Tag Archives: Barbara Lawlor

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The condo buyer when money is no object

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The condo buyer when money is no object

Yes, there are people out there who can afford to purchase a new condominium residence without worrying about price! These elite buyers are fortunate enough to be able to satisfy every need and desire they have in their surroundings. They can choose to live in prestigious areas that may be out of the financial reach for many prospective condo buyers. And when it comes to suite design and appointments, the sky’s the limit.

For example, let’s say someone selects a sprawling penthouse that measures several thousand square feet. Usually, the developer offers the opportunity to customize extensively. Perhaps a traditional layout is the preference, or maybe the buyer would like a more contemporary plan. Living and dining rooms can be separate, or they can be part of a large open-concept living area that could accommodate entertaining on a grand scale. If purchasers are rightsizing from a large lowrise home, they may still want an opulent space for holding galas.

And oh, the sumptuous features and finishes that can be brought in from around the world! In kitchens alone, I have seen everything from pasta taps at the stove to vegetable steamers by the sink, exotic backsplashes, custom-designed hardware, appliances that rise out of the counter with the press of a button, and even wine cooling rooms or niches.

As for master bedrooms and ensuites, well, the possibilities are positively elegant. If the buyers are art collectors, they may opt for a feature wall on which to hang their favourite works. Those who are into being pampered might want marble counters, lavish oval standalone soaker tubs, heated floors, spa features and even a steam room.

Among the other elements elite purchasers may choose are items such as multiple fireplaces, posh chandeliers, back-lit coffered panels on high ceilings, an exercise room, home theatre, media room, whirlpool, multiple balconies and maybe a private landscaped rooftop terrace with a pool. Need space for quarters for the help? It’s likely possible, as well as a separate entrance and sometimes a private elevator.

Nowadays, condominiums are graced with spectacular building amenities as well, and these are essentially extensions of suite owners’ living spaces. If the penthouse is not large enough to accommodate a large family gathering, the multi-purpose party room is just the answer. Having a concierge book theatre seats for you, arrange a dog-walker, accept dry cleaning and parcels, and in some cases valet services is indeed a privilege.

Another way to live an ultra-pampered lifestyle in a condominium is to purchase a residence above a five-star hotel. Suite owners have access to world-class amenities in the hotel below. They can indulge in spa treatments and dine at a superb restaurant without leaving the building.

We read a lot these days about condos being the relatively affordable choice for first-time buyers in Toronto and across the Greater Toronto Area. Isn’t it fascinating that condos are also the choice of so many elite buyers? Money may not buy happiness, but it can buy the level of surroundings that make people feel special every time they walk into their fabulous condominium suite!

Barbara Lawlor is president and CEO of Baker Real Estate Inc., winner of the pinnacle 2017 Riley Brethour Award from BILD, and an indemand 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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How buyers can prepare for the busy buying season – post-COVID-19

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How buyers can prepare for the busy buying season – post-COVID-19

Spring is typically busy season in real estate, but this year, COVID-19 has brought the market to a slowdown.

One day soon, though – and we hope very soon – things will return to “normal,” and consumers will be back looking for new homes and condos in the GTA and elsewhere, driving the housing market and the economy.

In the meantime, prospective homebuyers can take advantage of this expert advice from a who’s who of new home marketing executives.

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Before COVID-19, the spring market was shaping up to be very strong, based on early sales results so far this year. With historic lows in inventory, especially in the GTA, new lows in interest rates and changes to the mortgage stress test, sales are already very brisk.

The outskirts of the GTA will continue to provide affordable options. Locations such as Brantford, Ancaster, Hamilton, Newcastle and Barrie will continue to offer lowrise alternatives for homebuyers. In Toronto and elsewhere in the GTA, lowrise homes will continue to become available in the form of stacked, back-to-back and traditional townhomes. In the city, the future for lowrise alternatives will continue to be the redevelopment of potential B and C class mom and pop commercial plazas along transit lines.

In the highrise market, we will see a major uptick in 905 sales, as end users and investors see greater value in price per square foot, with continued concerns about pricing in the city. Developers will continue to make units smaller to drive sales in the core, and a new market will emerge north of Eglinton, with better availability of two- and three-bedroom condos for first-time buyers and families wishing to stay in the city.

