Tag Archives: condos
Condo Amenities Ranked: Must-Haves, Nice-to-Haves, and the Rest
Condos are one of the most popular choices for new home buyers these days.
For some, that is simply because of condos tend to be more affordable compared to detached or semi-detached housing. For others, it’s because of location – condos tend to be built closer to downtown.
But there’s also a certain allure to Condo living in and of itself, and a big part of that allure are the amenities that modern condos have in place for their residents.
Having said that, each extra amenity does come at a price, and many condo-buyers find themselves paying for facilities that they hardly ever use.
In this article, we rank condo amenities by their perceived value to residents. Think of this as a general guide for what amenities people tend to look for and use, and what amenities to be wary of, when shopping for Condos. Keep in mind that how you value an amenity could be completely different – it all depends on your personal values!
- Rooftop Deck
These are the amenities that most new condo owners actively request, and the ones that condo buyers generally find most valuable.
A 24/7 front desk is becoming very common in most new condominiums, and that’s mainly because of its popularity. People value the extra security, and also the convenience when it comes to package/mail delivery. Do note, however, that many “concierge” desks don’t really offer much in the way of concierge services… think of them more as security desks that accept packages and mail!
Another sought-after amenity are condo gyms. Although they may not be as well equipped as full-scale gyms, they do offer a lot of convenience to residents who wish to supplement their gym-routines with a quick work out. They are can also be valuable to residents who may not be serious enough to pay for a gym subscription, but who find the occasional burst of energy for an exercise session.
Finally, because most condos are built in dense urban areas, the extra breathing room offered by a comfortable rooftop terrace can be invaluable. This is especially true considering that many condo units only have tiny “juliette” balconies these days. Many rooftop decks also have barbecue facilities, which is a bonus in the summer months.
- Guest Suites
- Party Room
- Swimming Pool/Sauna/Hot-tub
These amenities are still sought-after by many condo-buyers, but their use tends to be more irregular or situational. However, when those situations do arrive, having one of these in your condo can actually be quite helpful.
Guest suites are suites that can be rented out to accommodate a resident’s out-of-town guests. Considering the generally small unit sizes at most condos, having a guest suite in your condo makes a lot of sense. In truth, however, most residents get little use out of them for most of the year.
Party Rooms are similar, in the sense that you’d imagine the extra room could be valuable if you had to host a big party someday. Yes, they are great for that purpose, but the value of these entirely depends on how often you actually host big bashes. Most people use these rooms at most twice or thrice a year.
Swimming pools and Saunas/Hot Tubs tend to come together, which is why they’re listed here together. Quite a few condo-buyers actively seek out properties with on-premises swimming pools. However, as much as you can imagine yourself sitting poolside and sipping cocktails, these pools and hot tubs don’t really get that much use. Also, condo pools tend to be on the smaller side and don’t offer much in the way of privacy, which could hamper your enjoyment of them.
- Games/Billiard Room
- Tennis/Squash Court
- Yoga Studio
These amenities are hardly ever outright requested or sought-after by condo-buyers, but their presence in a property still does generate occasional use for many, and even regular use for certain groups. They are rarely considered make-or-break when making a buying decision, but buyers usually react favorably to them.
Games rooms that include billiards, foosball, ping-pong, darts etc. tend to get a lot of use in condos compared to other facilities, and can be great social spaces to interact with neighbors or host friends.
Tennis/squash courts may appeal only to some residents, but in buildings that do have them they generally get regular use.
Yoga studios are similar to gyms, but because they tend to be rather sparse, they are often used by residents for a variety of unrelated activities that require floor space. This makes them more attractive to a broader set of residents than they might first appear.
- Meeting room/Business room/Multimedia room
- Car wash
- Cinema /Video game room/Bowling Alley
These amenities are either rarely used and therefore poor value, or they are variants of “seating areas”. They can sometimes be difficult to maintain, which would either lead to higher maintenance fees, or facilities that degrade into repair.
