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About the City of Kitchener
The Waterloo Region is nearly 1,400 km2 in size (the Region shape roughly resembles the 2012 London Olympic logo), and more than half a million people live here. Most of the population lives in one of the ‘Tri-Cities’ (Kitchener, Waterloo, and Cambridge). Today, we’re going to dial back our investigative lens and take a look at the Cities of Kitchener and Waterloo. Kitchener is located in Southern Ontario, nestled between the cities of Waterloo and Cambridge, along with the towns of Wellesley, Woolwich, Wilmot, and North Dumfries. It has a population of around 230 000. The Grand River runs along Kitchener’s eastern border, and to the west are fields and rolling hills, the tallest of which are called the Bade Hills. These hills aren’t all that tall, but they’re the highest things for kilometers around, and thus serve as a perfect place for TV and radio antennae.
When you’re choosing where to live, you need to know that you’ll be able to make your livelihood. And in that regard, Kitchener (and indeed, the entire Waterloo Region) has plenty of opportunities. Historically, Kitchener has been a prominent manufacturing centre, stretching back to the furniture factory and sawmills of its earliest days. Manufacturing remains an important part of Kitchener’s economy (and a significant employer, with 20% of the work force), but the city has become increasingly economically diversified over the years.
Kitchener has plenty of job opportunities – large health care facilities and three hospitals, Conestoga College, multiple elementary and secondary schools, tech companies, municipal jobs, and countless retail and service opportunities (including Fairview Park Mall, the largest mall in the region). Another key benefit of Kitchener is its proximity to Toronto. Businesses are connected to Canada’s largest city, with all the opportunities that provides, as well as Toronto Pearson International Airport. Click here to read more about the City of Kitchener.
About the City of Waterloo
Waterloo is the smallest of the Tri-Cities, but it’s still got a fairly sizable population at just over 100 000. Kitchener borders Waterloo to the south, Wilmot, Wellesley, and Woolwich Townships surround it to the north and east (that’s a lot of ‘W’s), and the Grand River runs (or flows, to be more accurate) along the east.
One of the defining characteristics of Waterloo is its top of the line education. Put simply, Waterloo has excellent schools, for every age. Waterloo is served by both the Waterloo Region District School Board (WRDSB) and the Waterloo Catholic District School Board (WCDSB). Both have schools throughout the Tri-Cities, and several in the surrounding areas, but there is a common theme amongst them. Typically, the schools in Waterloo itself are the highest performing in the entire region (and many of them are ranked among the best in all of Ontario). Indeed, for many parents, moving to a particular area of Waterloo in order to ensure their children are zoned for a specific school is a significant factor in choosing a new home. The Laurelwood Neighbourhood (read about it in our ongoing series on Waterloo Neighbourhoods) specifically has excellent elementary schools, including Laurelwood Public School and St. Nicholas Catholic School, tied for top school in Waterloo according to the Fraser Institute in 2015-2016.
With an educated, motivated population, Waterloo has many technology and service-based job opportunities. Major employers in the city include both universities, the Catholic and public school boards (WCDSB and WRDSB), Manulife Financial and Sun Life Financial, many start-ups and tech companies, as well as several think tanks. And of course, we would be remiss not to mention one of Waterloo’s most widely known exports, and one of the largest employers: BlackBerry. BlackBerry is nearly synonymous with Waterloo, with its ties to the University of Waterloo stretching back to the mid 1980s. The legacy of Research in Motion (RIM), as it used to be called, looms large in the ‘Loo, and the company carried the torch (and continues to serve as a beacon of light) for the burgeoning tech movement in Waterloo. Waterloo is served by Grand River Transit, which has bus routes running throughout the region. By 2018 the LRT route should be operational, which will see ION electric train cars running from Conestoga Mall in Waterloo past the universities, uptown Waterloo, downtown Kitchener, and all the way to Fairview Park Mall in Kitchener. Click here to read more about the City of Waterloo.