At the end of the day, always buy within your means and with your family’s best interests at heart.

Joseph Bozzo
Owner
Spectrum Sky
Vaughan, Ont.

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More than 60 per cent of annual new home sales usually occur in a four month period in spring, and with the right preparation, you could experience the joy of buying a home.

1. Eliminate emotion through preparation
A new home purchase will be one of the biggest events of your life, and often an emotionally charged situation. We spend more time preparing to buy a new pair of $100 shoes than we do $1-million property. Uncertainty causes confusion, and confusion leads to indecision and inaction. Knowledge, on the other hand, leads to confidence, and confidence leads to power – so get prepared.

2. Set your priorities
If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there. Focus on your target by creating a Motivation and Housing Needs chart. On the left column, list your (and your partner’s) motivations, such as marriage, family or a new job. On the right column, list your housing needs, noting how your life changes affect your housing needs. This isn’t a wish list, but a very real and practical definition of your current and maybe anticipated housing needs. This step will clearly define your priorities.

3. Dare to compare
If you have selected potential locations and housing types, it’s time to create a spreadsheet and write it all down. List the builder, site and home type on the left, and across the top note the location, home size, financing, price, features and finishings. Give each of these key points a score from one (the least desirable) to five (the most), and come up with a total score for each selected home. The objective is to narrow your favoured choices to two.

4. Know your costs
This is the most fundamental part of the homebuying process, but it’s also the one where people are the most unprepared. The mortgage stress test adds a significant variable to the approval process. How much can you afford? Will you have to “drive till you qualify”? What are your anticipated closing costs? Do you have all the funds necessary? That’s a lot of questions, but the good news is that all of the major banks can help you through this process. Take advantage of this guidance and prepare yourself – well before you attend any open houses or new home openings.

5. Take action
Finally, don’t be indecisive. Once you have conquered the first four steps, you are ready to take action – with confidence.

Andrew Brethour
Chairman & CEO
PMA Brethour Realty Group
Markham, Ont.

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Considering the way prices are these days, it is essential that prospective buyers, as a first step, get pre-approved for a mortgage. And be aggressive about finding financing. If you don’t have the full deposit, you can always go to a B lender for a second mortgage or line of credit. Some buyers are fortunate enough to be able to obtain funds from the “Bank of Mom and Pop.”

If all else fails, look at purchasing a unit with a friend or family member for co-ownership. You can both live in it as roommates, or sell it outright and take the profit as your seed deposit money for your own individual units.

My point is: Move heaven and earth to get into the market. Prices are going up, and supply is still very tight, which bodes well for owners. If you postpone, as the years pass, prices will be even higher, and you’ll wish you’d gotten into the market years ago. Think about how happy homeowners who bought several years ago are today, having seen their financial investment grow.

Remember, too, that whether you buy a condo, townhouse, semi- or single detached house, it doesn’t have to be in Toronto or the GTA. Keep an open mind and you’ll find great affordability in markets such as Hamilton, Kitchener and even Picton.

Expand your horizons and be prepared to try alternative methods for attaining homeownership. In the end, it will all be worth it.

Debbie Cosic
Founder & CEO
In2ition Realty
Mississauga, Ont.

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New home sales were off to a great start this year, and developers are working hard to offer more affordable housing solutions and incentives. If you’re in the market for a new home or condo, it’s definitely a great time to buy.

Just make sure you know what you want (or really need) and have shopped the competition to ensure you’re investing in the right neighbourhood, product and builder.

Consider locations outside Toronto and elsewhere in the GTA that are close to transit. Places such as Hamilton and Milton are especially hot, with some exciting new projects geared toward first-time buyers. Meanwhile, pockets of Pickering and Ajax still offer exceptional value for growing families.

We’re also seeing a lot of empty nesters eyeing cottage country in locations such as Collingwood, Blue Mountain and Huntsville, where you’ll find beautiful, four-season lifestyles, complemented by the same urban amenities you’d find in the city.