Meeting rooms are basically smaller party rooms, except that you usually don’t have to pay to book them. They can be useful for small group events, but don’t offer much functionality compared to your own living room. Multimedia or Business rooms are generally just rooms set aside for quiet work, which might be useful for students sharing a condo unit. Most other residents end up rarely using them.
Libraries in condos ten to be small, with very limited reading material. Perhaps only useful as a quiet space, but you could probably find such a space elsewhere. Similarly, lounges are usually just small, casual spaces with seating, and you shouldn’t get too excited by their inclusion on an amenity list.
Some condos have coin-operated car washes, which may be useful in a pinch, but the results are not really comparable to getting a real car wash.
Cinemas and bowling alleys sound luxurious, but unless you are adamant about getting your money’s worth from your condo fees, you are very unlikely to use them more than a handful of times each year. Video game rooms might appeal to younger residents, but they can be very difficult to maintain. Considering the expenses involved in all three of these amenities, their value is questionable at best.
The Final Word
When shopping for a condo, its best to be realistic about your lifestyle requirements, rather than spending on amenities that you’ll never use.
That’s why you should work with an agent who can understand your needs and pair you with a property that matches what you really value.
If you’re in the market for a new condo this season, drop us a line and we’ll help you find a great fit.
And don’t forget to sign up to our Insider’s club so that you can the latest Condo launch news, VIP pricing, and floor plans before anyone else!
Pre-Construction Condo Deposits and Fees Explained
As housing prices creep ever higher, and with serious supply constraints across the GTA, it is no surprise that prospective home-buyers are increasingly considering Pre-construction condos.
Pre-construction condos are units in projects that are yet to be built, as opposed to “ready” condos that are already built but have never been sold before. “Resale condominiums” are units that have been lived in already, typically in older buildings, and are up for sale by a current owner.
Due to the promissory nature of pre-construction projects, the fee structures can be a bit more complicated compared to resale condos.
This article will shed light on the most common deposits and fees buyers need to be aware of when buying a pre-construction condo.
Down-payment & Deposits
Generally, pre-construction condos require a higher down payment than resale condos. Whereas a 5% down payment is the norm on resale units, pre-construction units usually require 20% or more in down payments.
At first glance, this may seem prohibitive for many buyers. That is why developers offer what is known as a “deposit structure”, which is basically an installment plan for the down payment.
A typical deposit structure for a 20% down payment would look like this:
- $5,000 with the offer
- Balance of 5% due in 30 days
- Next 5% in 90 days
- Next 5% in 180 days
- Final 5% at occupancy
This makes it much easier for a buyer to arrange and afford the down payment, since its broken up over many months.
Many developers even offer limited-time, pre-launch deposit structures that are even more buyer-friendly e.g. split over 365 days instead of 180 days.
(Competition for these pre-launch “VIP” incentives can get pretty intense, so signing up for a program like our Insider’s Club is always a great idea!)
Deposits tend to be higher at the beginning of a project, as banks and lenders that finance these buildings usually set that out as a requirement. Closer to completion, deposit structures tend to be more flexible, and it is usually possible to negotiate a fee structure with the builder to extend or even reduce your payments.
After putting down a deposit on a pre-construction condo, buyers are entitled to a “cooling off period” – a short period of time to reevaluate their purchase decision. In Ontario, the cooling off period is 10 days.
This is when buyers should get their finances in order and make sure they are ready to go ahead with the purchase.
They should also have their Agreement of Purchase and Sale reviewed by a real estate lawyer, so that they are not caught by surprise by builder-specific clauses.
If a Buyer changes his/her mind (for any reason) during the 10-day cooling off period, he/she can back out of the contract and have the deposit returned without deduction.
Closing costs are additional expenses that buyers need to pay for, which are levied between the time that they make the offer and the day that they close.
These costs include home inspection fees, legal fees, land transfer taxes etc.
It is suggested that buyers budget and save an additional 1.5% – 4% of the purchase price of their homes, in order to cover these closing costs. For pre-construction condo units, that number can be even higher.