The History of Kitchener, Waterloo, and Cambridge Merging Together
You’ll often see this stretch of cities referred to as the Tri-Cities, or TriCities, and sometimes even Kitchener-Waterloo-Cambridge (though that name’s a bit more cumbersome). As time marches on, the cities have begun to form one contiguous unit. They are still individual cities, certainly, but they are connected in many ways. True amalgamation of the TriCities, and the Region of Waterloo, has come up in the past. The model for this process is Toronto: in 1954, Ontario’s provincial government merged Toronto with its 12 surrounding communities into a two-tiered metropolitan government (similarly, five municipalities surrounding Toronto were dissolved and amalgamated into the City of Toronto in 1998). This hasn’t happened in the Waterloo Region, and there are many voices opposed to official amalgamation – different areas have different needs, for example – but the TriCities are nonetheless bound in numerous ways. Since 1997, the Waterloo Region has been governed by a 16 member Waterloo Regional Council, consisting of the Mayors of each city and Township, a Regional Chair, and additional councillors from each of the TriCities. Additionally, public transit between Kitchener-Waterloo and Cambridge was combined in 2000 (more on that shortly).
The TriCities are interconnected by roadways, the Grand River, and their shared public transit service. To start with the first, Kitchener-Waterloo shares numerous arterial roads, and getting from one city to the other is incredibly easy. Indeed, sometimes you won’t even notice when you’ve crossed the dividing line between them. Cambridge is a bit more geographically separate from its fellow TriCities, but it’s still incredibly close and easy to get to. Just to give you an idea, you can start taking King Street East in northwest Cambridge (specifically, downtown Preston) into Kitchener, passing through the bustling Sportsworld Crossing area and beyond without ever needing to change lanes. The TriCities really feel interconnected, and this connection is bolstered in no small part by the Conestoga Parkway. The Conestoga Parkway encompasses three connected highways: Highway 8 runs northwest from Cambridge into Kitchener and serves the lower part of the city; Highway 7 runs from Kitchener up to Waterloo (and east toward Guelph); and Highway 85 runs from southern Waterloo up to Woolwich Township beyond. The Conestoga Parkway makes navigating between the disparate parts of the TriCities quick and easy.
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Another major way the TriCities are connected is through their forward-thinking public transit operator. Grand River Transit (GRT) serves all of the TriCities, with lines running from north of Waterloo (including service up to the famous St. Jacobs Farmers’ Market) down to southern Galt (the southernmost part of Cambridge). You can take a bus from anywhere in the TriCities, get a transfer, and head anywhere else within the TriCities easily with just one fare. There are direct routes between Kitchener and Cambridge, and Kitchener and Waterloo, and a variety of iXpress Routes that provide rapid service between some of the TriCities’ most popular spots. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, GRT will soon be opening a brand new rapid transit service (LRT, or Light Rail Transit) in the TriCities. It will be called ION, and its first phase will run between northern Waterloo (Conestoga Mall) and Fairview Park Mall in Kitchener; there are future plans to extend the LRT to southern Cambridge, with express-service buses running in the meantime. To reiterate: the TriCities are connected!
As of the 2016 Census, the TriCities have a cumulative population of 468,128 (Kitchener with 233,222, Cambridge with 129,920, and Waterloo with 104,986). The figure you’ll often see for the area, however, is 535,154; this number is in reference to the broader Regional Municipality of Waterloo. Included in the Regional Municipality of Waterloo are the TriCities along with the Townships of North Dumfries, Wellesley, Wilmot, and Woolwich (and their various, constituent communities). In any case, one thing is clear: there are a lot of people living together in this one region. In fact, the Regional Municipality of Waterloo is presently the tenth largest Census Metropolitan Area (CMA) in all of Canada (the TriCities on their own would be the twelfth largest). And on top of this, the Waterloo Region (and especially the TriCities) has consistently ranked as one of the most rapidly growing areas in all of Southern Ontario. By 2030, the region is projected to have over 700,000 people living within it! So there are the facts and figures… Now let’s look into what they mean.