Tami Kenwell
President
Madhouse Advertising
Toronto

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In Toronto and elsewhere in the GTA, demand will continue to exceed supply for the foreseeable future. We are looking at ongoing population growth from immigration and migration, as Toronto continues its role as an international city and economic hub. Market prices will only increase as time goes on. With the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Toronto already more than $2,500 per month, a new condo is still a wise and likely lucrative investment.

Carefully selecting the right location is a key starting point; location, location, location has long been the mantra for real estate. Choose a building in an up and coming area for a better price point, or in an established neighbourhood where you’re likely to pay a little more. Either way, buy the best condo and suite you can for the money, keeping in mind your lifestyle. Proximity to transit is also important; consider that investors usually purchase close to mass transit, since that’s a feature that appeals to renters. It’s all common sense.

This market will not change overnight, and may never change. We are still in a low-interest-rate environment… and who knows how long that will last? If you are in a position to get into the condominium ownership market, my advice is to buy now, rather than later.

Barbara Lawlor
President & CEO
Baker Real Estate Inc.
Toronto

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Friends often ask me where the best value in the GTA is, since I have been marketing new homes and condos for 25 years. What area has the best opportunity for appreciation?

I usually recommend heading east, to Courtice, Ajax, Bowmanville, Oshawa… really anywhere in Durham or Clarington is a great option for new-home buyers today. East GTA offers very affordable pricing compared to the west, as well as every feature you could ever need, including regular GO Transit service to downtown Toronto, easy access to the lake and beautiful conservation areas for hikes. There are excellent schools, tons of shopping and a great family lifestyle. The east is where it’s at!

I would also advise prospective buyers to explore the federal government’s First-Time Home Buyer Incentive program which offers a down payment boost of up to 10 per cent. It doesn’t need to paid back until you sell your home, at which time the government will share in the equity you have built up over time. It’s an excellent opportunity that not enough people are taking advantage of yet.

Lianne McOuat
Vice-President, Strategy
McOuat Partnership
Markham, Ont.

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Spring is typically the busy season in real estate, and this year the market in southern Ontario looked like it was really going to heat up. But this area is so popular year-round it’s unique: Traditional seasonality is quickly blurring. High demand, combined with a shortage of housing supply, ensure this trend will continue. In resale, for every house listed for sale there is a buyer ready and waiting. The best thing buyers can do to ensure they get what they want, when they want, is to get themselves in the ready position.

Despite mainstream media suggesting it is next to impossible to purchase a home here, opportunities present themselves all the time, especially to those who are ready to go. New homes provide a great option. By signing up for mailing lists of reputable builders in your areas of interest, prospective buyers will be the first to know when a community is coming, what the housing options are and what the price points will be. This process, and the information that comes with it, gives buyers knowledge to make informed decisions, better positioning them for their next move.

Fraser M. Wilson
Senior Vice-President
International Home Marketing Group
Toronto, Ont.

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How to buy in a time of escalating prices

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How to buy in a time of escalating prices

Affordability is a hot topic today when it comes to new home real estate, including condominiums. Yes, prices are prohibitive for many prospective buyers. The thing is, however, that people are purchasing with enthusiasm, as they recognize what a great lifestyle and financial investment a condo in Toronto or the GTA is these days.

How can they afford it? The down payment is often the deterrent to buying, but perhaps the bank of mom and dad can help with that. Sometimes, parents of grown children purchase a condo suite for their offspring to live in temporarily while in college or university, then hand over ownership once the young people finish their post-secondary education, are employed and can afford to keep up mortgage payments.

Then again, some buyers are harnessing out-of-the-box thinking when it comes to affordability. For example, co-ownership has become an alternative for many. Co-ownership involves non-related (often) people or relatives sharing ownership of a home. Although it is not an entirely new concept, it is gaining such popularity that the Province of Ontario has developed a guide called “Co-owning a home.” You can find the guide at ontario.ca/document/co-owning-home.

Part of More Homes, More Choice: Ontario’s Housing Supply Action Plan, this guide was developed after roundtable discussions with stakeholders to determine best practices and what advice people would need. The benefits of co-owning include more than just affordability; buyers can have access to living quarters larger than they could on their own. Someone who can afford only a compact one-bedroom suite may be able to go for a larger two-bedroom suite by co-owning.