When you buy a new condo, you may be subject to additional fees, including:
- Development and educational levies ($200-$4,000)
- New Home Warranty Plan enrolment fee ($900-$1,200)
- Utility hook-up fees ($50-$500)
- Assignment fees (if you sell before final closing, or flip your unit) ($3,000)
- Occupancy fees
These additional costs are project- and builder-specific, and some may even be included in the sale price of the unit (e.g. see HST below).
During the cooling off period, buyers should have their lawyer review the Agreement of Purchase and Sale to determine which additional closing costs will be incurred.
It is recommended to use a real estate lawyer who has dealt with the same project developer in the past, since they would be able to better anticipate any issues that they have had in the past while closing other client’s deals with that developer.
Condo Reserve Fund
When buying pre-construction, buyers will need to contribute at least two months of condo fees to the condo’s reserve/emergency fund. This is usually levied at the time of closing.
Again, read (or have your lawyer read) the Agreement of Purchase and Sale carefully!
When the condo is built and a buyer’s unit becomes ready to be moved into, there is a period of ‘interim occupancy’, where the Buyer can “take possession” i.e. move into the unit, but not yet own the unit.
This is because titles cannot be transferred until the WHOLE building is complete. Only after completion will the unit ownerships be handed over to buyers. Buyers can start making mortgage payments after that.
During the period of interim occupancy, the Buyer does not yet own the condo; they simply pay the builder an amount roughly equal to what their mortgage payment + condo fees + taxes will equal.
Many buyers choose to take advantage of the occupancy period and move into the units, especially if at the time they are renting a place where the rent is higher than the occupancy fee for their new unit.
However, the drawbacks should be noted: most of the building’s amenities will not be open for use, and there will likely be a lot of noise in and around the building, as the builder finishes other units and general sections of the building.
Buyers can elect to avoid occupancy fees by paying the entire purchase price with cash at the occupancy date. However, these terms must have already been put into the Agreement of Purchase and Sale before the end of the cooling off period.
Unlike resale condos, pre-construction condos are subject to HST, which builders generally factor into the purchase price of the unit and pay on behalf of the buyer.
However, if a buyer will be living in the unit themselves, they will likely qualify for an HST rebate. Note that most builder prices assume this, and so this rebate is often already factored in as well.
For investors, there is also a rebate opportunity, but to be eligible they need to rent the condo out for at least a year, with adequate proof of doing so
It is highly recommended to get professional legal advice about potential HST rebate qualifications beforehand.
The Final Word
With so many fees and closing costs, it is no surprise that many pre-construction condo buyers find themselves facing larger than expected bills around closing time.
However, with due diligence and legal advice, any buyer can confidently navigate these waters and land their brand-new, dream condo home.
If you’re a prospective first-time homebuyer on the fence about making the leap in 2019, consider that mortgage rates are in a great place right now, and that the Canadian government has made it a bit easier to afford a home in 2019.
Contact us if you’re looking for a Pre-construction condo in the GTA.
Micro-units are coming to Toronto
Sidewalk Labs, a subsidiary of Google’s parent company Alphabet Inc. is looking to transform Toronto’s waterfront into something straight out of a science fiction novel. Micro-units, taxi bots and modular buildings are just some of the innovations coming to Toronto.
After winning a competition organized by Waterfront Toronto, Sidewalk Labs was granted rights to develop Quayside, a 12 acre site in Toronto’s East Bayfront Neighbourhood, with the stated goal of scaling up across Toronto’s Portlands, an 800 acre area.
The first project by Google’s Sidewalk Labs, Sidewalk Toronto is expected to become a testbed for emerging technologies, material and processes. In Today’s post, we will cover three of these proposed innovations and their implications on Toronto’s real-estate scene.
Self-driving taxi bots
When Uber launched in Toronto in 2014 it caused a massive uproar and disruption among Toronto’s taxi drivers, who worked within a government run licensing-monopoly where only a set number of taxi-plates are issued per year. Prices for these government issued plates reached a high of $360,000 in 2012. Since Uber has come along, prices for taxi plates have reached sub $100,000 levels, and today can be found as low as $90,000 on websites such as Craigslist and Kijiji.
