Tag Archives: GTA

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Three ways to afford a single-family home

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Three ways to afford a single-family home

Detached houses in the GTA cost $1 million-plus to purchase. How to afford one?

It can seem as though it’s nearly impossible to afford a detached home in the Greater Toronto Area these days, with the cost of real estate as sky high as it’s become. According to Altus Group, the benchmark price for new single-family homes in the GTA in August was a whopping $1.08 million. That’s actually down 4.1 per cent versus the same period last year, but it’s still a big chunk of change.

Condominiums represent a slightly more affordable alternative to detached homes, but not everyone wants to live in a multi-storey tower. Plus condos don’t always have a large outdoor space or have backyards, which can be an issue, particularly when you have kids. So if you’ve got your heart set on purchasing a detached home, what are your options? Here are three possibilities to explore:

1. Be a landlord of your own home

By using a portion of your detached house as a rental property – creating a basement suite is the most common approach, but laneway housing is another solution being examined across Toronto – you can generate significant revenue to help you pay your mortgage. You would also be contributing much-needed rental housing stock in a city where vacancy has been hovering around one per cent. Note, however, that being a landlord comes with great responsibilities:

You’ll have to find tenants and manage relations with them, fix things in the rental suite (or pay someone to do it), and comply with various rental bylaws. It’s a lot of work, but it can help you become mortgage-free sooner.

2. Keep it in the family

Multi-generational family homes are becoming more popular, and this is a great way to be able to afford to own a detached house. You can provide accommodation for aging parents in the form of an in-law suite, and they can help to shoulder some of the costs of owning the home. There are other advantages to this arrangement: You can look after your folks, and if you have kids, your parents can serve as a built-in babysitting service on date night. And if you’ve got grown children, don’t be so fast to push them out of the nest. Instead, invite them to remain at home, or to move back in following post-secondary school – as long as they pay rent, of course. Think of all the family-bonding opportunities you’ll have with your parents and kids living under the same roof!

3. Divide the house into a duplex

Another solution for being able to afford a detached home is to go in on the big purchase with family members, and then divide the house into a duplex. Bear in mind that there are some bureaucratic hurdles currently standing in the way of this being a viable solution. That’s why it’s high time our government leaders tweaked existing bylaws to allow for homes on traditional 40- and 50-ft. lots to be built or retrofitted into internal duplexes. Then, that 3,000-sq.-ft. $1-million-plus home becomes a 1,500-sq.-ft. duplex, along with basement storage, garage space and a yard – the detached-home dream.

Debbie Cosic, CEO and founder of In2ition Realty, has worked in all facets of the real estate industry for over 25 years. In2ition.ca

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BILD Outlook 2020

Outlook 2020 – what’s in store for GTA housing next year?

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Outlook 2020 – what’s in store for GTA housing next year?

Global and even some Canadian economic and political uncertainty shouldn’t derail growth in the GTA housing market next year, according to experts at the Building Industry and Land Development Association’s (BILD) recent Outlook 2020 event.

Craig Wright, senior vice-president and chief economist at RBC, and Peter Donolo, political and communications strategist with Hill + Knowlton Canada, said that overall, the fundamentals for the economy and housing market in Ontario and the GTA bode well for 2020. There are some challenges, however – namely the ongoing new home supply issue.

With Justin Trudeau’s Liberals re-elected as a minority government, Canada will see a relatively stable left-leaning federal government that will focus on environmental issues, affordability and redistribution rather than on economic growth, Donolo says.

BILD Outlook 2020
Left to right, Dave Wilkes, Peter Donolo and Craig Wright

Globally, geopolitical uncertainty and softening economic growth mean that Canada faces challenges with export and investment, leaving the heavy lifting to the consumer, according to Wright. Economic growth is expected to be modest and in line with employment and income, at about 1.7 per cent, and interest rates will likely continue to be low.

Strong employment growth

For Ontario, GDP growth will likely be a notch below, about 1.5 per cent, with housing starts for 2019 and 2020 at about 72,000 units, compared to about 79,000 in 2018, Wright says.

