There’s more appeal to condominiums than just an attractive price tag.
While certainly the affordability factor has propelled the condo market — condos now account for 50 per cent of housing sales in Toronto — other aspects are helping drive their appeal.
“There’s a sophistication to the condo market that I like,” says Jane Renwick, editor of Urbanation, a GTA quarterly condo market report. “If you’re into tall buildings, some are being designed by the best architects and suites created by the best interior designers. They are upping the aesthetics of the city. There’s something glamorous about them.”
Location is one of the perks they provide.
“You can get to live in a world-class city for under $300,000,” Renwick says.
“You have access to transportation, you can walk to work, to shopping and entertainment. I think that’s very important. Condos allow you to be in the centre of things.”
And while suites may be small, she says buildings have things such as dining rooms and party rooms for entertaining, “which allow you to go outside the confines of your unit.”
A wide array of amenities are offered, from pet spas and car wash bays to fitness centres and basketball courts. All of these factors played a part in Brian Hodgson’s decision to buy an 829-square-foot penthouse, with 10-foot ceilings and floor-to-ceiling windows, at Aspen Ridge’s VU, a development at Adelaide and Jarvis Streets that includes condos, townhouses and lofts.
“I think one of the biggest attractions of condos to first-time homebuyers is that it offers you an affordable alternative in the expensive and surging housing market,” he says.
The 24-year-old, who is in marketing for Scotiabank, is living with his parents near Yonge Street and Lawrence Avenue while he waits for his unit to be completed. From his parents’ home, his commute takes 45 minutes and, if he takes a cab downtown, it’s a $25 trip one-way.
“I knew that I wanted something right in the heart of the city around the financial district,” says Hodgson. “Condo living offers me a lot of advantages. VU has two gyms so I won’t have to pay for a membership elsewhere. The location puts me right downtown, which will cut out the morning commute and the expensive cab fare. And I do not have to worry about yard work and keeping the outside of my property manicured.”
Maureen O’Neill, president of the Toronto Real Estate Board, says one advantage of buying a new condo is that it usually takes two to three years for a project to be finished, giving buyers time to save more money for the down payment.
“You’re buying at today’s prices, and hopefully they are going up,” she says. “Condos provide a certain lifestyle, as a lot of people don’t like to shovel snow and the amenities provide a lot of pampering.”
Buying a resale condo has its own advantages.
“There are some condos with great bones and, with a resale, you know what a building is like, what the finishes are, the reserve fund has been established, you know what the taxes are and how many investors are living there,” she says. “And generally speaking, resale units are bigger.”
Resale units usually have 30- to 90-day closing dates, while new projects are unpredictable.
“And in a resale, you not only get to see how the space is laid out, but how it flows, the views and how the sunlight comes in,” Renwick says.
She stresses it is important to check the maintenance fees of existing buildings. If their reserve funds have fallen short, the fees may be very expensive to help cover the shortfall.