The guide is, however, not the ultimate when it comes to the rule of law. The Province advises that it is important to obtain legal advice to protect your interests when co-buying. There should be a legal contract that all co-ownership purchasers sign to clarify rights and responsibilities. This legal agreement may possibly support an application for mortgage financing as well.

Financial outlays include mortgage payments, property taxes, utilities, repairs and home insurance. How will these be divided? In addition, there is a lot to consider besides who pays what, when. For example, how will the workload to keep up the suite be divided? How and when can the suite be used to entertain guests? If life circumstances change, can the co-ownership agreement be altered? What happens if and when one of the parties wants to leave the co-ownership arrangement?

Work with an experienced sales person who is familiar with co-ownership, as well as a real estate lawyer who understands the process. Co-ownership of a condominium suite can be an effective and smart way to enter the new home real estate market to build equity together. The great news is that mortgage interest rates remain low, so the moral of the story is to get in now, rather than later. I always say, a happy purchaser is an educated, informed one.

BARBARA LAWLOR is president and CEO of Baker Real Estate Inc., winner of the pinnacle 2017 Riley Brethour Award from BILD, and an indemand 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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The perks of condo living

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The perks of condo living

Over the years, condominiums have become the new home choice of people of all ages and walks of life. And why not? Decades ago, empty nesters and retirees discovered the benefits of selling their large lowrise homes and opting for a more carefree lifestyle. They were (and still are) happy to leave behind outdoor maintenance and total reliance on a vehicle to take them to run errands, access recreational venues and other activities. With amenities right in their building, convenience was a daily nicety. And with today’s condos situated close to local amenities such as shopping, entertainment venues, restaurants and the like, an outing is usually just a quick stroll, bus or subway ride away.

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11YV by Metropia

Nowadays, condos have come a long way, and the assortment and quality of condo amenities are topnotch. It is a luxury to host large gatherings in the party/multi-use room without affecting your private suite. Rooftop barbecues make it possible to dine al fresco while taking in spectacular city or lake views. Exercising regularly is appealing, with a beautiful and professionally equipped fitness facility in the building.

In addition, today’s young professionals and families are stressed to the max with hectic lifestyles, so condos have become a popular choice for them as well. Leaving exterior and shared spaces cleaning, upkeep and repairs to someone else frees up precious time for leisure activities and family. Yes, residents pay a monthly maintenance fee, but keep in mind that the services those fees cover protect suite owners’ privacy, safety and investment.

Even the opportunity to own a new condo is appealing, as lowrise homes are out of the financial reach of many would-be buyers. Price is a major motivating factor for buying a new condo, regardless of age or life circumstances. The potential for earning a substantial return-on-investment is also a bonus.

Lifestyle is also a key factor in the decision to go condo, and the benefits go beyond the convenience of having wonderful amenities just an elevator ride away. The peace-of-mind that comes from knowing you have built-in security aspects from strategically placed cameras to the eyes-on-the-street of concierge service is priceless.

Remember, too, that a condominium is a vertical community in which neighbours get to know each other in the lobby, hallways, elevators and amenity spaces on a daily basis. The beauty of this arrangement is that if something is amiss, likely someone will notice it. Condo residents tend to look out for each other, even more so than in lowrise communities, where neighbours may not see each other for long periods of time.

Another appealing aspect of condo living is being able to go away on business trips or holidays without worrying about the upkeep and security of your home. If you have not yet invested in a condominium suite for your own life, or as an investment, 2020 is the year to do it, while interest rates are still at remarkably low rates. You’ll be glad you did!

Barbara Lawlor is president and CEO of Baker Real Estate Inc., winner of the pinnacle 2017 Riley Brethour Award from BILD, and an indemand 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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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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Why are condos selling like hotcakes in Toronto and the GTA?

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Why are condos selling like hotcakes in Toronto and the GTA?

To say that condominiums have become the new home of choice for most buyers in Toronto and the Greater Toronto Area is an understatement. Even in the face of rising costs, the new condo market is continually robust.

