Tag Archives: Barbara Lawlor

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Does a new condo ‘fit’ your lifestyle?

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Does a new condo ‘fit’ your lifestyle?

If you are shopping for a new condominium and fitness plays an important role in your life, congratulations! By definition, condos inspire active living, from their locations in the midst of amenities, to the wonderful amenities such as fitness facilities right in the buildings.

With Ontario’s Places to Grow Act having dictated that condo developers build “up” rather than “out” and locate buildings close to public transportation and amenities, condo residents can walk or ride their bikes to run errands or even travel to work. Walking is the first level of fitness, so strolling to shop, dine out, meet friends for coffee, post letters, attend concerts and the like is good for the body. Of course, cycling is also great for the heart, and in Toronto, new condos must include bike parking spots to encourage their use. What a fun way to burn off calories.

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Next, let’s talk building amenities, which today are as beautiful as they are practical. For most buyers, fitness rooms are ranked in the first few must-haves on your list. What a pleasure it is to simply throw on workout clothes or a swimsuit and access exercise options without leaving the building. Plus, condo residents can leave gym membership fees behind. Unlike the dank swimming pools and collections of weights housed in the basements of the condos from decades ago, modern buildings feature state-of-the-art fitness rooms with high ceilings, massive windows and elaborate equipment.

Occasionally, you will find a condo that has an activities director or recreational coordinator who organizes group sports and outings. Some condos have climbing walls, golf simulators, yoga/Pilates studios, gardening plots and other inventive niceties. The fitness facilities themselves are much like commercial clubs with change rooms, saunas, steam rooms, whirlpools, plunge pools or swimming pools to vary the experience. Rooftop pools surrounded by sundecks and lounge chairs are common and well used in the summer.

Gardening plots are part of a growing trend toward eating close to home, and it’s catching on in condominiums. Condo gardening is becoming popular with residents to grow herbs, flowers and even vegetables. In addition to gardening being one of North America’s favourite pastimes, the activity burns off calories. Gardening in a condo can also take place on balconies lined with colourful containers. What a luxury it is to step out onto the terrace and snip fresh herbs, pluck tomatoes or pick fragrant flowers to liven up a dinner party. Unless you want to grow giant pumpkins or watermelons, gardening’s not just for lowrise anymore!

Nowadays, fitness is more than a craze; it is a way of life for people of all ages. Whether you prefer a leisurely swim, an inspiring yoga session, a vigorous weight workout, an invigorating aerobics class or even just a brisk walk, life in a condominium can fulfill all of your exercise needs and wants. As I love to say, go condo!

Barbara Lawlor is President and CEO of Baker Real Estate Inc. A member of the Baker team since 1993, she oversees the marketing and sales of condominium developments in the GTA, Vancouver, Calgary and Montreal, and internationally in Shanghai. Having received numerous awards and accolades, she is an indemand columnist and speaker well respected for her impactful industry voice.

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Location, location, location, why it’s so important when buying a condo

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Location, location, location, why it’s so important when buying a condo

I often write about condominium shoppers creating a spreadsheet or list of important items to consider. The number one thing is always location. The phrase “location, location, location” may seem trite, but in fact, it is based on solid truth. For most purchasers, the big picture is paramount in their final decision. Fortunately, in Toronto and the GTA, you will find a myriad of amazing choices, locations and designs available offered by some of the world’s finest developers and architects.

One of the first things to look at regarding location is whether the buildings are in established or up and coming neighbourhoods. You may feel that you prefer and can afford a residence in the midst of established amenities and mature trees and greenery. On the other hand, if price is a major factor for you, selecting a growing area with new amenities planned in the future might be more economically feasible. Again, you have numerous wonderful choices of both types.

Where do you work? Even with the pandemic-fuelled work-from-home scenario, there are still thousands and thousands of people across the GTA who have to go somewhere for their jobs. When you consider your commute from a new condominium, be sure to avoid the mistake of estimating times by the as-the-crow flies method. You are wise to actually do the commute during rush hour, whether by driving or using public transit, to be realistic.

And speaking of public transit, are the condos you are considering close to transportation access? In addition to making your life easier, they will hold their appeal more when you go to sell someday. Our transportation infrastructure continues to grow and expand, which is a wonderful boon to residents everywhere.