And if that major game changer wasn’t enough, Sidewalk Labs is bringing another potentially disruptive idea to Toronto’s waterfront: Self-driving taxi bots. Users can chose to ‘ride alone’ or pick bots with roof-racks for their bikes, among other possibilities. High traffic zones will be served by multi-passenger vehicles called ‘van-bots’ . These innovations are expected to reduce traffic and provide a quicker, more efficient user experience.
They will also reduce the need for parking spots in condos and around the neighborhood, allowing for more purpose built spaces that reflect then needs of the community.
As the cost of living continues to increase in the Greater Toronto Area, an increasing number of first time home buyers are priced out of owning a home. With the rise in rentals, there is a real demand for low cost affordable housing that is easy to scale.
Sidewalk Toronto looks to bring affordable homes built using pre-fabricated parts, made from a base set of modules that can be configured into different unit and building sizes, shapes and colours.
“Sidewalk estimates that modular systems can cut the assembly time in home production to one-third of conventional construction, saving both time and money. In addition to reducing the initial capital costs of construction, operating and renovating expenses will be reduced, as prefabricated units are interchangeable, standardized product components that can be easily replaced or recycled.”
As home prices continue to increase, and mortgages become less accessible, some Torontonians are finding themselves being priced out of even the smallest downtown condos. Sidewalk Labs looks to bring the concept of the micro units – some as small as 162 sq ft – as an aid to Toronto’s increasingly expensive real-estate.
When micro-units were piloted in New York City, over 60,00 applications were field for the affordable units. For the first time, people who could never live in the downtown New York City core, now owned a micro-sized unit right in the heart of downtown Manhattan.
“With similar dynamics at play in downtown Toronto, and a virtual blank canvas with which to work on the Eastern Waterfront, the impact at scale of a micro-unit program could be trans-formative for the local housing market.”
It’s clear Toronto’s waterfront will be changing in ways like never before. Stay up to date on these developments and more by following @Condoskyrealty on Instagram and Facebook
Simple DIY Condo Balcony Make-Over
Here are five simple to incorporate tips on giving your drab condo balcony a make-over:
No matter how big or small your balcony is, it is important to establish zone-specific areas in your balcony based on what you intend to do use it for. Some ideas include using L shaped sectionals for lounging areas, a bar8stool or table for eating / working, and a series of long beds for planting and outdoor gardening.
Add Colour and Texture with non-permanent flooring
Most condos nowadays come with unfinished concrete flooring, leaving you with many options for how you want to decorate. Easy to install wood inspired plastic floorings are both durable and easy on the eyes. Ikea and other major retailers sell these for as low as $2 per square foot. Installation is easy and requires no tools or other materials, simply snap them together like a jigsaw puzzle.
As some condos have restrictions on permanent changes to outdoor areas, these inexpensive, durable and non-permanent tiles are a great option.
Choose durable low profile furniture
Choosing low profile furniture means you won’t block your prized view while still enjoying a relaxing seating experience. Consider weather-resistant cushions with a high UV rating and ventilation slits to avoid sun and moisture damage. Acrylic is one mildew-resistant fabric that is long-lasting. Pillows made from similar materials will also resist natural wear and tear.
Bring the backyard to your condo
Incorporate elements form the backyard such as an umbrella or fireplace. For umbrellas, ensure that you can mount the umbrella somewhere (such as to the frame or railing of the balcony) to avoid the possibility of it flying off your balcony during high-winds.
Bring space to life with hardy zone appropriate plants
Adding a few hardy plants can breathe new life into your balcony. Green shrubs, vines and minature trees are great additions that will not only add a touch of nature to your city dwelling, but can also serve as privacy screens from your neighbours.
It is best to choose plants that grow well in your climate. For those living in Toronto, evergreen plants such as Topiaries, Upright Cedars, Junipers, and Dwarf Alberta Spruce, will do well during summer and for most of fall and winter. Be sure to bring these plants inside during the coldest weeks of the year.