Rural vs. Urban vs. Suburban Living & Homeownership: Things to Consider
Shopping for a home is no easy task. Homeownership will change your finances, as well as your day-to-day life. However, many of the effects of homeownership don’t stem from your mortgage payments or newfound responsibilities — rather, they come from where your home is located.
It may sound obvious, but whether your home is in a rural, urban, or suburban area can greatly affect your lifestyle. There are both benefits and disadvantages, personally and financially speaking, of all three environments that can impact your quality of life and overall well being. Even if you find the perfect house, you should think carefully about the surrounding environment, including its potential shortcomings, before making any kind of commitment to a home.
In Canada, there is no single definition of the term “rural,” though it generally refers to any dwelling, community, or population that relates to the countryside. In some cases, rural may simply mean a community or area that is not urban or that lies outside of a town or city.
Rural living likely conjures up images of rolling hills, quaint farms, and small towns with friendly locals. Of course, not even country life is that simple; there are serious things you have to consider before settling down in a rural area:
A couple of pros to consider include:
- Cost of Living: Typically, the cost of living is lower in rural areas than in either urban or suburban ones. However, the cost of living can vary greatly from place to place, even in rural areas.
- More Affordable Housing: Housing costs can vary greatly depending on geographic location, but on the whole, rural housing is fairly affordable. Compared to busy cities, there is more land available in the countryside, which helps keep housing costs low.
- More Space: You have a lot more space, physically speaking, in rural areas. In addition to having a more spacious home, you can also purchase surrounding land. This gives you plenty of room to add on to your home, raise animals, or build new structures.
- Proximity to Nature: Rural communities may be far from the big city, but they are closer to nature and green spaces. Spending time outdoors is highly beneficial for your health and wellbeing.
- Slow-Paced Lifestyle: Country living has long been associated with a relaxed lifestyle. Not only are you removed from the hectic energy of the city, but you have more privacy and autonomy to live at your own pace.
- Know Your Neighbors: Rural communities tend to be small and tight-knit. Because there are so few people and only a handful of places to congregate, you can really get to know your neighbors. You and your neighbors may come to rely on each other for support and assistance, especially if the nearest services and amenities are relatively far away.
A few of the cons might include:
- Fewer Job Opportunities: Due to their small size and low cost of living, rural communities typically offer fewer jobs. Available jobs likely pay less than those in bigger cities. However, this may be less of a concern if you can work remotely, are your own boss, or are retired.
- Fewer Businesses: Similarly, because there are fewer people, there are also fewer businesses you can patronize. This means that you may have to travel outside of your town, or spend more money, to get all of the products and services you need.
- Access to Utilities: Utilities present a challenge in rural areas, with many residents struggling to access the services they need at an affordable rate. Even water, a basic necessity for human life, may not be provided or treated by a utility company in rural areas; this leaves many people to rely on well water, which can be unsafe to drink without some kind of softener or filter. You can still get the utilities you need to live in the countryside, but it may simply require more effort and creativity to secure them.
- Home and Property Maintenance: You may have more space in a rural area, but that means you have more to take care of. A bigger home will require more regular cleaning and maintenance than a small apartment. You’ll have to spend even more time, money, and energy on property upkeep if you own any land.
- Lack of Public Transportation: Small towns have limited access to public transportation. Some rural communities may not have any transit options whatsoever. Further, since rural areas tend to be spread out, they aren’t very friendly to bicycles or pedestrians. This means you’re all but required to own a car to commute, run errands, and get around.
Similarly, “urban” can be defined in several different ways, depending on the context. It generally refers to cities, especially large ones, that are densely populated with highly built-out infrastructure.
Living in a city is anything but boring. There’s constant activity as people go about their daily lives. While this may sound appealing and exciting, you should think carefully about what urban living entails:
Some of the pros of urban living include:
- More People: Cities are full of people. You have countless opportunities to meet new people and make new friends every single day. This allows for a certain level of privacy and anonymity, as well as continual exposure to new ideas, and perspectives.
- Increased Diversity: Similarly, big cities attract people from different places. You’re more likely to encounter people from different cultures and all walks of life while living in a city.
- Cultural Hub: Large cities are often cultural hubs for their entire state or region. There’s no shortage of events, activities, and excitement, which often attracts people from other areas. Depending on how large a city is, you could live there for years without experiencing everything your home has to offer.
- Accessible Public Transportation: Big cities tend to have better and more easily accessible public transportation systems. From metros to local buses, more people can use and benefit from transit than in smaller communities. Many of the largest cities in Canada are also highly walkable and bikeable, meaning that you may not even need your car to live there.
