In addition to cost, homeowners list relatively easy access to downtown and a small-town lifestyle as reasons for making the move

The rising cost of living in Calgary has pushed some families to move to the city’s bedroom communities, like Airdrie, Cochrane and Chestermere, while commuting downtown everyday for work.

This includes the Baldwins, who moved to Airdrie from Calgary five years ago.

Kendall Baldwin, her husband, and their young baby girl rented a basement suite in Calgary for about a year and a half, but after transitioning to Airdrie, Kendall says there has been no looking back.  

“We did look [for a house in Calgary] a little bit,” Baldwin says. “But I think we always knew we wanted that small town feel.”

Located 36 kilometers north of Calgary, Airdrie currently has a population of 49,560, compared to Calgary’s population of about 1.15 million people.

Sales growth for houses in Calgary’s surrounding towns was 21 per cent in 2012, according to statistics from the Calgary Real Estate Board.

This number exceeds sales growth within the city, which was just below 15 per cent, yet the growth of house prices is slower in surrounding towns than in Calgary itself.

The average cost of a single detached home in Calgary was $428,649 in 2012, up from $414,387 in 2011. The price of a similar home in Airdrie was $370,277.

Homes in the town of Okotoks, Airdrie and Cochrane cost an average of $348,587 in 2012.

“The cost of living is a little bit less so that was part of it,” says Baldwin. “It is somewhat cheaper, especially for what you get in terms of size of house.”

Baldwin says the builder who built their home in Airdrie also builds in Calgary. The couple looked at a spec home from the same builder in Calgary, which was almost identical to their own, except for the lot size and the price tag.

“The lot size was smaller and for what we got, it was probably at least $100, 000 difference if you were to look in Airdrie,” says Baldwin.

She says this might be an extreme example of price difference, but says she believes it still offers a little perspective.

Baldwin and her husband both still work in Calgary. She says the commute hasn’t been a problem yet, and even contributed in part to their initial interest in Airdrie.

“My husband works in the north so that’s kind of why we looked more towards Airdrie,” she says. “I work in downtown Calgary so I take the commuter bus in.”

First Canada offers a commuter bus in addition to the one already offered by Airdrie Transit, so Baldwin says she has no issues getting to work that way.

Baldwin says her and her family have everything they need.

“We would stay in Airdrie because it’s become so much more developed,” she says. “We have everything, compared to some of the other communities like Chestermere. They have one grocery store.”

Baldwin says she thinks the significant development happening in Airdrie will also contribute to strong resale and property value.

“For us it’s just been great. We would never move back into Calgary, ever.”

A First Home in Chestermere

Young families aren’t the only people choosing to make the move away from the inner city to buy a home.

Jori Dean, 26, is a senior account manager for a financing group in Calgary. He recently bought his first condo in Chestermere, just east of Calgary.Chestermere offers affordable living for younger people looking to buy their first home.

Photo by Olivia Grecu

Dean, who moved to Calgary from Saskatchewan in 2008 for school, has lived and worked in Calgary full-time since 2009.

“I’ve looked casually over the past couple years,” Dean says of looking to buy property in Calgary. However, he has only rented since moving to the city.

“I always assumed I would end up buying something in the city, so I never really considered the neighbouring communities,” Dean says.

This changed when a co-worker suggested Dean check out a listing in a Chestermere condo building.

I work in the McKenzie Towne area of southeast Calgary, so I figured of all the places outside of the city, Chestermere would offer the shortest commute to work,” says Dean. “I think that its proximity to downtown makes it the most attractive town for me in general.”

Dean says he still anticipates buying a home in Calgary someday. For now, the price was right in Chestermere.

“The affordability of Chestermere is what led me there. I wouldn’t have been able to afford an equivalent home in the city.”

Dean has reservations about moving out of Calgary, such as worrying that he might feel “out of the loop,” however, there are a few things he is looking forward to.

“The golf course is two minutes away from my building,” Dean says.

“The building is also on the lake, which is nice, and something you don’t really get in many areas of the city. The lake is definitely something I’m looking forward to enjoying, especially in the summer.”

ogrecu@cjournal.ca