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What does my crystal ball say about design this year?

What does my crystal ball say about design this year?

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What does my crystal ball say about design this year?

Over the years that I have been involved in new condominium marketing and sales, I have seen suite designs evolve to keep up with changing purchaser needs and wants. Separate kitchens have morphed into linear layouts and become part of the main living area. Barn doors on bedrooms have eliminated the space required for swing doors. Entrance hallways are rare nowadays, as they represent wasted space.

I have been thinking about what changes might be next, and I believe one may be the attitude toward balconies by both developers and buyers. As prices have increased dramatically over the past few years, square footages have gotten smaller to make suites more affordable. Currently, having a personal outdoor space is a must for many buyers, so developers typically include as many balconies as the building design will allow for. Nowadays, however, with prices continuing to rise, I see buyers wanting every square foot possible in their suite interiors. If you look at, say, a 10-by-five-ft. balcony, that is 50 sq. ft. that could make a big difference inside. This predicted trend is a reality in cities such as New York right now, where you do not get balconies in new condos period.

Looking at this another way, keep in mind that the outdoor shared amenity spaces in today’s condos are extraordinary. When residents want to commune with nature, there are plenty of opportunities to do so in courtyards and on terraces and rooftop gardens. We even see urban vegetable and herb gardens in some condos.

The other design trend I see catching on in the future is the addition of more Zen-type spaces in the amenity rosters of condos. In many ways, the condominium lifestyle is conducive to well-being and healthy living. Buildings are located close to local amenities so residents can walk or bicycle to run errands. Exercise facilities right in the buildings makes keeping fit convenient. Lately, I notice yoga/Pilates and stretch studios being included as well, plus Zen gardens to encourage meditation.

There has been a lot of media attention recently to circadian rhythms – our 24-hour cycles that are affected by internal physiology, as well as sunlight, temperature and other external cues. In short, our circadian rhythms are our sleep/wake cycles. When these are out of whack – which happens a lot nowadays because of our hectic lifestyles – we can experience insomnia, daytime sleepiness or both, putting us at greater risk of cardiovascular and metabolic disorders. The trend toward including Zen gardens and areas in new condos has started, and I see more of this type of shared space in the future. We will likely even see nap rooms in offices and work areas, to encourage mindfulness and enhanced health.

The word from the agencies we deal with at Baker Real Estate Incorporated is that condominiums represent 60 per cent of new construction, and that percentage is growing. Imagine the positive impact that the increase in well-being for condo residents will have on society as a whole!

BARBARA LAWLOR is president and CEO of Baker Real Estate Inc., winner of the pinnacle 2017 Riley Brethour Award from BILD, and an in-demand columnist and speaker. A member of the Baker team since 1993, she oversees the marketing and sales of condominium developments in the GTA and overseas. Keep current with The Baker Blog.


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Start the new year with a new condo!

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Start the new year with a new condo!

Affinity and Odyssey Condos
Affinity and Odyssey Condos, Rosehaven Homes.

Why start the new year with a new condo?

  1. Condominiums across Toronto and the Greater Toronto Area have proven to be excellent additions to people’s lifestyle and financial portfolios. According to Urbanation, new condo prices hit an all-time high in the third quarter of 2018, while sales volume hit the third-highest Q3 total in the past 10 years. Think of the return on investment condominium owners who bought years ago have enjoyed. Get into the condo market now, while prices are still on the rise.
  2. You will find superb condominiums in remarkable locations close to amenities, public transit and parks. Some offer direct access to transit, which eliminates the need to own a vehicle. First-time buyers, in particular, find this tremendously helpful in affording an urban condo. Buyers of all ages appreciate the convenience of owning within walking and biking distance to run errands, and for some people, to their workplace.
  3. Today’s condominium architecture is stunning, whether the building is a sleek, modern point tower, an intimate boutique midrise, or anything in between. Traditional, transitional, contemporary… when you shop for a condo, you will find a variety of exteriors available to please a variety of sensibilities. Your condo should feel like “home” from first glance.
  4. Lifestyle in a condo is one of luxury, whether you move into a studio or compact one-bedroom suite or a sprawling penthouse. Beautiful building amenities span the gamut from party rooms to boardrooms, fitness centres to yoga studios, ground-level courtyards to rooftop oases with pools, barbecues, dining areas and/or lounges.
  5. The lifestyle is also one of ease as well, as residents’ maintenance fees cover the exterior upkeep such as landscaping and snow removal, as well as the cleaning and repair of all common areas in the building. Imagine the time that frees up to spend more time with family, traveling or enjoying hobbies.
  6. Suite interiors are masterpieces of design, with functional layouts that are flexible as well. With open-concept main living spaces, residents can delineate “rooms” to their preference using furniture groupings and area rugs. Gorgeous linear kitchens become part of the main living area and free up space. Dens can double as guest rooms, nurseries, home offices and anything else your imagination can conjure up.
  7. Today’s features and finishes rival those of condominiums around the world. In fact, our condominium purchasers here have much more choice than they do in the U.S. Even buyers who choose to appoint their suites with standards appreciate their beauty and quality.
  8. In Toronto and the GTA, we are fortunate to have some of the finest builders and developers in Ontario offering condominium communities. They enlist award-winning design firms to help bring their vision to reality.
  9. New condominiums in Ontario are still protected by Tarion Warranty Corp. Last year, the Minister of Government and Consumer Services announced proposed changes to enhance consumer protection, and Tarion is committed to supporting the province in this transition.