The first reason is, of course, price. The cost of single-family homes has skyrocketed to the point that first-time buyers, in particular, are just not able to afford them. Even with prices of condos rising, they are still typically more financially attainable. People are also coming up with creative ways to afford condos, such as co-purchasing. Parents of college and university age children also often find buying a condo for their kids to live in while attending post-secondary school is more economical than paying for them to stay in a dorm. At the end, these parents have earned equity as well. Just look at how well condo owners who purchased a few years ago are doing. Savvy investors will also tell you that a condominium suite is a great addition to a financial portfolio. The nice thing is that exterior maintenance and amenity repair and upkeep are handled for them.

Lifestyle also has a lot to do with the trend toward condominiums. People of all ages today are just plain busy. Their lifestyles are hectic, so eliminating exterior maintenance from their lives frees up time for family, friends and leisure activities. And in a condo, they have wonderful amenities just an elevator ride away. Today’s beautiful common areas range from chic party rooms to equipped fitness centres, technologically advanced theatres, glorious swimming pools, spectacular barbecue terraces, children’s play centres and more!

Here is another reason – for most people, condominium living is fun. With people passing each other in hallways and meeting in elevators and common areas, they get to know their neighbours. There are so many options for relaxing, exercising and interacting in areas such as games rooms, that the building is truly a vertical community. In fact, condo purchasers have told me they rarely knew their neighbours in their single-family home communities, and that they find it easier to make friends in their building.

The icing on the condominium ownership cake is location. Nowadays, buildings are situated close to public transit and local amenities. In fact, many condo owners do not even need to own a vehicle, which frees up thousands of dollars to put toward their other expenses. There is a certain freedom that comes with being able to walk or hop on a bus or subway to go to work or run errands. Toronto and the GTA locations are all home to superb shopping, cultural venues, schools, parks, recreation centres… you get the picture.

If you are looking for a new home, and even if you can afford a single-family residence, consider a condo for any or all of the above reasons. Around the world, apartments and condominiums are the norm for everyone from singles to young couples, emptynesters and even families. Toronto and the GTA are catching up. Viva the condo!

Barbara Lawlor is president and CEO of Baker Real Estate Inc., winner of the pinnacle 2017 Riley Brethour Award from BILD, and an indemand 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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Fall into value with a new condo

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Fall into value with a new condo

When it comes to new condominiums, the word “value” refers to how much you get for your money, both now and in the future. Of course, every buyer, regardless of circumstances and means, wants to get the most possible in the purchase of a new condominium. So, what are the elements that make up value?

I would say that location is first. Given the demand for condos in Toronto and the Greater Toronto Area, pretty much any location is perfect for someone. Many purchasers choose buildings in up-and-coming areas in order to get in before prices go up as new amenities and infrastructure are added. Others who have the wherewithal, choose to live in already established, prestigious neighbourhoods they know will always be desirable. The hot button nowadays is proximity to transit, and any condominium near or on a transit line is bound to sell quickly to buyers who realize the value in not having to own and maintain a vehicle to get around. Add to that easily reachable local shopping, parks, services, restaurants, schools and the like, and location takes on an even deeper significance.

Next, consider aesthetics. Architecture can have a huge effect on desirability – and fortunately, developers offer a range of styles to satisfy every taste from sleek and modern to contemporary and traditional. From the outside, a condo should feel like “home” to purchasers, so the exterior does make a difference. Today’s designs also include brilliant landscape plans that enhance the beauty and sustainability of the buildings.

Amenities are another consideration in the decision-making process for condo-shoppers. There is nothing more convenient than having wonderful common areas right in the building. These may range from retail venues on the ground floor to pools, party rooms, fitness facilities, lounges, libraries, theatres, rooftop barbecue and dining areas, pet grooming spots, and even golf simulators. Certainly, one of the best parts of living in a condo is having a simple elevator commute to access these attractive areas. Some condos go so far as to employ activity coordinators to help residents make the most of their “homes.”

