HOLIDAY GIFT SUGGESTIONS FOR CONDO-OWNERS

It’s that time of year, when we’re making lists of gift ideas for loved ones. If you have a condominium-owner on your list, or someone who will be moving into a condo in the near future, give some careful thought to what that person might appreciate in the new surroundings. The key is flexibility. Modern condominiums are designed to maximize space, yet are often compact. Think multi-functional, especially for the condo kitchen. Gone are the days when people have space to store numerous small appliances such as rice cookers, slow cookers, yogurt makers, pressure cookers and the like. The great news is that nowadays, manufacturers have come up with innovative small appliances that do the job of several of these. A small gift of stacking coffee mugs or kitchen towels that will add a pop of colour are other possibilities, depending on your budget. If you want to go a little larger and know the condo-owner’s décor tastes, consider an ottoman that doubles as a coffee table, seating and/or storage unit.

If you are looking for stocking stuffer ideas, consider a decorative wall hook or a USB drive your loved one can use for digital media storage. Let your fingers do some shopping on your computer keyboard for more ideas, such as edible gifts, a cozy blanket beautiful enough to use on the bed or as a throw, a fabric laundry bag that can hang on the back of a closet door, or serving trays that can double as dining surfaces. Even better, tickets take up very little space in a wallet.  A new or recent condominium purchaser may be on a tight budget for a while, so think about an experience gift in the form of tickets to a play, concert or sporting event. A magazine subscription is another great idea.

Bed linens, placemats, a multi-tool gadget, a handheld vacuum … the possibilities are beautiful and exciting. Just remember that your family and friends who live in condos likely do not have space for a lot of “things.” Then go with your heart and your budget, and you will find the perfect gift.

THE AGE-OLD STORY OF SUPPLY VS. DEMAND

The most recent Altus Group statistics released by BILD indicate that in the Greater Toronto Area, we are still behind demand when it comes to the supply of new homes available. The supply increased in October, but is still well below what is considered viable in the face of demand. At the end of October, there were only 9,308 multi-family homes and 3,192 single-family homes available across the GTA.

Condos, in particular, are coveted by new home buyers. In October, 91 per cent of new homes sold were multi-family homes. Condo sales that month were 81 per cent above the 10-year average, as well as the highest ever recorded for an October. Over the past few years, condominium sales in the GTA have broken long-standing records and continue to take centre stage in the new home, and even resale marketplace.

Why are we so far behind in supply? Blame the provincial government, which is lagging in approving existing land for development. Developers and builders are building as fast as they can, but bureaucratic red tape poses continual hold-ups in getting land approved for residential development.

The moral of the story is to get into homeownership as soon as you can, while mortgage rates are still low – and condominium is likely the way to go. Let’s hope the supply-demand scenario changes in 2018!

A WHIRLWIND OCTOBER FOR GTA CONDO MARKET

The statistics are in for October 2017, and condominiums drove the soaring new construction home sales for the month. Approximately 91 per cent of the 5,377 homes sold were multi-family. Condo sales were 81 per cent above the 10-year average and reached the highest October on record! On top of all of that, prices were up slightly from September.

If you look at new home sales for 2017 to the end of October, 82 per cent were condo apartments in high-rise and mid-rise buildings, and stacked townhomes. In a nutshell, condos are selling like the proverbial hotcakes to three main groups: investors who are helping to provide new rental housing, end-users who can afford condos over low-rise homes, and end-users who appreciate the convenience of carefree condo living.

To say the condo market in the GTA is healthy and stable is an understatement. We may well be on track to have a record-breaking year for GTA sales. If you are thinking of purchasing a condo, NOW is the time to do it!

You can read BILD’s News Release on the October data at http://bildgta.ca/news/newsreleases.

TARION WARRANTY ANOTHER REASON TO BUY NEW

Most first-time buyers, and all home buyers, understand that with a new home or condominium suite, you have the benefit of Tarion Warranty coverage. Certainly, freedom from worrying about major repairs and knowing deficiencies will be taken care of at no cost to you offer peace of mind over buying resale. But did you know that over time, that coverage follows the home, rather than the buyer? This is great news all around. If you purchase new and then sell before the coverage ends, having it in place is a key selling point. Anyone who purchases from you will get the benefit of the coverage until it runs out.

There are oh, so many reasons to choose a new home or condominium. Consider the most up-to-date construction techniques, materials and green features; the opportunity to select the features and finishes that will personalize your fresh, clean surroundings; the knowledge that you are the first owner in your brand-spanking new home. And warranty coverage to boot!

