non-issue once she realized she doesn't actually like to go to most things hosted in the core (other than Flames games and Stampede). It was more of a "this is how I grew up, so surely any other option must suck" attitude for a while.

I will say that Royal Oak is pretty damned nice as far as burbs go (great transit access, good retail close by, lots of parkspace), and with the ring road, it's a very quick commute to the airport. But it is isolated as all hell if you like to be close to the action. No amount of "big yard" or whatever can make up for that.
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