And speaking of “home,” condo buyers (unless they choose completed inventory suites) have the privilege of selecting the features and finishes that will make them comfortable and appeal to their senses. Today’s choices are phenomenal, even when buyers stick to the standards. The quality and selection alone speak to value, both to end-users and investors. Even those who live in their suites benefit in the future when selling to move on. Lovely finishes that stand the test of time will always be selling features.

One more thing is to consider the developer’s reputation. There is a certain cachet inherent in buying in a building created by a company that has earned a reputation for providing value and excellent customer service. It is easy to research the history of developers, now that we have the Internet at our fingertips. Do some research and find out about the “pros” that add up to value. In the long run, you’ll make a value-packed new condo decision!

Barbara Lawlor is president and CEO of Baker Real Estate Inc., winner of the pinnacle 2017 Riley Brethour Award from BILD, and an indemand 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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Women buyers a force in the condo marketplace

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Women buyers a force in the condo marketplace

According to Statistics Canada, the number of single-person households has more than doubled over the past 35 years, and many of the people in this group are women. Although at one time, this group was largely made up of widowed seniors, these days women living alone come from every age group, especially between the ages of 35 to 64. According to a StatsCan report, one in five people who live alone do so in condominiums. Last year, a report in the U.S. showed that single women are the second-largest group, after married couples, of home purchasers.

At Baker Real Estate Inc., we regularly see this trend in action, with women choosing condominium suites as their primary residences, vacation residences and/or investment properties. One-bedroom suites sell like hotcakes, and I estimate that about a third of our sales for our clients are to female buyers. They may be young first-time purchasers who understand the value of owning a home, and who choose condos because of their relative affordability in the Greater Toronto Area. We have even helped women buy a condominium suite in partnership with another female in order to afford a larger suite than they would be able to carry by themselves, – a great way for both to build equity.

Seasoned professionals often want to live closer to where they work. Other scenarios include single mothers, or any women who have become widowed or separated and are now facing life on their own. Condos also offer a sense of freedom for women who travel extensively. They can just lock the door and leave, knowing they don’t have to worry about snow removal, lawn mowing and the cleaning and upkeep on the condominium’s amenities. In addition, there are savvy investors who recognize a tremendous return-on-investment opportunity.

Many who intend to live in the suites they buy appreciate the community and security aspects of condominium living. The concierge, for example, provides screening for visitors and “eyes on the street.” Today’s buildings are also equipped with advanced security features such as monitored cameras in the underground parking garage, entry phone and in-suite security systems.

Condos in essence are vertical neighbourhoods, and women appreciate the sense of community they find in these residences. If and when they need help with anything, plenty of neighbours live close by. Over time, they get to know each other in the elevators, hallways and amenity spaces. They may trade favours such as watering plants and caring for pets while away.

New condos also appeal partially because of the “new” aspect. I believe that every woman has a decorator in her soul, so being able to select your own colours and materials for flooring, countertops and other finishes is appealing.

Women of all ages and walks of life benefit from all aspects of condominium living. Buying instead of renting is a wonderful investment in their financial and lifestyle future, and they can enjoy the fruits of this investment every day.

Barbara Lawlor is president and CEO of Baker Real Estate Inc., winner of the pinnacle 2017 Riley Brethour Award from BILD, and an indemand 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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The four seasons of condo living

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The four seasons of condo living

How does the song go? “Summertime, and the living is easy” – in a condo, that is! When exterior chores such as lawn mowing and weeding are left to the professionals, suite owners have more time to spend with family and friends. They also have the opportunity to enjoy a lifestyle of ease, convenience and activity year round.

Whether you live in the city or the Greater Toronto Area, if you are in a condominium, your summer includes basking in the fresh air on your balcony, rooftop garden or in the courtyard your building might feature. Some condos offer an outdoor pool with loungers for soaking up glorious sunshine. Landscaping is in full bloom, and the views of your building’s surroundings are incredible. Entertaining on the rooftop brings a whole new level of elegance and fun to any gathering. Those who indulge in container gardening can walk out to the balcony and harvest fresh herbs for dinner. Of course, summer is a time of festivals in most every section of the city and in the suburbs. The possibilities are endless and exciting, and when you live in a condo, you are likely within a quick stroll, bike ride or public transit ride away.