There are three major factors driving the growth of the TriCities:
1. They’re quite close to the Greater Toronto Area
2. They’re a major hub of technological innovation
3. They’ve got great educational opportunities
Let’s dissect these points a little further. In terms of proximity to Toronto, each of the TriCities is around an hour and a half’s drive away from downtown Toronto (of course, traffic can vary during rush hour). There are also public transportation options like weekday GO Train service and Mega Bus routes. The fastest commute time is provided by FlyGTA’s service from the Region of Waterloo International Airport – less than 20 minutes from take-off to touchdown! So commuters, businesses with ties to Toronto, and people who love to visit the big city but not live there can all benefit from settling in the TriCities, while still having access to the GTA.
In terms of tech, the TriCities have a well-earned reputation as Canada’s leading light in the tech industry. This reputation is driven by downtown Kitchener’s transformation into an innovation hub (Google has a bustling headquarters here, as well as the massive Communitech presence in the converted Tannery building), the overall startup culture pervading the TriCities, the proliferation of brand new neighbourhoods to support new residents and expanding families (Hespeler, in Cambridge, and southwest Kitchener are two examples of rapid growth), and the University of Waterloo (UW).
Speaking of UW… The TriCities abound with opportunities in education. As a growing region, the two major school boards have a lot of resources to work with, in order to provide a great educational environment. Both the Waterloo Region District School Board (WRDSB) and the Waterloo Catholic District School Board (WCDSB) have many fantastic elementary and secondary schools spread throughout the TriCities, making this area a great place for families. And as a rapidly growing school board, it’s also a great place for jobs in education (teachers, support staff, and beyond). There’s even some overlap with the tech aspect: the WRDSB recently launched the Chromebook 1:1 Initiative, in which students entering Grade 9 will be given their very own Chromebook until graduation. Chromebooks are small, highly portable, battery-efficient laptops that run Google’s Chrome OS, and make use of the various Google applications (such as Google Docs) and cloud storage (Google Drive). There are also three excellent post-secondary education opportunities in the TriCities: University of Waterloo, Wilfrid Laurier University, and Conestoga College. Each of these institutions has a sterling reputation, and each excels in specific fields – they also serve the entire Region (for example, Conestoga has major campuses in Kitchener, Cambridge, and Waterloo). You can find out more in our articles about them!
The great thing about the TriCities is that they all have access to each of these benefits, yet they’re all distinct enough that you can pick the one that suits you best. You can easily live in Cambridge, go to school in Waterloo, and work in downtown Kitchener if that’s what you want.
Is Kitchener-Waterloo a good place to live?
That’s a great question. Choosing where you live is one of the most important, and sometimes difficult, decisions you’ll have to make in your life. So many things depend on it, and not everyone is the same. What one may consider a positive trait, another may consider a deterrent. This makes it difficult to decide where you’re moving based on someone else’s opinion. For that reason we will be presenting you with the facts of living in Kitchener-Waterloo, and you can decide for yourself if it makes Kitchener-Waterloo a good place to live.
Let’s start off by looking at some straightforward and concrete rankings. According to the MoneySense 2016 ranking of Canada’s best places to live we ranked as follows:
Out of 219 places ranked Kitchener-Waterloo ranks right near the top. That’s great, but what does that really mean? This ranking is a statistical ranking based on 35 different categories. The categories include demographics, income, housing affordability, weather, commute times, taxes, etc. The list is a great way to help you pick out some cities you may be interested, but we would not recommend choosing solely based on the city’s ranking.
While the ranking is great statistical insight into the region, it does not account for some important elements such as the nearness of family, how friendly the neighbourhoods are, or lovely sunsets. These are categories you would have to use your own judgment on when deciding if it makes Kitchener-Waterloo a good place to live.
Strong and Diverse Economy
One of the main things Kitchener-Waterloo is known for in terms of economy is our tech sector. While being the Silicon Valley of the north is definitely one of the region’s strong points, part of what makes Kitchener-Waterloo’s economy so strong is how diverse it is. Our economy boasts several industry clusters including education and knowledge creation, industrial parks, traditional downtown small businesses, and of course the high-tech enterprises and startups.
The diverse economy is the reason the region continued to thrive even after one of the biggest employers, BlackBerry, failed, and makes Kitchener-Waterloo a great place for both investors and those seeking employment.