“That reflects a number of factors,” Wright told HOMES Publishing. “We continue to see strong employment gains, Ontario is leading Canada in terms of employment growth on a year-over-year basis, and strong population growth. So, strong fundamentals supporting it, in a low rate environment.”

BILD Outlook 2020 Craig Wright
Craig Wright, senior vice-president and chief economist, RBC

The GTA’s robust population growth will continue to drive demand for both ownership and rental housing, Wright says. Municipal and provincial governments are shifting to supply-side solutions for balancing the housing market.

“As you look at the structural reality of the GTA market, where we have immigration coming in… we have 140,000 to 150,000 people coming to this region each and every year,” adds BILD President Dave Wilkes. “That really does bode well for our industry.”

The mortgage stress test needs to be revisited in light of the continued low interest rates, Wright says.

Millennial attitudes

Another issue that might affect the Canada and the building industry is Millennials and their views on the environment and the economy – attitudes Donolo describes as “absolute.”

BILD Outlook 2020 Peter Donolo
Peter Donolo, political and communications strategist, Hill + Knowlton Canada

“When I say absolute, you talk about the oil sands and it’s like you’re talking about the Medellin drug cartel,” he says. “They’re not conscious or interested in the fact that the oil sands and Canada’s oil and gas sector is a kind of the backbone of the Canadian economy, that millions of jobs depend on it… They’re not interested in a kind of slow transition or weaning away from it. They think it’s immoral… and this is a very widespread view.”

Millennial views on homeownership are also different, Donolo says.

“Do Millennials look differently at what homeownership is about? Are they less interested in owning a traditional detached house with a backyard and property? If you look at rates of drivers licenses among Millennials, there is perhaps an indication.”

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Joseph Alberga, Director, Sales & Marketing Lindvest

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Joseph Alberga, Director, Sales & Marketing Lindvest

Standing out from the crowd – for the right reasons – is sometimes easier said than done. For Toronto based developer Lindvest, with lowrise communities around the GTA and condo projects in the city, it’s now a mission. To Do it Differently. Everything… Director of Sales and Marketing Joseph Alberga explains.

HOMES Magazine: Lindvest recently launched the Do it Differently campaign. What is the genesis of this program, and what do you hope to achieve with it?

Joseph Alberga: The DID campaign is part of a refresh of our branding and coincided with the launch of our new website. The goal is to get across the message that, at Lindvest, we approach every decision with the simple question “Is this good for the homebuyer?” An overarching desire to ensure that we design, sell, build and service a product that is geared to the needs and wants of the homeowner. The campaign aims to help the company stand out from the crowd. Hopefully we generate enough curiosity and interest which then translates into people exploring Lindvest and our communities to determine if we can deliver the home they are looking for.

HM: The homebuilding industry is undergoing a lot of change these days, with increasing government involvement, policy issues and other challenges. How do you see all this playing out in the next three to five years?

JA: Without question, the future looks to be an interesting one, to be sure. The amount of time that the whole development and building process takes is certainly a hot topic. The changes and challenges will require builders and developers to be adept at maintaining flexibility, while still achieving the objectives required to deliver new homes and condos in new and exciting communities both within and outside the GTA.

HM: Affordability is a growing concern for homebuyers in the GTA, but much of what determines end costs – land use policy and availability and approvals processes – are out of builders’ control. How does Lindvest address the affordability challenge?

JA: It is one of the greatest keys to how we approach our business. Striving to develop and build homes and condos in areas that we can add value to you by effectively and efficiently delivering the right home at the most affordable price possible.

HM: Where do you see the next homebuilding – and therefore, for customers, homebuying – opportunities in the GTA, in terms of geographic area and housing type?

JA: The expansion along both the east and westerly limits of the GTA will continue, as well as up the Hwy. 400 corridor. At the same time, new and interesting conversions of office/ industrial within the city limits will also provide options for homebuyers who desire something closer to the core. In short, we are blessed with a multifaceted and ever-changing real estate landscape. Kudos to our industry for always tackling challenges with gusto and continuing to find unique and creative ways to provide housing solutions.