FAMILIES IN CONDOS? IN TORONTO, IT’S A TREND

I have written a lot about condominium owners bringing up their children in Toronto rather than the 905 areas for a variety of reasons. For many, living in Toronto means a short work commute, resulting in more time to spend with their children. Add to that the convenience of maintenance fees covering the repair and upkeep of the grounds, exterior, amenities and other shared areas, and the lifestyle is certainly appealing. Remember, too, that Toronto is home to amenities and attractions that appeal to all ages, including youth. In response to this growing demand, our developers are designing with families in mind.

One example is Canary Commons, the fourth phase in the fabulous Canary District community in Toronto’s Downtown East. About 2/3 of the nearly 400 suites in this condominium are two-bedroom, two-bedroom + media or den, three-bedroom and three-bedroom + media or den layouts, in sizes from approximately 600 to 1,359 square feet. These large, gracious designs are perfect for end-users who have children. The condominium will even include a Children’s Play Area among its amenities, along with barbecue and fitness areas, a dining room with catering kitchen, lounge, pet wash room, yoga and Pilates studio, and theatre room.

Remember, too, that Canary District is home to the Cooper Koo Family YMCA with activities for all ages. These include after-school programs and childcare facilities. Plus, Canary District is connected to the wonderful 18-acre Corktown Common Park, which encompasses a marsh, landscaped lawns, playground areas, a splash pad and communal picnic area. By the time Canary Commons occupies, more amenities will be added to the area.

Suite prices will begin from the high-$300,000s. Register today at www.canarydistrictcondos.ca/

WE NEED MORE CONDOS TO ACCOMMODATE INCREASED IMMIGRATION

On November 1, 2017, Canada’s Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, Ahmed Hussen, announced a multi-year immigration levels plan to increase the number of immigrants to our country to 310,000 in 2018. That is a substantial rise of approximately 13 percent over this year’s number. Then in 2019, the number will increase to 330,000, and in 2020, to 340,000. That adds up to nearly 1 million immigrants over the next three years.

 

The reasons for welcoming immigrants to Canada include fostering economic growth as our population ages and fewer people are going into skilled labour jobs. Toronto is a natural magnet for immigrants – we are the largest centre of research, education and innovation in the country. We have internationally renowned educational institutions and a leading-edge manufacturing industry.

 

Many of the immigrants who will come to Canada in 2018 – likely tens of thousands – will settle in Toronto, and of course, as I have said many times, they have to live somewhere. As so many immigrants are used to apartment-style living, they naturally graduate to condominiums when it comes to purchasing new homes. Those who are not prepared to buy will turn to renting, and our condos in Toronto are filling a major rental accommodations gap. However you slice it, when we think of our city’s future, we need more condominiums!

 

You can read the Government of Canada’s news release here: www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/news/2017/11/news_release_growingcanadaseconomicfuture.html

WHAT SIZE CONDO SUITE SHOULD YOU INVEST IN?

Several years ago, I would have advised a one-bedroom + den over a one-bedroom suite, because of the flexibility it offers. Now, with the proliferation of families choosing condominium living in Toronto and the GTA, my advice has changed to suggest a two-bedroom suite. Often the difference in price to jump to two bedrooms is well worth it. Of course, investing in a suite is always about return-on-investment, so factor in all aspects of your purchase.

One-bedroom and one-plus den suites in condominiums on transit lines will always be snapped up by those who want urban living without having to own a vehicle. We are, however, seeing a trend toward two-bedroom designs as investments. In addition to families, post-secondary students can share costs in condos located close to colleges and universities. Keep in mind that our universities are among the finest in the world. In fact, University of Toronto ranked 22nd out of the 980 schools considered in the World University Rankings 2016-2017. Parents often purchase a two-bedroom condo suite for their own child and rent out the other bedroom to another student to help offset costs. At the end of the exercise, they have built equity rather than spent money on a dorm room for years, with no financial return.

That second bedroom can become an office, nursery, artist studio … the possibilities are amazing. So are the potential rents. A rule of thumb is that rent is on average $3.50 per square foot. Let’s say a 500 square-foot, one-bedroom suite rents for $1,750 a month and a two-bedroom design at 700 square feet goes for $2,450. With two people sharing expenses, neither has to pay out $1,750.

And talk about demand! With the skyrocketing prices of low-rise homes and our regular influx of immigrants who are used to high-rise apartment-style living, condos will continue to augment Toronto’s rental market. Invest wisely and reap the rewards!

