Real estate throughout Canada has seen an atmospheric rise in value over the past decade. Ontario, in particular, has experienced a dramatic shift in many sub-markets throughout the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). Markets in other parts of the province—especially throughout the Golden Crescent—have seen considerable growth and an increase in valuation.

Throughout the province, several up-and-coming markets remain affordable enough to represent tantalizing investment opportunities. Thanks to today’s record-breaking prices, it’s easy to forget that iconic Toronto neighborhoods, like Cliffside, were once considered down-market! Making a strategic investment today could pay dividends later on down the road. But only if you purchase the right property.

If you’re a first-time investor exploring the Ontario market, there are numerous things you should consider. For instance, think about the way different markets might serve your investment objectives. While a more affordable market may present a lower barrier to entry, it is also less likely to immediately provide you with high returns.

Savvy investors can identify up-and-coming real estate sub-markets, and make long-term, worthwhile decisions.

Identifying the next hot neighborhood

It’s not always easy to identify up-and-coming neighborhoods. A neighborhood right on the precipice of revitalization may currently appear underutilized and underappreciated. It takes a well-trained eye to identify the next hot real estate opportunity, particularly in a saturated market like Ontario.

Here are a few telltale signs for finding the next hot real estate sub-markets, regardless of what province you’re investing in:

Proximity to transit: Few things will predict the future of a neighborhood quite as significantly as public transportation. Rail lines, in particular, are often seen as a boon to local development. Neighborhoods served by the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC)’s Line 5 Eglinton light rail (currently under construction) and the proposed Line 6 Finch West should be carefully observed by real estate investors throughout Ontario. Proximity to commuter rail, like Go Transit and some VIA Rail lines, is also attractive for renters and commercial tenants alike.

Strong local economy: Another way to predict the future values of a sub-market is by analyzing the strength of its local economics. If a city, for instance, possesses a strong tech sector, or is anchored by the headquarters of a large firm, it’s likely the city possesses a strong economic outlook. Manufacturing jobs are also an indicator of ascendant cities, as manufacturing processes become more technically oriented and higher paying. Look at plans for future growth and development in the cities you’re considering investing in.

Local politics: Your target investment sub-markets should have active and involved local politicians, committed to making the areas friendly for business. Ontario as a whole is known for having a very business-friendly political environment. But often, local politicians are the ones calling the shots that matter most to you, as a real estate investor. If possible, ask other investors about their relationships with city councilors or other officials when considering making an investment. If they possess strong working relationships with local leaders, it’s likely a wise place to invest.

The four best Ontario sub-markets in 2019

There are several sub-markets in Ontario that represent hot investments. The following four are currently being eyed as the potential big winners of 2019.

Windsor

Located directly on the U.S. border, just across the river from Detroit, Windsor, Ontario, has long borne a reputation of being a less-than savory place to live and invest. Fortunately, that reputation is rapidly changing. Increased economic development in Windsor, and across the river in Detroit, are making the city a much more desirable sub-market. Comparatively low real estate prices, coupled with the city’s proximity to Detroit, make it a desirable place for Canadians and new immigrants to move. The ongoing development of a new $5.7 billion international bridge is serving as an economic boon for the city.

London

Much like Windsor, London boasts a relatively low cost of living compared to other urban markets in Ontario. Combined with the mid-size city’s strong reputation, slew of amenities and well-developed economy, London is a desirable market for first-time and experienced real estate investors alike. The city is currently making strides in improving its transit infrastructure by adding a bus rapid transit (BRT) system, as well as bike lanes, to make it easier to traverse the city without a car. A proposed high-speed rail between London and Toronto could link the two cities in just over an hour.

Hamilton

For decades, Hamilton has been perceived as a down-on-its-luck former steel town. All of that is starting to change. Located on the shores of Lake Ontario between Niagara Falls and Toronto, Hamilton is beginning to shed its rough reputation. The city’s affordable real estate and continued investments in economic development and public transportation are making it increasingly attractive to real estate investors. The Go Transit commuter train is expected to extend its route to include a Hamilton terminus in the near future, which is likely to elevate real estate values in the city.

Brantford

Just a few kilometers inland from Hamilton lies the city of Brantford, which spans the banks of the Grand River. Brantford’s economy is anchored by some pretty sweet industry leaders – confectioners Tic Tac and Ferrero both operate manufacturing facilities there. The city also hosts Wilfred Laurier University, which is an important educational institution and economic driver. In spite of the city’s strong economy and proximity to Toronto, it’s remained relatively affordable. Many experts throughout the region expect real estate values in Brantford to begin catching up to those of the surrounding region very soon.

If you’re a first-time investor hoping to make it big in Ontario’s real estate scene, consider investing in one of these four cities. Making a strategically timed entry into one of the province’s up-and-coming towns could provide you with the leverage necessary to create a successful investment career.