HM: The “missing middle” is something we hear a lot about these days. How active is Lindvest in this category? For example, you have a couple of townhome projects underway in Aurora and Toronto…

JA: Ideally, we would have a bit more to offer in this area, but yes, we are happy to have a few communities that offer something between the highrise condo and detached home. Townhomes, including stacked condo towns and midrise buildings, are sure to be a growing segment of the housing landscape. At Lindvest, we are always on the lookout for opportunities that may arise to allow us to deliver homes in this category.

HM: What’s next for Lindvest? Where’s your next major project?

JA: We have a lot of exciting things in the hopper, but up next, and something we are very excited about is a new, thoughtfully planned, community that we will be introducing in Brantford.

AND ON A PERSONAL NOTE…

If I wasn’t involved in homebuilding, I would: Likely be in some type of hospitality or service industry. I love people and the ability to engage and assist with all different kinds of people.

My greatest inspiration in this business is: The pioneers and visionaries who built the foundation of the industry we are blessed to work in today.

When I’m not at the office, I: Can often be found enjoying time with family and friends, riding a bike or watching a movie.

lindvest.com

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GTA condo sales and prices surge in the third quarter

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GTA condo sales and prices surge in the third quarter

GTA condo sales and prices both surged in the third quarter of 2019, according to the latest figures from the Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB). There were 6,407 condominium unit sales in the third quarter, up 11.1 per cent compared to Q3 2018, while average prices rose 5.8 per cent to $584,564.

“As economic conditions continue to be favourable for job growth in the Greater Toronto Area, people have continued to come to the city for work,” says TREB President Michael Collins. “Homeownership is important to many Canadians, and, as a relatively affordable housing option, condos in the GTA offer prospective buyers the chance to achieve their dreams of owning property.”

Year-over-year price growth in Toronto, which accounted for nearly 70 per cent of transactions, was slightly lower at 5.6 per cent, with an average price of $628,074.

Strong price growth above the rate of inflation was driven by tightening market conditions, with sales up and listings down relative to last year. One factor underpinning the dip in listings may be the fact that, according to CMHC data, new condominium apartment completions were down year-to-date through August relative to the same time frame in 2018. This may have translated into fewer investor-owned units being listed for sale in Q3 2019 compared to Q3 2018, TREB says.

“Condominium apartments are obviously a popular choice amongst first-time home-buyers,” says Jason Mercer, TREB’s chief market analyst. “Moreover, it is also important to remember that condominium apartments owned by investors represent a huge component of the GTA rental stock and certainly account for most additions to the rental stock, on net, over the past decade. With this in mind, a well-supplied condo segment will be important moving forward to ensure that we can keep up with population growth driven by a strong and diverse regional economy.”

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Canada-China realty professional association caters to growing demand from Chinese Canadians

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Canada-China realty professional association caters to growing demand from Chinese Canadians

It’s no secret that buyers from all over the world are attracted to real estate opportunities in the Greater Toronto Area. Chinese Canadians, in particular, are showing a strong appetite for homes and investments in the GTA, and the Canada-China Realty Professional Association (CCRPA) is building a collection of services to offer these influential clients. Steven Sun, president of the CCRPA, explains what the organization offers – including the upcoming Real Home Expo 2019, Oct. 5 and 6 at Le Parc Banquet & Conference Centre in Richmond Hill.

HOMES Magazine: Real Home Expo, with co-organizer Jade Expo, is the largest home show in Canada that caters to the Chinese Canadian community. What does the event offer these prospective homebuyers?

Steven Sun: Based on our past successes, we have upgraded the scale of the event this year and are happy to welcome well-known companies such as Times Group, Sotheby’s International Realty, Reliance Home Comfort, Menkes Developments, Tridel, Kingdom Developments, Z Square Group, CoStone Group, Gemterra Developments, CIM Development, Foxwood Developments, Woodside Group and others. More and more real estate development companies are recognizing the potential purchasing power of the Chinese community. We are pleased to be the platform for these well-established developers to conduct business within.

