CONDO SUPPLY VS. DEMAND – YOU DO THE MATH

Over the past few years, condominium sales in the Greater Toronto Area have broken long-standing records and continue to take centre stage in the new home, and even resale marketplace.
In a recent article, George Carras (president of RealStrategies Inc. and the founder of RealNet Canada Inc., which is now part of Altus Group and provides monthly sales statistics to BILD) mentioned condos as the way to go for attainable homeownership, but added that finding available choices can be a challenge. From January through April of this year, sales of new condominium suites far outpaced the availability of the built, ready-to-move-into supply, resulting in most buyers looking at waiting years for occupancy.
As for resale, the Toronto Real Estate Board reported that condo sales in Toronto are up 36 per cent this year, yet available listings are down 26 per cent. People still line up to buy condos, as prices for low-rise homes continue to skyrocket. Ferocious land costs, new development charges and the never-ending increases in materials and labour costs combine to set the scene for even more price rises for both low-rise and high-rise.
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. For unbelievable value, check out condominiums in the 905 areas, where prices are more competitive.

REAL ESTATE ON A ROLL IN THE GTA

In 2015, there were 41,295 new home sales in the GTA, and 21,658 of those were high-rise! This year has seen tremendous results as well. From January through May, 19,913 new homes had already sold, with 10,571 of them being high-rise. Once again, we are having a strong year for real estate, especially condominiums – and with our low mortgage interest rates, the pace is not likely to slow in the near future. Condos have proven a mighty force in the market for many reasons, beginning with price attainability. Yes, prices have gone up over the years, but at a slower pace than low-rise homes. Other indicators in place hold much hope for the remainder of this year and beyond.

RBC’s Provincial Outlook published in June states that our province is “On a roll and poised to outperform.” In fact, the report goes so far as to predict growth in Ontario will be the strongest in six years. RBC credits investment in new and resale residences key to spurring economic activity here. With interest rates remaining low and the Canadian dollar holding its own, Ontario is likely to outperform the national economy for the third straight year.

This is wonderful news for all Ontarians, especially those involved in the new condominium industry here. And by here, I mean the Greater Toronto Area. Of course, new condo sales are robust in the City of Toronto, but keep your eye on the 905 areas surrounding it, where condos are selling like hotcakes. The headline story for Baker Real Estate Incorporated this year is phenomenal success with product launches in the 905. In particular, our clients in Vaughan and Markham were sellouts. There is also exciting activity going on in Richmond Hill and Oshawa.

In addition to being attracted by price points, many buyers in the 905 areas are thrilled with the availability of new condominium choices for the first time in decades. As the 905 infrastructure materializes with transportation routes, shops, cinemas, restaurants and other conveniences going in, the residential picture is rosier than ever before. The economy is good, choices are fabulous, and when it comes to condominiums, the 905 is full of surprises!

CORPORATIONS AND CONDOS

When writing about condominiums, I usually mention the diverse market covering first-time buyers, empty nesters, professional singles and couples, growing families and investors. Another market involves multinational corporations that purchase suites for visiting clients, executives and employees. For businesses that have associates flying into Toronto often, this solution can be quite cost effective when compared with renting rooms in top-quality hotels over time. In addition, by owning, the corporation accrues equity as the years go by.

Adding to its appeal, a furnished condominium suite also feels much more like “home” than a hotel room. Attention to the visiting guest’s comfort creates a sense of good will. The businessperson has a full kitchen for food preparation, should he/she desire, as well as a private bedroom, main living area and of course, use of the building’s amenities.

At Baker Real Estate Incorporated, we get inquiries from corporations, especially in the Financial District, where so many of our bankers, lawyers, stock brokers and other professionals have offices. For weary travellers to Toronto, a condo suite can be a wonderful place to call “home” while they are away from home.