Those are just some of the reasons to start 2019 with a brand new condominium. Happy New Year!

BARBARA LAWLOR is president and CEO of Baker Real Estate Incorporated, winner of the pinnacle 2017 Riley Brethour Award from BILD, and an in-demand columnist and speaker. A member of the Baker team since 1993, she oversees the marketing and sales of condominium developments in the GTA and overseas. Keep current with The Baker Blog at blog.bakerrealestate.com

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Government should develop a better plan for Development Charges

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Government should develop a better plan for Development Charges

We read and hear a lot of criticism in the media and from the general public aimed at builders and developers, complaining about the rising prices of new homes and condominiums in Toronto and the Greater Toronto Area. Blaming builders and developers alone is unfair. Our governments that control development charges must accept a big chunk of the responsibility for current housing prices.

In May of this year, Altus Group conducted a study for BILD entitled “Government Charges and Fees on New Homes in the Greater Toronto Area” and found that the average government charges for a new single detached home add up to $186,300, which is 21.7 per cent of the price. Think about it: 21.7 per cent of the price! Development charges for the average highrise apartment in the GTA amount to approximately $122,800, or 23.9 per cent of the average price. No wonder so many people are priced out of the market.

Of course, land prices have soared over the past while, and the costs of everything from trade labour to suppliers, materials, administration, engineering, architecture, advertising, public relations and the numerous other services necessary to bring new home communities to market have jumped as well. Add to that the fact that once a developer purchases a piece of land, it can, and usually does, take years to obtain all of the approvals in order to build on it, and you can see why offering new homes and condos at affordable prices is a challenge. Throughout those years, ongoing rising costs push up home prices even further.

Having said all of that, development charges are necessary. Municipalities levy these amounts on new developments to help cover the capital costs of increasing each area’s infrastructure and services. These include sewers, roads, water, local amenities, emergency services, etc., that benefit everyone. It is one thing to say that new home buyers should pay their fair share; it is quite another to say that the development charges that have increased between 236 to 878 per cent since 2004 are “fair.” Over that same period, average wage increases and inflation have not gone up anywhere near that much.

Remember that every year, the building and development industry creates thousands of jobs and contributes billions of dollars to our local, provincial and national economy. According to BILD, every construction crane you see across the GTA represents up to 500 new jobs in construction and related fields.

Before you blame only builders and developers, take a good look at your municipal government and how it collects and allocates funding through development charges. If you think it is unfair, speak up. You elect your municipal politicians, and they should work for you, not against you. Ask candidates what they might do to fix this unfair situation. And before you play the blame game with builders and developers, do some research and look at home prices in the proper context.

BARBARA LAWLOR is president and CEO of Baker Real Estate Incorporated, winner of the pinnacle 2017 Riley Brethour Award from BILD, and an in-demand columnist and speaker. A member of the Baker team since 1993, she oversees the marketing and sales of condominium developments in the GTA and overseas. Keep current with The Baker Blog at blog.bakerrealestate.com

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Condo Market: Demand For Condos Grows Upward and Outward

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Condo Market: Demand For Condos Grows Upward and Outward

The proliferation of condominiums across Toronto and the Greater Toronto Area has been astounding over the past decade. Purchasers span the gamut from first-time homebuyers who find detached residences out of their financial reach, to professional couples, families, empty-nesters and retirees, all seeking the convenient lifestyle condos offer.