We have also introduced a “HomeMania Festival” to bring special discount offers for homebuyers and homeowners. Ethan Allen, Reliance Home Comfort, PageOne Furniture & Lighting and others will be offering exclusive deals for attendees.

HM: Beyond a strong exhibitor lineup, what’s in the event for attendees and prospective homebuyers?

Sun: Real Home Expo fills in gaps in real estate and home exhibition in the northern GTA. It is recognized by the governments of Canada and China, being the largest local Chinese real estate and home exhibition and sales platform, catering to northern GTA residents who are well known by their purchasing power and high living standard. Prospective homebuyers can meet professionals to help them purchase a new home, renovate an existing property, furnish their home space inside and out, and provide the day-to-day services.

HM: How else does the association help homebuyers, on an ongoing basis, after the Expo?

Sun: We are the largest Chinese real estate organization in Canada, with more than 8,000 realtors, developers, builders, financial reps and service providers. We provide our clients and attendees with professional knowledge, services and advice during and after the exhibition.

We also plan to host a number of seminars and real estate related events over the next few months, to provide guidance to clients and homebuyers on every single step in the home purchasing process.

HM: What areas of the GTA do Chinese Canadians, or newcomers to Toronto from China, find especially appealing?

Sun: Downtown and midtown Toronto for are popular for condos, while in North York, they look for both high- and lowrise properties. York Region areas such as Markham, Richmond Hill and Vaughan are the hottest and the most popular areas for Chinese homebuyers and investors.

HM: What housing types are they looking for most? Lowrise homes to live in? Condos as investment properties?

Sun: Most commonly, lowrise as a primary home and condos as investments. However, since the introduction of foreign buyer taxes, many are looking at businesses and commercial opportunities such as plazas, apartment buildings, farms, vineyards and cottages. Some of the biggest vineyards in the Niagara area are now owned by Chinese immigrants. Plus, a great number of Chinese immigrants are investing in GTA new condo projects.

HM: How is the CCRPA growing? For example, a couple of Chinese developers have recently launched projects in Toronto. Are you actively involved in this… trying to encourage such activity and acting as a liaison for Chinese background developers?

Sun: Yes. Most of the active real estate developers are among our board of directors. We are their business partner in promoting their condo projects and lowrise community developments. Our 8,000 realty professionals use their connections to spread these homebuying and investment opportunities within the GTA and Vancouver communities. Our prospective clients are given first-hand information and exclusive offers.

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Building and development brings benefits to the GTA

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Building and development brings benefits to the GTA

In many of my columns, I focus on the need to increase housing supply in the GTA and the regulatory and policy barriers that are leading to shortfalls. This issue, I’d like to highlight the benefits that the building and land development sector brings to the region. When all of the data is unpacked, many people are surprised to find that the industry is an economic engine of the region.

Each year, members of our industry construct about 40,000 homes of various types — detached single family homes, townhomes and highrise apartments — as well as countless commercial buildings and, increasingly, purpose-built rentals. To get the job done, they employ people in more than 120,000 jobs, both on-site in the trades and construction positions that carry out the building, and off-site in the planning, design, architectural, engineering, financial and support services, that enable the physical construction. These are local jobs that will stay local. The industry adds more than $7 billion in wages to the GTA economy, which in turn get spent and support the people and companies that provide goods and services to those employed in construction and development. New home building contributes $17 billion in investment value in the GTA.

When home renovations and repairs, including those carried out by BILD’s RenoMark renovators, are added to the mix, the numbers are even more impressive. The home renovation and repair sector employs people in more than 150,000 jobs, bringing the overall total of jobs created by new-home building, renovation and repair to about 270,000, a significant portion of the GTA job market. The renovation and home repair segment has a payroll of $9 billion and represents $16 billion in investment value.

