Whether it’s a condo in the city or a detached home in the suburbs, homebuyers looking for the best bargains should turn their sights to the east and west, industry experts advise.

David and Gilma Simon recently sold a home in Port Hope and moved to Oshawa, which offers the least expensive homes in the GTA.

The average sales price in Oshawa last month was $221,464 — significantly lower than the average GTA price of $394,000 or the Toronto average of $432,000, according to figures from the Toronto Real Estate Board.

The Simon family only has one car and, between David’s trips to work at the Darlington nuclear plant and shuttling Gilma to classes at Durham Continuing Education three times a week, all that driving was getting costly. The couple also felt that job prospects might be better in the GTA for Gilma, who emigrated from Panama.

The couple looked in Ajax and Whitby, where all they could find in their price range were townhouses. In Oshawa, they could get a detached home for the same money.

“Oshawa feels like it has its own identity and sense of community, instead of being just a bedroom community,” says David.

The 1980, three-bedroom backsplit they purchased for $241,000 meets all their criteria: it’s close to three parks, a walking trail, a wealth of stores, a bus stop and good schools for Gilma’s 13-year-old son.

Although it does have the cheapest real estate, Oshawa also has the dubious honour of the highest property taxes in the GTA. For example, for a home valued at $275,000, a homeowner will pay $4,157 in taxes this year. That’s mainly due to the city’s investment in replacing aging infrastructure.

But Maureen O’Neill, president of the Toronto Real Estate Board, feels Oshawa is an area that is “really going to go,” noting GO train service offers convenient commuting for downtown workers.

Bowmanville, just east of Oshawa, also offers good value, with an average price of $238,000.

On the other side of the GTA, Milton continues to boom as the fastest-growing community in Canada, according to Statistics Canada.

“It’s popular, not just because of affordability but it’s close to the country. People who buy there like land,” says O’Neill. The average house price there is about $347,000.

However, O’Neill suggests anyone considering a home in suburban areas should test their commute to work for five days before making a decision.

“Burlington’s not bad if you work downtown,” she says. The average price there is $323,000 and sales last month were up 18 per cent over March 2007.

In the city itself, O’Neill says neighbourhoods such as Corktown, Parkdale and Roncesvalles have become popular, “when you couldn’t give a house away there three or four years ago.” Areas such as the Beach and Riverdale continue to be hot, although prices there are steep. For condo buyers, O’Neill says the Bloor Street corridor continues to be popular, as well as Queen and King Streets. The Lakeshore and Harbourfront are also showing “tremendous stats,” she says, as well as the St. Lawrence Market area. But downtown, it’s tough to find anything for less than $350 per square foot, and that would be for small units.

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