Once relegated to the City of Toronto, condominiums are popping up all over the GTA as well. The Altus Group statistics from July 2018 released by BILD show that there were 1,284 new condominiums sold in Toronto, while the total for Durham, Halton, Peel and York Regions was 795. Now, it looks as though this trend is spreading out to places beyond the 905 areas.

This is especially true for baby boomers. The Royal LePage Boomer Trends Survey (https://bit.ly/2KFIahg), released on August 8, shows that more than 1.4 million baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) plan to purchase a new home in the next five years. Over half of the people surveyed consider their current local housing market unaffordable for their retirement years, and 32 per cent responded that they will likely buy a condominium.

M City

The survey indicated that in Ontario, nearly half of the respondents said they hope to move to a smaller home to downsize (or as I prefer to say, right-size) their lifestyles. Most boomers in Ontario have a preference to moving into a smaller detached home, yet 46 per cent said they would consider a condo. With 40 per cent saying they would be willing to move to a new city or suburb for more affordability, Ontario has the highest rate in Canada. In fact, 32 per cent of those respondents would even consider moving more than an hour away from where they currently live.

Greater Toronto Area developers who have been focusing on building condos in the 905 areas will likely find this trend agreeable, as boomers move from homes in urban Toronto to locations that offer affordability and a more laid-back lifestyle. Places such as Barrie, Innisfil, Peterborough, Grimsby, Orillia and the like will probably see their condominium rosters increase with new buildings.

We tend to read a lot about first-time homebuyers turning to condos for affordability, but a lot of this trend has to do with boomers discovering the retirement savings they thought would carry them comfortably into the future will not take them as far as they thought, in the style to which they are accustomed. Plus, nine per cent of the total boomers surveyed expect their children to stay at home until after the age of 35, which adds to their dilemmas. It is easy to understand why condominiums are in such demand with this demographic.

This also supports my continual comments that condos are a driving force in the housing market and will continue to be for quite some time.

BARBARA LAWLOR is president and CEO of Baker Real Estate Incorporated, winner of the pinnacle 2017 Riley Brethour Award from BILD, and an in-demand columnist and speaker. A member of the Baker team since 1993, she oversees the marketing and sales of condominium developments in the GTA and overseas. Keep current with The Baker Blog at blog.bakerrealestate.com

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Condo Market: Why Go Condo?

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Condo Market: Why Go Condo?

Let me count the ways. Aside from the fact that condominiums in the Greater Toronto Area are far more affordable than low-rise homes, the reasons why people choose this type of real estate are many and varied. Location tops the list, with condos being developed across the City of Toronto and the GTA, all situated close to transportation nodes and amenities. The lifestyle promotes walking and bicycling rather than using a vehicle to run errands and access entertainment, shopping and the like. Most are also minutes to major highways for trips farther away.

And how about outward appearances? Whatever your preferred design style, you are sure to find condominiums that satisfy your taste architecturally. We have some of the world’s finest architects based right here, and they are brilliant when it comes to designing striking buildings that enhance their surroundings. Interior design has evolved over the years as well, to maximize space usage and incorporate features and finishes that rival the upgrades lists of yesteryear. Open-concept spaces, floor-t o-ceiling windows, linear kitchens … the highlights of these layouts speak directly to the way today’s savvy buyers want to live.

The Cardiff on Eglinton by Sierra Building Group.

And let’s talk building amenities, which are light years ahead of the old swimming-pool-in-the-dingy basement type of nicety. Today’s amenities are bright, beautiful and inviting, from exercise facilities to engaging theatres, gorgeous party rooms, stunning rooftop gardens, kids play areas, and even retail in some condo podiums. How convenient can you get?

Another great reason to choose a condominium is carefree living. With maintenance, repairs and upkeep facilitated by the condo board of directors, residents can lock the door and leave without worrying about any of that. People who love to travel also love that peace of mind. And speaking of peace of mind, new condominiums are constructed with the latest technologies and are built to Ontario Building Code standards. This document is updated regularly to ensure homeowners enjoy the best possible scenario in regard to quality and privacy. Add to that the effort developers are putting into lush landscaping, and the results are lushly luxurious. In addition, the new designs, materials, construction techniques and hardy landscaping translate to buildings aging more beautifully than ever before.

Condominium suite owners and their families also benefit from the work of the board of directors, a body of like-minded residents who set guidelines that protect your safety, privacy and investment. Restrictions on allowable pet sizes, reminders of common courtesy when in the common areas, limits on what residents can post on their suite doors and/or balconies … these stipulations are for the good of everyone involved. Of course, with most condos hiring a concierge, and with all of the security features built in, safety is a priority for everyone from single women to couples and families.