As a result Kitchener-Waterloo enjoys an extremely low unemployment rate of 5.1%, and a median income of $80,278. For those looking at settling down in the region there is no shortage of opportunities or resources.
Great Places to Live
Whether you have recently retired, are looking to settle down with your family, or you’re a busy professional, Kitchener-Waterloo has a neighbourhood to fit your lifestyle. Ranging from single-detached homes, to Victorian houses, and high-rise condos the options are endless.
Based on our 2016 sales data the average house cost $426,000. Extremely affordable compared to other cities with similar amenities. If you are a renter the average rent for a single person is $815 per month.
If you’re looking for a quiet tree-lined street to raise your kids, or a central loft there is something here for you. Feel free to reach out to us with what you are looking for and we will gladly help you find your dream home.
Kitchener-Waterloo offers a broad range of Catholic, public, and private schools. The schools range from new-build modern and contemporary to unique historic buildings.
There are a total of 9 Public Secondary Schools in Kitchener-Waterloo:
- Bluevale C.I.
- Cameron Heights C.I.
- Eastwood C.I.
- Forest Heights C.I.
- Grand River C.I.
- Huron Heights S.S.
- Kitchener-Waterloo C. & V.S.
- Sir John A Macdonald S.S.
- Waterloo C.I.
In the region there are also three main post-secondary institutions, all recognized worldwide for their top-notch training. The University of Waterloo, Wilfrid Laurier University, and Conestoga College are all accessible from anywhere in Kitchener-Waterloo.
As Canadians the thing we are most proud of is our free health care system, and Kitchener-Waterloo does not fall short of those expectations. We have two major city hospitals (Grand River Hospital and St. Mary’s Hospital) that provide top-notch medical care for the city. Included in the Grand River facilities are a major cancer treatment centre, and a cardiac care centre.
Not that any of us particularly want to spend time at the hospital, it’s important to know that it is there in times of need. Given the current state of some health care cetnres across Canada, we are happy to have such great service in our region.
From theatre, art and music, to outdoor activities Kitchener-Waterloo has it all.
Between summertime festivals, art, music, and performance venues your creative side will have no shortage of stimulation. From our Blues Fest to an all night experimental art festival (NIGHT\SHIFT) there is something for everyone.
To add to that, the region also boasts several golf courses, community centres, sporting complexes, over 300 parks, and a river ideal of canoeing, kayaking, or fishing.
If you are looking at going out for a drink or food you will be impressed by the diverse selection. From world-class restaurants such as The Berlin to basic diners such as Ethel’s Lounge, and countless little bars such as The Jane Bond to grab a drink, your belly is sure to be impressed.
The vas array of recreational options certainly makes Kitchener-Waterloo a good place to live in our minds.
Big City in a Small Town
All in all, what makes Kitchener-Waterloo truly unique and special is that it feels like a small town while providing the experience of a big city. Kitchener-Waterloo provides all of the necessary big city amenities while maintaining the small town friendliness.
Common Types of Homes for Sale in Kitchener-Waterloo
Are you looking at houses for sale in Kitchener-Waterloo and beyond? Well, let’s face it: buying a home, or investing in real estate, is a big decision. It can be a very exciting time, but it’s also common to feel the stress of such an important choice. So WRX Property Group is dedicated to doing what we can to alleviate some of that stress from you, and helping to disentangle the world of real estate for both first time buyers and seasoned sellers alike. Diving into the real estate market, you’ll notice there’s a lot of terminology floating around that sounds familiar, but you may not know precisely what it’s referring to. Today, we’ll be expanding on some of the most common of these terms: the names of homes for sale in Kitchener-Waterloo. Are we about to get into some high-definition definitions, you might ask? Oh, most definitely.
Types of Property
Freehold: In the simplest of terms, this means you own your property (and the land on which it’s located) rather than living there under the terms of a lease. Freehold property is held individually by the owner. Leases, by contrast, are not owned outright by the occupant; they must follow the terms of the lease, renegotiating a new one when necessary.