All this activity results in new communities and renewal of existing housing stock — buildings and infrastructure where people can live, work and play. It also results in significant tax revenue for all levels of government, which is reinvested in the programs and services that support our society.

Aside from the income and corporate taxes that result from homebuilding and renovations, each home constructed contributes to the public coffers. A 2018 study commissioned by BILD and conducted by Altus Group found that the fees, taxes and charges applied by all levels of government and rolled into the cost of a new home accounted for 22 per cent of an average GTA single-family home (or $186,500) and 24 per cent of an average highrise apartment (or $121,500).

About a third of that is the HST that flows to the federal and provincial governments. Approximately another third consists of development charges that go to the regional and municipal governments to fund infrastructure, roads, transit and municipally provided social services such as affordable housing and daycare. Other government charges on new homes include parkland dedication, which municipalities collect to support new parks; land transfer tax, which goes to the province; and in the case of Toronto, municipal land transfer tax, which goes to the city.

Every new home built provides a place for a family to live, supports three full-time jobs, generates economic activity that supports the broader economy, and lastly, provides tax revenues for all levels of government, supporting government programs, services and infrastructure enjoyed by all residents of the GTA. The building, land development, and professional renovation industries are truly engines of our economy.

Dave Wilkes is President and CEO of the Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD).

bild.ca

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GTA new home sales

GTA new home sales in July remain strong

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GTA new home sales in July remain strong

GTA new home sales

It was a busy month by July standards, as sales for both condos and single-family homes were up year-over-year, according to the latest statistics from the Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD).

There were 566 new single-family homes, including detached, linked and semi-detached houses and townhouses, sold in July, according to Altus Group, BILD’s official source for new home market intelligence. Although sales increased 136 per cent from last July, they were 29 per cent below the 10-year average.

Sales of new condominium apartments in low-, medium- and highrise buildings, stacked townhouses and loft units, with 2,297 units sold, were up 22 per cent from July 2018 and 42 per cent above the 10-year average.

Brisk openings

“Typically, buyers take a bit of a vacation from the new condo apartment market in July” says Patricia Arsenault, Altus Group’s executive vice-president, Data Solutions. “This year was no different, although the decline in sales was less pronounced than usual, resulting in the second strongest July on record. While few new projects launched in July, sales at projects opened in June were brisk.”

The benchmark price of new condominium apartments increased from last month, to $838,824, up 8.3 per cent over the last 12 months. The benchmark price of new single-family homes decreased slightly from last month, to $1.09 million, down 4.5 per cent over the last 12 months, continuing its moderating trend in 2019.

ALSO READ: Detached home sales and prices roar back to life in first half of 2019 – ReMax

Strong July sales, paired with traditional fewer summer openings, saw inventory decrease in July to 12,873 condominium units and 4,409 single-family homes. Remaining inventory includes units in preconstruction projects, in projects currently under construction and in completed buildings.

Total new home sales in the first seven months of 2019, at 20,268 units sold, are up 45 per cent from the same period in 2018 and nine per cent below the 10-year average.

Price gap narrows

“The price gap between single-family homes and condos continues to shrink, leaving new-home buyers with a lack of choice,” says David Wilkes, BILD president and CEO. “We must provide more ‘missing middle’ type development that can support transit in established neighbourhoods. More ‘gentle density’ housing in the form of midrise buildings, condos with street level retail, and stacked townhouses is needed to give consumers more choice.”

 

New home sales by municipality, July 2019

Municipality Condominium units Single-family homes Total
Region 2019 2018 2017 2019 2018 2017 2019 2018 2017
Durham 29 6 27 118 44 60 147 50 87
Halton 59 46 18 82 25 18 141 71 36
Peel 415 150 148 142 87 0 557 237 148
Toronto 1,522 1,557 1,118 46 8 6 1,568 1,565 1,124
York 272 120 461 178 76 34 450 196 495
GTA 2,297 1,879 1,772 566 240 118 2,863 2,119 1,890

Source: Altus Group

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Behind the numbers : The GTA housing market in June 2019

Examining the GTA affordable homeownership crisis

 

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Behind the numbers : The GTA housing market in June 2019

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Behind the numbers : The GTA housing market in June 2019

The story of the June market is one of increased demand and constrained supply. With sales up 10.4 per cent on a year-over-year basis to 8,860 and new listings down by 0.4 per cent to 15,816, it’s clear that market conditions have tightened.