Whether you purchase a condo suite as an investor or enduser, you will likely appreciate a substantial return-on-investment in the long run. If you plan to live in your suite, your investment in your lifestyle is priceless. The moral of the story is GO CONDO – NOW!

BARBARA LAWLOR is president and CEO of Baker Real Estate Incorporated and an in-demand columnist and speaker. A member of the Baker team since 1993, she oversees the marketing and sales of condominium developments in the GTA and overseas. Keep current with The Baker Blog at blog.bakerrealestate.com

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Condo Market: Enjoy an Active Lifestyle in a New Condo

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Condo Market: Enjoy an Active Lifestyle in a New Condo

Nowadays, fitness is more than a craze; it is a way of life for people of all ages. If you are shopping for a new condominium and fitness is an important part of your lifestyle, congratulations! You could not make a better choice. Condos encourage active living by both location and design. Ontario’s Places to Grow Act has dictated that condo developers build “up” rather than “out” and locate buildings close to public transportation and amenities. This translates to residents walking to local shops and services, and walking is the first level of fitness. Bicycling is next, and in the City of Toronto, condos are required to contain a certain number of bicycle parking spots. Both residents and visitors can burn off calories pedaling around to run errands or meet for coffee.

Lumina at Emerald City

New condominiums themselves are graced with a beautiful variety of amenities that accommodate exercise without having to leave the building. For example, fitness facilities typically rank high on condo shoppers’ must have lists. In addition to the convenience of having exercise facilities under their roofs, these suite-owners can say good-bye to gym membership fees. Today’s state-of-the-art fitness rooms have high ceilings, massive windows and elaborate equipment. Some even enable team sports in a gymnasium, and many have Pilates/yoga areas or even climbing walls.

Modern condo fitness facilities rival the nicest of commercial clubs with change rooms, saunas, steam rooms, whirlpools, plunge pools and/or swimming pools to vary the experience. You will even find rooftop pools and sundecks with outstanding views. These areas are so popular that some condominium corporations are hiring recreational coordinators to organize classes and events. With these areas decorated to reflect the architectural aesthetics of the building, they are great spots for residents and their families and friends to use for get-togethers.

Recreation does not necessarily end at a condo’s traditional fitness facilities. The trend toward condo gardening is catching on, and people love it. We are seeing more urban condominiums that provide residents with gardening plots so they can grow their own herbs and vegetables, which gives new meaning to the concept of “eating close to home.” With gardening being one of North America’s favourite pastimes and the practice burning off calories, it’s a win-win situation. Fresh herbs and veggies always liven up a meal, and being able to access the exact amount you need without leaving “home” is incredible. And keep in mind that a condo suite with a balcony opens the door to container gardening right outside of your private living space. The variety of containers available today is exciting. They can be used to grow flowers, herbs, tomatoes and whatever else you can imagine. Unless you plan on growing giant pumpkins, gardening is no longer the exclusive pastime for people in low-rise homes with backyards!

Whether you prefer a brisk walk, a vigorous weight workout, an energetic aerobics class, a feel-good yoga session, basketball game, swim or some green-thumb bending and stretching, in a condominium, the fulfillment of your exercise needs is at your fingertips. GO CONDO!

BARBARA LAWLOR is president and CEO of Baker Real Estate Incorporated and an in-demand columnist and speaker. A member of the Baker team since 1993, she oversees the marketing and sales of condominium developments in the GTA and overseas. Keep current with The Baker Blog at blog.bakerrealestate.com

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Condo Market: With New Condos, The ‘Big Picture’ is a Masterpiece

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Condo Market: With New Condos, The ‘Big Picture’ is a Masterpiece

Making decisions by looking at the big picture is wise, especially when shopping for a new condominium suite. Across Toronto and the Greater Toronto Area, you will find a myriad of amazing choices, locations and designs available. By North American standards, the appointments that come with our condos here in Canada are far and beyond what builders offer south of the border. Overall when you purchase new, you benefit from the latest design and construction standards, as Ontario Building Code is regularly amended to increase quality and energy efficiency.

As you shop for a new condominium, again, look at the big picture, then hone in on the details. Where would you like to live? “Location, location, location” became a cliché because it is so true, it is used all the time. Consider where you work, where your friends and family live, and places you like to frequent. You may base your location decision on being fairly close to any or all of these. Then again, purchasing for less in an up-and-coming neighbourhood that is a little farther out may well be worth the money you save over the course of your amortization.

