Dundas: Well preserved

Grapes aren't the only good thing growing in the lee of the Niagara Escarpment. Nestled in the lush lakeside vegetation is the park-rich community of Dundas, a suburb of the manufacturing hub and university town of Hamilton that benefits from its location in the Golden Horseshoe and a tight supply of development opportunities.

With a population of less than 30,000, the town was originally incorporated in 1847 and has a history to match.

An older stock of buildings gives the main street a charm redolent of rural Ontario, but transit connections to Hamilton make it an ideal home for students and workers in the city of which it is now a part (Dundas became part of Hamilton in 2001).

McMaster University students are "the primary market," says Larry Szpirglas, managing broker of the Dundas branch office of Judy Marsales Real Estate Ltd. Demand is strong with the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. reporting a 4.1 per cent vacancy rate in purpose-built rental housing in Dundas.

However, demand has also been fed by Toronto investors who have funded construction of condos that have been offered back to the market for student rentals.

The average condo currently costs about $225,000, while the average price for all property types is running at about $340,000.

The community's links to the university are reflected in a rise in multicultural restaurant fare and several arts and culture venues that mirror its cosmopolitan makeup.

The stability of the housing market coupled with constraints on the supply of development sites has made Dundas a prime locale for investors in residential properties and other types of real estate, not just from Toronto but further afield.

"We do get a lot of calls from people that are out of town as well as folks that are local," Szpirglas says, crediting online listings services with making it easier for investors to investigate local opportunities.

"It tends to be better quality stuff than you might find in other communities," he says, noting the broad mix of industrial, commercial and multi-family properties. "But once again, it's not like a huge number that come up.

But when they come up, they're very much sought-after."

Constraints on new development include the fact that in such an old community, most building lots have been taken up. Additional development is constrained by the presence of the Niagara escarpment, which is unsuitable for development, and the Hamilton Region Conservation Authority which oversees eight conservation areas and oversees local environmental management.

"There's not a lot of room to grow as a result," Szpirglas says. "By and large, the community has really grown to its limit."

This is creating investment opportunities for in-fill development, similar to other established markets in the Greater Toronto Area. Opportunities exist not only in older residential areas, but also in commercial areas where new businesses are supplanting older commercial ventures.

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