With sales accounting for a greater share of listings, competition between buyers has arguably increased in many parts of the GTA. Not surprisingly, increased competition between buyers has underpinned moderate year-over-year increases in home prices. The average selling price for June was up by three per cent over June 2018 to $832,703. Through the first half of 2019, price growth has been driven by sales of higher-density dwellings such as semi-detached houses, townhomes and condos. This makes sense given that these are typically less expensive home types that are becoming more desirable options for buyers under the new Office of Superintendent of Financial Services (OSFI) mortgage stress test regime.

Given that we expect continued growth in the GTA population over the long-term, we should also expect the demand for ownership and rental housing to increase as well. The question becomes how do we ensure there is adequate housing supply to meet demand, keeping the market balanced with a sustainable pace of price growth over time?

Part of the answer seems to lie in building more mid-density housing to provide GTA buyers with more affordable housing options. There needs to be more of this type of housing to bridge the gap between condominium apartments and detached houses. We are encouraged by the recent vote by Toronto City Council to move forward on tackling missing middle housing, and the consultation launched by the Province on building different types of housing that people need and can afford.

Finding ways to add more semi-detached, townhomes and plexes, for example, to existing neighbourhoods and creating new developments with a full continuum of housing options, must be a key component of municipal, provincial and federal housing plans and policies moving forward.

As we move toward a federal election this fall, it will also be crucial for those vying for public office to make clear their thoughts on housing policy, including policies associated with mortgage lending such as the OSFI two percentage point mortgage stress test and allowable amortization periods on insured mortgages – two areas where some flexibility is arguably warranted.

Reconsidering these policies, with an eye toward flexibility, could help ensure that housing policy can adapt to different stages of the economic cycle and avoid volatility brought on by short-term market distortions.

Michael Collins is president of the Toronto Real Estate Board, a professional association that represents 54,500 professional realtor members in the Greater Toronto Area. You can contact him at trebpres@trebnet.com. For updates on the real estate market, visit trebhome.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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In Conversation With… Zev Mandelbaum, President and CEO, Altree Developments

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In Conversation With… Zev Mandelbaum, President and CEO, Altree Developments

Imagine growing up – quite literally – in the development industry, and becoming a third-generation builder. The lessons imparted by your father, and grandfather before him, and how such family mentoring would help shape who you are today and how you view not just developing projects but growing communities. Zev Mandelbaum, president and CEO of Altree Developments, is one such builder. We caught up with him to discuss two of the company’s new signature projects, and more.

Condo Life: What made Altree decide to choose The Queensway area in Etobicoke for your latest project, Thirty Six Zorra? Was it more a product of land availability, or is there something about the area in particular?

Zev Mandelbaum: Altree chose The Queensway for two principal reasons – ability for high-density development and ample surrounding amenities and entertainment for the public.

As Toronto expands and becomes a larger and more metropolitan city, fewer places are designated to allow for high-density development, and The Queensway was an area we could develop a community of this size. The land that spans from The Queensway to Islington, trickling into the Gardiner, is designated to allow for high-density condominium towers. So, when I saw that opportunity, I knew we would have the ability to build an entire neighbourhood from scratch.

In addition, the neighbourhood already has ample amenities, including the Cineplex Cinemas and Sherway Gardens just down the road, many restaurants and a tremendous parkland that was already planned and under construction at the time. We felt The Queensway would be the most optimal neighbourhood to live, work, play and grow a family. It’s the perfect opportunity to expand on a loyal community that was already present within the area.