- More Job Opportunities: There are generally more job opportunities — especially well-paying ones — available in big cities. Additionally, the job market is expected to grow more quickly in urban areas, especially large cities, than in either rural or suburban ones.
- Access to Utilities: Depending on the city, you may not have many options as far as utilities go, since some regions have a single utility provider (such as only one gas or power company). This means you won’t have the option of choosing a provider or service that works best for you. Further, if you have different needs or preferences, you’ll have to find your solutions. For example, if you prefer water that has been treated a certain way, you’ll have to find your own softening solution instead of asking your water provider to make changes for you.
Some of the cons of urban living might include:
- Cost of Living: Since a lot of people want to live in cities, the cost of living is higher than in rural or even suburban areas. Virtually everything, from housing to your water bill, seems to have a higher price tag.
- Competitive Job Market: There may be more high-paying jobs available in the city, but more people are competing to get those positions. You’ll have to distinguish yourself from the crowd of applicants and work to prove that you’re the best candidate for the job.
- Less Space: Cities are a desirable place to live, which results in higher housing prices and smaller dwellings. Instead of a three-bedroom home in the country, you’ll likely have to live in a relatively small apartment if you want to be in the city center.
- More Crime: Big cities tend to have much higher crime rates than small, rural towns. The type and amount of crime vary greatly from city to city, but with more people, there is more potential for both minor and violent offenses.
- Fast-Paced Lifestyle: Just as country living is known for being relaxing and peaceful, city life is known for its hustle and bustle. Some find this high-energy lifestyle to be exciting, but others find it stressful. It can be difficult to fully unwind and relax when your surroundings are constantly noisy and hectic.
- Pollution: With more people, cities are a much larger source of pollution than rural areas. No matter your personal commitments to sustainability or efforts to conserve water, you’ll encounter more trash, energy usage, and air pollution in a large city.
“Suburban” typically refers to residential areas that are either part of or within commuting-distance of a city. Though many suburbs exist on the outskirts of large cities, some may be small towns or cities in their own rights, with commercial centers as well as low-density residential areas.
Suburban life likely brings images of green lawns, white picket fences, and happy families with children running about freely to mind. While some aspects of this retro, idyllic lifestyle may still ring true, there are a few modern realities you have to take into account:
Some of the pros associated with suburban living might include:
- Proximity to City: The suburbs are the happy medium between the city and the country. You aren’t living in the heart of the city, but you also aren’t living hours away in the countryside. In the suburbs, you can still get to the city with relative ease.
- Relatively Affordable Housing: Generally, suburban housing is less costly than city housing, but more costly than housing in rural communities. You’ll also get more bang for your buck in the suburbs, particularly compared to the city. While you may only be able to afford a small apartment in the city, the same amount could pay for a three-bedroom home with a yard in the suburbs.
- Less Crime: Cities experience more crime than either suburban or rural environments. Though actual crime rates can vary greatly based on location, this makes suburbs fairly safe to live in.
- Clean and Peaceful Environment: Much like rural communities, the suburbs offer a clean, calm environment. There are fewer people and, beyond residents and their visitors, fewer reasons for people to be in a suburb. This means you’ll be able to enjoy a quiet and relaxed life, away from the chaotic energy of a big city.
- Good Schools: While the quality of schools will differ from place to place, it’s thought that suburbs have better public schools than either large cities or small towns. Coupled with low crime rates and a calm environment, many believe this makes the suburbs the best place to raise children.
Some of the cons of suburban living might include:
- Commuting: If you live in the suburbs, you may have more affordable housing, but that likely means you have to commute to work. On average, Canadians spend 24 minutes commuting to work, but many have commutes of 60 minutes or longer. Commuting can help separate your work and home lives, but it can also negatively affect your health and take up valuable time in your day.
- Reliance on Cars: Much like rural communities, suburban areas tend to have limited access to public transit. This means you have to own, pay for, and drive a personal car as your primary mode of transportation.
- Fewer Amenities and Activities: Suburban areas may have more activities and events than rural ones, but they certainly aren’t cultural hubs. For major attractions, shopping, large events, and entertainment, you may have to travel to the nearest big city in your area.
- More Space: Having more space and a larger home is one of the biggest benefits of living in a suburban area, but this also means your property requires more care. This includes spending more time and money on your home, yard, and property as a whole.
- Restrictions: If you live in a subdivision or development, you may have to deal with a homeowners’ association. This usually entails paying monthly fees and following HOA rules dictating what you can do with your home and property. These rules can vary in severity, with some being highly restrictive.
It doesn’t matter if you choose rural, urban, or suburban living; one setting isn’t inherently better than another. Your values and personal preferences are the only things that determine what the “best” living environment is. Ultimately, it’s your life and your home. Choose the environment that works best for you.