Transportation aside, what about walkability? Most condo owners want to live where they can shop, dine out, run errands and the like within a quick stroll. Visit walkscore.com, plug in the address of a condo, and you can find out what amenities and services are within walking distance.

How about the places and people you visit often – family and friends, and any clubs and associations you belong to? Will they be easy to get to from the new locales you are looking at? If you are a member of a yacht club or keep a boat on Lake Ontario, you might want to live right by the water.

Of course, price, architecture, building amenities, features and finishes and builder reputation and track record should all have prominent places in your comparison list or spreadsheet. Wherever and whatever you buy, keep in mind that 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.

New-home buyers in the GTA are among the luckiest in the world. So, enjoy your shopping, consider the details and remember the big picture. Then take your place in it in a beautiful new condo!

Barbara Lawlor is President and CEO of Baker Real Estate Inc. and winner of the pinnacle 2017 Riley Brethour Award from BILD, among other accolades. A member of the Baker team since 1993, she oversees the marketing and sales of condominium developments in Canada in the GTA, Vancouver, Calgary and Montreal, and internationally in Beijing. bakerrealestate.com

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Enjoy a staycation year-round in a condo

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Enjoy a staycation year-round in a condo

The term “staycation” was coined to represent people staying home during their holiday time and enjoying activities like they were on vacation. Pandemic aside, life in a condominium offers year-round resort-style benefits, with beautiful amenities under – and often on top of – your roof. Essentially, you can enjoy a “staycation” whatever the season. It all starts with the freedom from worrying about building maintenance, repairs and upkeep, which all contribute to the holiday “mood.”

As for the fabulous amenities within these buildings, who could ask for more? There are varying combinations of swimming pools, whirlpools, saunas, outdoor terraces with lush landscaping, rooftop terraces with barbecue areas, water features, fitness facilities, seating arrangements, virtual golf, theatres, party rooms… When you live in a condominium, a mini-vacation is always just an elevator ride away! From spending time with family and friends in one of these common areas to simply lounging on the rooftop terrace drinking in the views, fun and relaxation are always close at hand.

If your condo is beside the lake, even better. And if you are fortunate enough to live on top of a five-star hotel, you have the ultimate in vacationstyle living at your fingertips, with access to housekeeping services, valet parking and room service. The amenities in condominiums really do expand your lifestyle potential far beyond the square footage of your suite.

Wonderful waterfront

Of course, those who have purchased new condominiums, especially first-time buyers, may find their budget does not allow for a holiday the first year or two. The great news is that Toronto and the GTA are great places to live, with a multitude of seasonal activities, events, concerts, festivals and other get-togethers on the post-pandemic calendar.

Those for whom the “dog days of summer” include taking along their dogs, Toronto features several parks with off-leash zones. And of course, being a waterfront city, Toronto has wonderful harbourfront, with activities for all ages. Lake Ontario provides striking, ever-changing vistas throughout the year.

Whatever you consider fun, explore our beautiful city and its surroundings for eclectic restaurants from fast food to fine dining, live theatre, outdoor and indoor concerts, sports events, museums, art galleries and shopping, shopping, shopping. Once the pandemic is behind us, the possibilities will again be endless.

Peace of mind

And when you live in a condo and choose to go away on an actual vacation, the holiday feeling begins the moment you lock the door to your condo suite and leave, knowing your home will be protected and looked after. The peace of mind that brings is priceless. No more worrying about the lawn getting long or snow piling up while you’re away.

Cottages are wonderful and vacations are exciting. But in a condo, resort-style living is an everyday occurrence. Convenience, luxury and equity potential are all part of the condominium experience. Whatever your age and family configuration, there is a condo out there that will fit your personal preferences and staycation needs.

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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Outdoor lovers love condos

The condo buyer when money is no object

 

 

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Outdoor lovers love condos

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Outdoor lovers love condos

If you are an active person who loves the outdoors and think you have to live in a lowrise home to be happy, think again! Condominiums offer ample opportunities to stay active and enjoy being outside without ever leaving the building.