OSFI INTRODUCES NEW STRESSS TEST FOR BUYERS WITH UNINSURED MORTGAGES

The Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI) has just published the final version of new mortgage rules, which include a “stress test” to make sure home-buyers with uninsured loans can withstand a hike in mortgage interest rates. This will impact those who place down payments of more than 20 per cent. Those who put down less than 20 per cent are required to purchase mortgage insurance, and they have had to complete a stress test since 2016. The new change for uninsured mortgagees, which is intended to dampen the housing market, will come into effect on January 1, 2018.

 

According to the new rule set out by OSFI, borrowers would be stress tested in one of two ways: two per cent higher than their current mortgage rate, or at the five-year average rate posted by the Bank of Canada. This does not, however, apply to mortgage renewals if the borrowers remain with their existing lending institution. Move-up purchasers are most likely to be affected by the new stress test. Fortunately, today’s experienced buyers are educated and savvy, especially investors, who are likely to be able to absorb the effects of the stress test.

 

OSFI’s announcement is being met with mixed responses. It reminds me somewhat of the backlash that occurred in the spring, when our provincial government announced its 16-point Fair Housing Plan to cool down the market. People feared that those rules would bring the market to a halt. Here we are, however, months later in the GTA, and as far as new condominiums, we are on track to have a year equal to or even better than 2016.

 

Time will tell what OFSI’s stress test will do to our market. Keep in mind that OFSI’s move is in line with our Canadian conservative banking practices, which helped us to avoid the huge shadow that sub-prime mortgages placed on the U.S. economy a few years ago. As I said, time will tell. Let’s hope for the best!

Peter and Adelaide Condos—Born in Toronto, Made in Toronto

I was in a recent meeting where everyone in the room was asked to introduce themselves and where they were from. When my turn came around I said, “Barbara Lawlor, born in Ireland, made in Toronto!” The line got a great response from my colleagues, many of whom, in typical Toronto fashion, were born someplace else.

I borrowed the line from a marketing campaign that just launched in support of Peter & Adelaide condos. This landmark development by Graywood is coming to the Entertainment District this fall, delivering contextual design and world-class amenities in one of Toronto’s best neighbourhoods. Wrapping in and around three historic properties, Peter & Adelaide is a contemporary 47-storey tower from the same developer who brought the Residences of The Ritz Carlton to Toronto.

It’s a marquee project, by a first-class developer in the neighborhood that has few rivals. There is going to be a spectacular rooftop swimming pool, as well as an expansive indoor and outdoor amenity program on the 3rd floor podium. That is in addition to all the restaurants, bars and film festivals you could ever want or need right outside your door.

Graywood’s ambition for the project was to develop a building that was recognizably made in Toronto. Drawing on the firm’s 30-years of experience, Graywood pulled together a stellar team of local designers and consultants which includes BBB Architects, Union 31 Inc. and MBTW Group. A Toronto-made team for a Toronto-made project that is nothing less than world-class.

What I love about the line Made in Toronto, is all the meanings that gets packed into those three words. Not only do they celebrate the leading-expertise that Toronto’s development industry has accumulated over the years, they also speak to the wonderful diversity that has come to define life in Toronto. Like I said, there aren’t too many meetings that I attend in this city that don’t include a collection of colleagues who were born somewhere else.

It’s Toronto that’s brought us all together.

IF THE SOFA FITS …

Over the years, I have written about the increase in popularity of furniture designed to maximize space – perfect for a condo. Well, with condos becoming THE popular new home choice across the GTA, there are now sections of large furniture stores, and even entire stores dedicated to condo-inspired furnishings. As brilliantly designed as today’s suites are – even the most compact – the need is there to make the most of every square foot. Cleverly designed furniture is a major approach to this concept.

Simply Google condo furnishing ideas, and you will discover a wealth of information on items such as desks that fold down into Murphy beds, expandable dining tables (like the ones we grew up with, only on a less grand scale), chairs that have bookshelves built in (yes, it’s true!), tall wall units with doors, floating chairs and tables, and beds with storage underneath. Oh, and remember the ottoman? It is not just for footstools anymore. Modern ottomans come in a variety of styles and configurations, and can serve as extra seating, storage pieces, and even coffee tables. As you browse through furniture stores online or in person, ask about the possibility of having features customized to meet your individual condo needs. Many companies offer this service.

Before you think a condo square footage is too small, check out what’s available in furnishings – and then enjoy selecting the items that will turn your condo “house” into a comfortable, spacious home.