SPACE – THE COMPACT CONDO FRONTIER

Those who opt to live in condominium suites today likely need to live in a lower square footage than they may be used to. The good news is twofold: today’s open-concept suites are designed to maximize space and live larger than their square footage may seem; and people are discovering they really do not need vast amounts of space. Millennials, in particular, are opting for more minimalist lifestyles, with paperless offices and multi-functional furnishings that provide storage, seating and the like. They are likely as happy to eat dinner at a breakfast bar rather than a table and chairs, so a dining room is unnecessary. Even empty-nesters who are weary of the upkeep of large homes find that a condominium suite is in many ways like a low-rise home without the wasted space of stairways, hallways and the like.

This trend is catching on, even in the low-rise world. Tune into the TV show “Tiny House, Big Living,” and you will be amazed at how clever the designs of these residences are. Some measure in at under 300 square feet! In fact, the configuration and flow of rooms have more impact on livability than the numeric measurement of their space. And remember that the amenities in a condominium are essentially extensions of your living space. When you have a fully equipped fitness room just an elevator-ride away, you do not have to factor in a spot to keep barbells, weights or a step machine.

If shopping for a condominium suite is in your plans, keep in mind that layout is more important than square footage. Even if you envision more than 300 square feet, you will find wonderful choices out there in a variety of sizes – and one of them is bound to be just perfect for your needs.

LIVE THE HIGH LIFE IN A RESIDENCE ATOP A LUXURY HOTEL

Toronto has recently been hailed as one of the fastest growing luxury markets in the world which comes as no surprise. I travel a lot internationally, and I have said many times that in Toronto, we are setting new world standards when it comes to the luxury market. Nowadays, condominium shoppers in the Greater Toronto Area have a wonderfully diverse selection of options to choose from, including residences situated above grand hotels. One beautiful example is SkyWatch Condos, The Gupta Group’s second phase at The Rosedale on Bloor. Suite owners will live atop Canada’s first 4-Star Canopy by Hilton Hotel!

The prestige is incredible, with this hotel introducing a new level of sophistication in the area. In addition to a direct connection to the hotel, suite owners will enjoy exclusive amenities such as 24/7 concierge service from a separate lobby entrance, an indoor pool, rooftop terrace with spectacular views, a chic party room with a kitchen and dining room/lounge, a theatre room, fully equipped fitness centre with yoga/stretching studio, plus a business centre. It is the best of all possible worlds.

The hotel will occupy the first 10 floors, with residential suites situated from the 11th floor upward. SkyWatch suites range from floors 26 through 48, so you can just imagine the panoramic views in all directions. And of course, the residences will feature a level of appointments in keeping with the Hilton and Gupta Group brands. Suites begin from the $200,000s, which is absolutely amazing for this coveted area on Bloor, just east of Yonge – steps to the subway and a five-minute walk to Yorkville. For more information, visit www.skywatchcondos.com or call 416-928-9997.

MAKE THE MOST OF YOUR CONDO WAIT

Condominium purchasers who buy early in the sales cycle often have up to two or three years to wait for their move-in. By purchasing early, you get the best choice of floors and suites for prices that are sure to go up as sales continue. My advice is to make the most of your wait time to maximize your move.

First and foremost, this gives you more time to save money toward your down payment. At Baker Real Estate Incorporated, we recommend depositing the equivalent of your maintenance fee into your bank account each month. It will add up quickly, and will make it easy for you to budget for your monthly carrying costs.

The fun factor can enter into your wait, too. Think about your new suite floorplan and start planning what furnishings and accessories will transform your surroundings to make them feel like home. Browse through the amazing dual-purpose furniture items available today that offer storage space behind closed doors. Look through magazines and on the Internet for ideas. You will be all that much more prepared when you are called for your colour selection appointment.

For those of you who are right-sizing to smaller square footage, take some time to pare down your possessions. Each item you sell, give or throw away something, you will feel a sense of freedom, helping to ease the psychological as well as physical transition to your new condo. The other advantage of your condo wait is having time to explore the amenities around your new building. You can figure out what stores, restaurants and the like are within walking distance.

Enjoy the wait – and remember that your investment will most likely increase in value by the time you move in!

