Liisa Vexler

Real Estate

Relocating from Toronto to Ottawa

Buying or Selling in Ottawa

I was reading a thread on Reddit started by a young family considering moving from Toronto (or somewhere in the GTA) to Ottawa. They asked a series of questions about the experience and the answers were fascinating and familiar.

In 2003, my husband and I moved from mid-town Toronto to Ottawa to buy our first home and start a family. We were both from Ottawa, but almost all of our best friends had moved to Toronto during the 90s. We tried Toronto life for a few years, but when it came time to consider putting down roots, we felt Ottawa was a better fit for us.

Aside from being closer to our families, the top reasons for our move were cost of homeownership, cost of living and time spent getting from place to place (i.e. traffic and travel).

When I read through the Reddit responses, I found many of those same reasons, along with a few others that we hadn’t considered then but do mean a lot to us now.

The Reddit thread’s author asked a great question:

  1. How did your life change after moving to Ottawa?

Answers were varied but there were similar themes throughout.

  • Cost of housing and cost of living
  • Access to the outdoors
  • Pace of life
  • Winter

Every single serious response to the question included a comment about the cost of housing in Ottawa compared to Toronto. While both rents and home prices continue to rise very quickly in Ottawa (17% in 2021), the cost per square foot of an equivalent home/location in Ottawa is far less than in Toronto.

Wife and I sold our tiny house in Toronto, came to suburban Ottawa, got a house 4x the size with 2 acres, no mortgage, and managed to put over $400K in the bank.

Reddit poster, November 2019

The pace of life in Ottawa is certainly slower than in Toronto or its suburbs and surrounding communities.

Moved here in Aug 2019. We bought a house this year, something I never thought possible in Toronto. I am so glad I don’t have to sardine myself into the subway every morning anymore. Even before the pandemic hit I took one not very crowded bus to work. I miss a few things about Toronto, especially my friends and the food options but the overwhelming lifestyle positives of Ottawa overall make me glad I moved here.

Reddit poster, January 2022

When I moved back to Ottawa, I hadn’t considered the access to the outdoors as a deciding factor, but WOW, do I appreciate it now. There is a bicycle path network that covers the entire city, going from river to river and park to park. In the winter, many of these are transformed into cross-country skiing trails. I live a 10-minute walk from Westboro Beach. We are so lucky to have a number of beaches right here in our city.

Drive 30-45 minutes (even in a little traffic) in any direction from the centre of town and you will be in the forest, at the lake or in a farmer’s field. Ottawa is geographically spread out, yet still easy to drive in and out of – especially compared to Toronto and the GTA.

Transportation and transit in Ottawa is an ongoing issue. The public transit system has not been reliable and most people who do not live within a 5-7 km radius of downtown need a car to get around.

We’re more relaxed. We sleep better. We have more free time and no financial worries. We miss our friends in Toronto, but all of them have already been planning dates to spend weekends to hang out and take in the fresh air and scenery while having a swim in the pool. We can ride our motorcycles without having to spend 35-40 minutes getting out of the GTA traffic (and then having to brave terrible congestion on our way home). We can go snowmobiling in the winter.

Shopping is far easier as you don’t spend a lot of time stuck in traffic. There are a couple of restaurants in Toronto I really miss, but we’ve found a few here that have taken up the slack. People are far more relaxed and friendly, they look you in the eye and say “hello”. I have no regrets, in fact I wish I had done it sooner.

Reddit poster, November 2019

The unscientific consensus on the biggest downside to living in Ottawa is the harsh winter. Navigating cold and snow in Ottawa actually takes planning and forethought. I didn’t own a parka or lined boots when I lived in Toronto but in Ottawa, I have several. Much to my children’s chagrin, I even wear snow pants when walking the dog in much of January and February. Ottawans also have to consider snow removal in their winter routines (unless you live in a condo). Budgeting for a snow removal service and/or planning to get up a few minutes (sometimes hours) early after a snowfall to clear off the car and shovel the driveway is a must.

If you have any questions about moving from Toronto to Ottawa, reach out! I can give you the good, the great, the bad and the ugly. I am in Toronto at least twice a month and can even meet with you in person to discuss your move when I am in town.

Hi there!

I'm Liisa and I love helping people moving to Ottawa make their home purchase and transition smooth and seamless. I also love helping sellers get the most for their Ottawa home. Let me know how I can help you make your real estate dreams come true. 

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Hi, there!

I'm Liisa and I love helping people moving to Ottawa make their home purchase and transition smooth and seamless. I also love helping sellers get the most for their Ottawa home. Let me know how I can help you make your real estate dreams come true. 

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