Searching for a condo to call your own can be a thrilling experience; whether you’re a first time home-buyer or an empty-nesters who’s downsizing from a single family home, the “hunt” can be an exciting and rewarding experience. It can also be overwhelming. Toronto’s already abundant stock of condos is growing all the time, as are the lists of amenities and features that come with them.
Complicating matters further is the constant influx of investor news, real estate statistics, and changing demographics. To say that there’s a lot to consider when shopping for a condo would be a tremendous understatement; as condo specialists, we know that navigating an ever changing market can be a trying task for renters, buyers, and sellers. To help out, we’ve compiled some pointers to steer buyers towards the perfect homes.
If you’re on a tight budget, don’t waste your time in expensive neighbourhoods.
It’s no secret that buyers love neighbourhoods like Yorkville, West Queen West, and King West, but if you’re condo hunting on a restrictive budget, then that $900k condo in Yorkville is probably beyond your means. You might be tempted to think that maybe you can find that one place nobody else has discovered or that fate will lay the perfect home in your lap; unfortunately, these things don’t happen often in competitive markets.
Many condos in desirable neighbourhoods will receive multiple offers and sell for over asking — if you’re hoping to come in low with no competition, you’re likely setting yourself up for heartbreak. Rather than spend time searching in expensive neighbourhoods, it would be wise to find alternative and more affordable areas to buy; condos in the Beaches might be out of your price range but you may find that those in nearby Birch Cliff and Cliffside offer a similar living experience at a reduced price.
Likewise, if downtown Toronto is too expensive then lively midtown neighbourhoods like Yonge and Eglinton could be within your grasp.
Choose you location wisely
Those who aren’t restricted by budget might be drawn to the best possible investment. From a value perspective, condos in the downtown core tend to appreciate faster in value than those in areas like Etobicoke, Scarborough, and North York, but that doesn’t mean you should live downtown.
Downtown Toronto is host to a number of unique neighbourhoods but they’re not for everyone; one might love the idea of the Bay Street Corridor but find it’s an entirely different story when you live in the area. The same could be said for those seeking a great deal; a quiet neighbourhood in Scarborough might sound appealing until you’re looking for something to do on a Friday night and there’s nothing within walking distance.
If you’re considering a neighbourhood, it’s generally a good idea to spend some time there; spend and afternoon or an evening exploring, checking out restaurants, bars, and green spaces. if you’re buying for your family,. researching schools and youth activities is a must. Do this and you’ll have a far better sense of what to expect.
Condos, Lofts and Townhouses — which is right for you?
Condos, townhouses, and lofts are all technically condo units; however there some notable differences between the three. While lofts and townhouses can include shared amenities, condos commonly offer more extras than their counterparts, which can lead to higher maintenance fees.
Lofts are broken down into 2 categories: hard lofts are units which are located in buildings that were converted for residential living; soft lofts are lofts style units in purpose-built residences. Both units are noted for their open concept layouts, though hard lofts often feature more industrial finishes like exposed brick, wood beams, and concrete floors; they’re also more expensive.
Townhouses are similar to condos but with larger floor plans and multiple floors of living space; some can be found in high-rise towers though they’re more common in low-rise developments.
Families looking to maximize square footage could find townhouses to be the best fit; hard lofts are the best choice from an investment standpoint, and condos are the most affordable of the three.
Nothing can take the satisfaction out of finding an affordable condo faster than high maintenance fees; paying inflated fees or paying for amenities that you don’t use isn’t a great idea. When searching for a condo, it’s important to decide which shared amenities you’d like to have at your building and how much you’re willing to pay for them.
If you’re commuting by car to downtown Toronto, looking up highway exits and travel times might be enough to asses your commute. Those who rely on public transit should go a little deeper in their assessment. Mapping bus routes, subway lines and GO stations is a good place to start, but many overlook the importance of checking out future public transit improvements as well.
A new streetcar line or subway station will not only improve public transit, it could also increase property values in the area. On Strata’s blog we’ve written about our expectation that the King Street Pilot Project would increase property values when it became permanent, and the same is true for other high density neighbourhoods too.