First, today’s condominium suites have extra-large windows that bring the outdoors in on a daily basis. Gorgeous city, tree and/or lake vistas help to keep condo residents grounded, no matter what floor they live on. And then of course, there are balconies where residents can place outdoor furniture and planters to grow everything from flowers to herbs and tomatoes. Unless you plan on growing giant pumpkins, gardening is no longer the exclusive pastime for people in lowrise homes with backyards.

On a more public level, new condominiums feature gorgeous common areas that offer outdoor recreation and enjoyment. Landscaped courtyards at ground level are perfect for sitting in the sun using a personal electronic device or even … gasp … reading a paper publication. Oh, and sipping on a coffee or tea enriches that experience.

In the buildings themselves, you may find any number of other outdoor or indoor/outdoor spaces such as Zen gardens and yoga areas. Rooftop terraces are beautiful and exciting. Discover barbecues, outdoor kitchens, fire pits, loungers or pools; the possibilities are fascinating. Imagine sitting and lapping up the views under a clear blue or dramatic evening sky.

As for the keeping active part of the condo lifestyle, that begins at ground level with location. Today’s new condos are situated close to amenities. Residents can usually walk or ride a bicycle to run a variety of errands or dine out or visit attractions or shop – you get the picture. In the City of Toronto, condos are are required to contain a certain number of bicycle parking spots to accommodate this healthful trend.

Then, of course, there are fitness facilities in most, if not all, new condominiums – and they are so well equipped that residents can give up expensive gym memberships. They can throw on some workout clothes, take the elevator to the fitness room, exercise and then go back to their suite without braving the weather or having to start the car. 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 climbing walls. They may include change rooms, saunas, steam rooms, whirlpools, plunge pools and/or swimming pools to vary the experience. Keeping active is so important to people today, that some condominium corporations are hiring recreational coordinators to organize classes and events. Who needs a commercial fitness club, when you have all of this right at home?

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 doorstep.

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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Invest in your future

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Invest in your future

Whether you are thinking of investing in a condominium suite for financial or lifestyle reasons, you win either way. Even if you plan to live in your suite and enjoy the carefree condo lifestyle, in the long run, you benefit financially as well. Condos continue to rise in price, even with the pandemic affecting our lives, and the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Toronto is nearly $2,300. Tucking a condo into your financial portfolio has the potential to be a lucrative investment. In addition to earning equity and rental income, a condo suite is concrete, rather than simply words on paper. You can touch it, keep an eye on it, and it’s easier to understand than stocks.

People who live in their suites add a lifestyle investment to their enjoyment. The fact you don’t have to worry about building maintenance frees up your valuable time. And isn’t time something we all want more of nowadays? It is pure luxury to have everything from staff wages to the cleaning, upkeep and repair of building systems facilitated by the residence’s condominium corporation. Residents say good bye to clearing snow, mowing lawns, weeding gardens, sweeping leaves… You get the picture. Maintenance fees also cover the cleaning, upkeep and repair of the building’s amenities. Once the pandemic is a thing of the past, residents will once again be able to enjoy these wonderful spaces. Having amenities right in the building means residents save on gas and wear-and-tear on vehicles to go to gyms, which is better for the environment.

Another lifestyle benefit of condo living involves security. New buildings incorporate everything from eyes-on-the-street with a carefully placed concierge in the lobby, to strategically placed cameras in other areas. With advances in technology, we are also seeing more security measures showing up in condominium suites themselves. Systems may be in place to enable residents to control who they invite in via smart phone apps and in-suite monitors. Some suites even come equipped with home automation that allows owners to adjust the temperature and position of the blinds from their mobile devices, so the suite is comfortable when they get home. In addition, I have always said that a condo is essentially a vertical community where people get to know each other in the common areas. As a result, they tend to look out for each other as well, and to notice if anything is amiss.

As for locations, new condominiums are situated in areas in such a way that they take advantage of existing and future infrastructure, such as public transit routes and local amenities. Often, condo residents can walk to shop, dine out or attend a live theatre/concert performance. In a city such as Toronto, which has an abundance of trees and greenery, parks are usually close by as well.

People of all age groups and family configurations are choosing condos for their homes and/or their investments. In fact, think of your life as a portfolio. Adding a condominium as your residence is a wise and fun way to invest in your future.

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 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.

11YV by Metropia
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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