Of course price is a big factor in your big picture. Be sure to look at prices realistically, and be fair when you compare. What does your purchase price include? Check which appointments are standard and which you will have to upgrade. The developer may be offering incentives that include upgrades or price reductions.

Next, look at the buildings you are considering from the outside-in. Do you like the architecture? Will the building make you feel “at home”? And amenities – do they satisfy your personal lifestyle and add to your future resale value? Thinking ahead is a great idea, because at some point, sometime, you will likely want to sell for whatever reason. If you are an investor, that’s even more reason to look at the big picture wisely and compare fairly.

One of the most exciting things about buying new is the colour selection appointment. This is where you choose the standards and upgrades (if desired) that transform your surroundings to reflect your personality and tastes. If you do decide to spend extra for options and want to maximize your potential return-on-investment, look at what the experts say: focus on the kitchen and bath(s) first. The breadth of the selection is remarkable. Among the tantalizing choices you will find items such as quiet self-closing drawers, wine fridges, pasta water taps, cabinetry with glass fronts, cornice moulding, extended islands, you get the detailed picture. And in the bathroom, with soaker tubs, marble flooring, rainwater showerheads and more, you can turn your ensuite into your own personal spa.

New home shoppers in the Greater Toronto Area are among the luckiest in the world. So, enjoy your shopping, consider the details and remember the big picture. Then place yourself into it in a beautiful new condo.

BARBARA LAWLOR is president and CEO of Baker Real Estate Incorporated and an in-demand columnist and speaker. A member of the Baker team since 1993, she oversees the marketing and sales of condominium developments in the GTA and overseas. Keep current with The Baker Blog at blog.bakerrealestate.com

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Condo Market: Condominiums The Perfect Marriage of Home and Community

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Condo Market: Condominiums The Perfect Marriage of Home and Community

When you think of a highrise condominium, the opportunities for a carefree lifestyle are remarkable, with exterior and common area cleaning, upkeep and repair handled for you through your monthly maintenance fee. In addition, condo residents have the best of both worlds – the privacy of their suites and the public spaces where they can recreate, relax, entertain and exercise, all under one roof.

In a condominium, which is essentially a vertical community, interaction with neighbours is a given. Residents pass each other in the hallways, amenity spaces, elevators and lobby on a daily basis and get to know the faces of their neighbours. In addition to the social possibilities these meetings invite, there is a certain safety in numbers that happens when we know those around us. You have heard of Neighbourhood Watch in lowrise communities. Well, in a high-rise, neighbours tend to know when anything is amiss with those who live in the building.

Suite owners determine their own balance between social time and alone time. Some may prefer to come home from work and cocoon in their home, while others prefer to stop by the lounge for a chat, see what is on in the theatre or change into a swimsuit and hit the pool. It is a joy to meet like-minded residents in the condominium at the fitness centre, billiards room or any number of other amenities.

Highlight Condos in Mississauga, by Hazelton Developments.

The amount of time, planning and design that go into today’s amenity areas is astounding. These spaces must be attractive and flexible in order to offer both active and quiet atmospheres. They also carry through the theme of the building’s architectural style. They may showcase the sleek, clean lines of a modern residence, the classic details of traditional, or something in-between.

Again, it is up to suite owners and their families to decide how much interaction they want. Take the library as an example. Whatever the architectural style, the decor will appeal to residents who wish to sit and read in a tranquil setting. In this space, people may want only a quiet nod and a brief hello. At the opposite end of the spectrum, games, billiards and theatre areas are more likely to be scenes of chatter and activity. Some condos feature a card room, which is a terrific spot for Bridge- and Canasta-lovers to get together. These groups are usually looking for additional players, which is wonderful for many newcomers to the building.

When you think of fitness enthusiasts, most regular exercisers are creatures of habit who do their routines same time every day. They meet up with others who do the same, and passing acquaintances often grow into friendship. They have the added bonus that working out while chatting with someone makes exercise time seem to pass more quickly.

Consider joining the condominium board of directors to have a say in the everyday operations of your home, and to make new friends. A condominium is truly the perfect blend of home and community. Just as in a low-rise neighbourhood, condo living is what you make of it!

BARBARA LAWLOR is president and CEO of Baker Real Estate Incorporated and an in-demand columnist and speaker. A member of the Baker team since 1993, she oversees the marketing and sales of condominium developments in the GTA and overseas.

Keep current with The Baker Blog at blog.bakerrealestate.com

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