Come fall when the air turns crisper, urban views transform to autumn colours, and well-placed landscaping around condominiums morph to take on the new season. We always still have some beautiful weather in the fall, so condo residents will make the most of outdoor barbecue and dining while they can. Sitting on the balcony watching the stars and city lights may require a light jacket, but it is well worth the effort. Of course, as thoughts turn to interior activities, condo residents are fortunate to have wonderful amenities under their roof. School gets underway again, and families appreciate the time condo living frees up as their hectic lifestyles resume.

Winter in a condo is akin to living in a resort, with opportunities for swimming, playing pool, watching the big game in the theatre, hosting a party in the chic multi-purpose room, working out in the exercise facilities, and/or reading the latest bestseller in the cosy library. Today’s condo developers spend time and effort working with landscape architects to ensure that plant material is attractive all year long. Some ornamental grasses and other choices remain attractive during the winter. And for those suite owners who opt to go down south to escape some of the wintry weather, it’s simply a matter of locking their suite doors and leaving worry free, as snow clearing and maintenance of common areas are handled for them.

As spring approaches, there is the refreshing metamorphosis from snow to colour as the world wakes up to longer days and warmer temperatures. Green thumbs ready their balcony containers, and plants go in with the promise of another lush summer. The cycle continues, as condo residents revel in their day-to-day lifestyles. A condo is truly a home for all seasons.

BARBARA LAWLOR is president and CEO of Baker Real Estate Inc., winner of the pinnacle 2017 Riley Brethour Award from BILD, and an indemand 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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Respect for others key to successful condo living

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Respect for others key to successful condo living

A condominium residence is a vertical community where you live close to neighbours and where you meet them on a regular basis in hallways, elevators and amenity spaces. Successful condominium living demands respect for your neighbours as you go about your day-to-day activities. Condo boards of directors establish codes of conduct for their buildings. Yes, there are restrictions on what can and cannot be done, but realize that these guidelines protect your and everyone’s health, safety, privacy, comfort and enjoyment. These may cover restrictions on pets, what you can place on your balcony or, conduct when using the building amenities.

Keep in mind that the volunteers who serve on the board live at your address, so they definitely have the best interests of residents at heart. Board members ensure the smooth running of the building. Your monthly maintenance fee is administered by the board to ensure the upkeep, repair and cleanliness of the building’s exterior and common areas. The corporation also establishes and operates the reserve fund that takes care of your investment for years to come. Your fees cover salaries for the concierge and other staff as well.

Yes, on occasion, board members may make a mistake, but be reasonable about it if that happens. Patience is truly a virtue when it comes to getting glitches sorted out. After you move in, before you approach anyone on the board with a suggestion or concern, make sure your comments are based on facts rather than hearsay. Show gratitude for their time and hard work.

And here is an idea: Consider serving on your condominium corporation board. I can tell you from experience that it can be a lot of fun. In addition to feeling part of your community, you have a first-hand say in how the building is run. Your input spans the gamut from awarding contracts for building maintenance to hiring staff. Qualifications include good communication skills, fulfilling the governmental education requirements and a willingness to be a team player. Board members often become friends, even though they typically hail from a variety of backgrounds including sales, law, administration, landscaping and the like.

Getting along with neighbours has many benefits. In addition to the security features your condominium includes, this level of human interaction and proximity adds a “safety in numbers” aspect to your lifestyle. Over time, suite owners and their families get to know each other and help friends when they can. There is a certain level of security in this familiarity. People in condos tend to notice anything unusual and report it to the concierge, who provides the irreplaceable eyes-on-the-street.

Your happiness and enjoyment in a condominium is really up to you. To find out more about the rights and responsibilities of condominium owners, check out Consumer Protection Ontario’s website on “Owning a Condo” at ontario.ca. Remember that common courtesy, respect and kindness are expected of condo owners at all times. The golden rule should be your rule!

BARBARA LAWLOR is president and CEO of Baker Real Estate Inc., winner of the pinnacle 2017 Riley Brethour Award from BILD, and an indemand 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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