Condominium: Condominiums are becoming increasingly popular in large cities, and Kitchener-Waterloo is seeing major growth in this sector. A typical condominium scenario is as follows: you own a specific unit within a larger building, which is generally owned by a corporation. You own the interior of your specific condominium, but not the overall building, nor the land upon which it all sits. Condominiums sometimes come with a share in the corporation, and there are regularly condo fees that go toward maintaining the property and common areas.
Types of Buildings
Detached: A detached building means just that: there is nothing attached to it (save for its own garage or shed), and it stands alone. It is surrounded by open space on all sides, and no other building exists above or below it, either.
Semi-Detached: Semi-detached buildings come in pairs: two properties that are attached side by side, or back to back. Save for the attached side, there is open space on all other sides.
Townhouse: Townhouses come in groups of three or more; properties share sides (occasionally back walls) with other townhouses in their overall unit.
Stacked Townhouse: Stacked townhouses are three or four-level buildings with multiple townhouses stacked on one another; these differ from apartment-style condominiums insofar as each has its own separate entrance and front door.
Apartment Unit: Apartment Units are dwellings within a larger building, attached to (side by side, above, or below) other Apartment Units.
Duplex: A Duplex is a larger building that consists of two households or dwellings. Households have separate entrances, but they share a common wall, and it is one distinct property (as opposed to Semi-Detached buildings, which would consist of two distinct properties).
Triplex: A Triplex is the same as a Duplex, but with three households or dwellings. It is a single property, with one building, consisting of three households with individual entrances.
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Style of Homes
Bungalow: A Bungalow is typically a Detached, single-family house that is one storey tall.
Raised Bungalow: Raised Bungalows are like Bungalows in all ways but one: their basement levels are not fully submerged into the ground. Raised Bungalows stand taller, and tend to have front doors higher up, atop a staircase. Basements in Raised Bungalows tend to serve as more primary living quarters, with substantially larger windows than normal Bungalow basements.
Bungaloft: Bungalofts are sometimes referred to as ‘a storey and a half tall,’ and this is an accurate assessment. Bungalofts are Bungalows (detached, one storey tall, single-family homes) that feature an additional living space. The loft is often featured above the garage, but sometimes over the main floor.
Backsplit: Backsplit homes are built on two levels; the front of the house looks like a conventional bungalow, but the back of the house is 1.5 to 2 storeys taller, to optimize space and daylight hours. These are more common on sloped properties. Different levels are connected by small, interior staircases.
Sidesplit: Sidesplits are like Backsplits, but in this case it’s one side that is elevated from the other, rather than the back from the front. Again, these are more common on sloped properties. Different levels are connected by small, interior staircases.
1 and ½ Storey: 1 and ½ Storey homes feature a full main floor, and a partial second floor. The second floor is built over a portion of the main floor; it’s primarily designed for smaller bedrooms, and it often has a sloped ceiling, as they’re built into the existing roof structure.
2 Storey: 2 Storey homes have a full height, full second floor. It is as large – or nearly as large – as the main floor, but it is more fully separated than in half storey homes.
2 and ½ Storey: 2 and ½ Storey homes are to 2 Storey homes what 1 and ½ Storey homes are to Bungalows. That is to say, it includes a main floor, a full second floor, and a partial floor on top of that. The partial storey above the second floor typically has a sloped ceiling, and is often designed as a loft.
3 Storey: 3 Storey homes have a full three floors: a main floor, a second floor above that, and a third above that. Often, houses with more than 2 storeys will simply be referred to as ‘multi-level homes.’ These are larger homes, and it should be noted that 3 Storey homes with comparable overall square footage will often be less expensive than Bungalows of the same size, as it’s more cost-effective to build upward rather than outward.
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Well, there you have it! Yes, this is just a sampling of the various terms and descriptors you’ll encounter when venturing into the world of real estate (whether that’s buying a home in Kitchener-Waterloo, selling a home in Kitchener-Waterloo, or really just getting involved in real estate anywhere). But hopefully the next time you’re looking up homes for sale in Kitchener-Waterloo, things will be a little bit clearer!
Written by Will Kummer