TORONTO’S DIVERSITY INTERNATIONALLY RECOGNIZED

In April, I wrote a blog about Toronto’s tremendous diversity being one of its most attractive features and a key indicator in many of the international accolades the City has received. How interesting that recently, BBC Radio declared Toronto the most diverse city in the world. This was after London’s new Mayor claimed his city has that distinction.

Regardless of the source, there is no denying Toronto’s diversity. Over half of our residents were born outside of Canada and hail from 230 different nationalities. More than 140 languages and dialects are spoken here, with over 30 per cent of Torontonians speaking a language other than English or French at home. Multiculturalism is a way of life for us.

The Culture Trip website (theculturetrip.com) lists Toronto among the 10 most multicultural cities in the world, along with Amsterdam, London, Los Angeles, Paris, New York City, San Francisco, Sãn Paolo, Singapore and Sydney. Pretty impressive company to be included in!

YARD SALE SEASON THE PERFECT OPPORTUNITY FOR DE-CLUTTERING!

Ah, lovely spring weather has finally arrived, and I notice yard and garage sales popping up across the GTA. At Baker Real Estate Incorporated, we often hear from condo purchasers that they own more “stuff” than will fit into their new suites. It strikes me that now is the perfect time to go through possessions and purge what you will not be taking with you when you move. As you right-size to the condominium that fits your lifestyle needs, you likely have to down-size your clothing, furnishings, accessories and other household items.

The yard sale is a terrific form of recycling. People who buy the “treasures” you sell are happy, and you make some money that can potentially go toward purchasing new items for your condo. So take a good look around. Do you really need all those small kitchen appliances that have been hiding at the back of your cupboards for years? Is there a spot for every single knickknack you’ve collected over the decades? These items may be treasures for others – let them go, and enjoy the fact that someone else will enjoy them.

Treat the yard sale as a fun event. Invite friends and family to help, and you never know – you may make some new friends in the process. Of course, you can always give heirlooms and other cherished possessions to family and friends. Jewelry pieces, antiques, appliances, toys and household items can be sold online or even donated to charity shops. Be ruthless: items that are beyond salvage can always go into the trash.

And here’s great news: people tell us that once they have de-cluttered their surroundings, they have a wonderful feeling of freedom. What a spectacular way to start your new life in your beautiful new condo!

LIFE LEASE AN ATTRACTIVE FORM OF OWNERSHIP AT TRINITY RAVINE TOWERS

To mark its 60th anniversary year, Global Kingdom Ministries will soon hold the Grand Opening at Trinity Ravine Towers in Scarborough. Designed to offer convenient faith-based living that will serve residents as they age in place, suites will be available on a 55+ market value Life Lease basis – with a major advantage over other programs by that name. Unlike most Life Lease programs, when you choose Trinity Ravine Towers, you essentially own your Life Lease interest. You can bequeath it to your family members, who can then keep the suite or sell it at market value. You can also register a “Notice of Agreement” on the title to the property (similar to registering a deed), which is an important protection of your investment. This is a significant advantage for those seeking ease of living in a mature adult community where wellness and medical support is readily available as you age and your physical needs increase.

The Life Leases also includes shared usage of common areas, and in the case of Trinity Ravine Towers, the extensive amenities are beautiful. In the four-storey podium that will anchor the two high-rise towers, there will be wellness and fitness areas, entertainment areas, a community dining room and a computer lab, to name just a few. Atop the podium, a landscaped rooftop barbecue terrace will invite al fresco dining and entertaining. Trinity Ravine Towers will also feature a lovely lobby with a green living wall and waterfall. Residents will pay a monthly maintenance fee for the care and maintenance of the common areas, as well as a reserve fund to cover repair, replacement and maintenance costs over time.

Life Lease communities are becoming popular in Ontario, and there are currently 140 operating successfully. It is important to know that not all Life Lease programs are identical. When you compare, you will find that the Trinity Ravine Towers market-value Life Lease is truly remarkable. For more information, visit TrinityRavine.ca.

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