CL: What do you foresee as the typical buyer profile? Singles, young families…?

ZM: As urbanization increases, condominium living will become the norm for the city dweller and lead to a whole new way of living. As people change their mindsets to own a home with a white picket fence and large backyard, the shift will be to a more urban lifestyle where amenities are at the tip of ones’ fingertips, with less worry about the maintenance of the property.

Thirty Six Zorra is going to contain a wide selection of amenities that will target all different types of buyers, from singles, to young couples, as well as those looking to downsize. This building will also cater to a larger mix of buyers because of the price point and affordability that will come with these units (compared to those found in the downtown core). Toronto is seeing a year-over-year increase in price per square foot of condominiums within the core, making condo options downtown less and less feasible to many working Torontonians. As a result, we also see a lot of Millennial demographic and end users gravitating to this particular building.

CL: Amenities are becoming an increasingly important part of any condo project – features that speak to the character of the local area and the target buyer demographic. What are the key differentiating amenities at Thirty Six Zorra?

ZM: The way we’ve approached this project is recognizing that The Queensway already has a great mix of retail amenities. For Thirty Six Zorra, we wanted to communicate that this building is really somewhere where prospective buyers can live, work and play on a daily basis. The Queensway offers a plethora of shopping and culinary experiences, and we wanted to bring this vibe into the building. We wanted to create something that really unites people by adding amenities focused on enjoying the company of others – getting off our phones and tablets and hanging out with one another. The building features a gym, a dry sauna, outdoor pool, and a rooftop patio ideal for throwing a great summer party.

The most unique amenities include a rec room that features a social space with various games for everyone to relax with friendly competition after a long day of work. We also added in a demonstration kitchen to allow for a communal space for future homeowners to share their passions and creativity through cooking. With the freelance working economy becoming so popular, there will also be multiple cohesive working spaces where buyers can base their office and hold meetings from the co-working space, the lounges, outside patio or parks that surround the project.

CL: You recently entered into a strategic partnership with EllisDon for Thirty Six Zorra. What are the reasons behind this decision, and how will it benefit the project? 

ZM: As a developer, ever since childhood I have loved to watch buildings being constructed and grow. I sought a partnership with EllisDon Capital – the best to do just that – build this community. My goal has not been to merely build a building, but to team up with someone as part of a strategic partnership where we could align our values and goals, leading to a long-term working relationship.

EllisDon is the number one leader in the construction industry in Canada, has built more buildings than anyone else and is set on building the best buildings for communities. Being able to have a strong alliance with EllisDon, not only as a constructor, but also as a fully dedicated partner in the project, gives us the longevity not only to do this project spectacularly well, but also to create more fantastic buildings in the city of Toronto.

CL: Etobicoke certainly as a price point advantage over downtown Toronto and elsewhere in the 416. How long do you think this will last, given more and more developers are seeing the potential of the area?

ZM: As Toronto and the downtown core continues to grow and pierce new heights within the price range of condominium projects, the affordability of units in this area becomes a farther stretch for many people. The multiplier effect means that once a city gets more attention, it gets more amenities and attracts more people who want to live there, just like New York City.

An economist once told me, 30 years ago Manhattan was overpriced, 20 years ago Manhattan was overpriced, 10 years ago Manhattan was overpriced and it’s still overpriced today. I believe the lesson in that was when you have a city that is desirable and continues to g row, it just builds upon itself. As it happens, when the price in Toronto becomes more and more unaffordable, people are starting to look just outside the core to acquire something that is within their price range. Since the pricing in the downtown core is so high, it is only reasonable to think that a market just outside the city, where average square foot prices are in the mid $8 00’s per sq. ft., there is more room to grow.

However, even with this room to grow, these areas will still remain at a $300 to $400 per sq. ft. discount from the downtown core. This is exactly where The Queensway market is, and future homeowners will see this value as well.

CL: Altree has plenty of other projects in the Toronto area. What are the common qualities or characteristics about these that speak to Altree’s mission, vision… that really say, yes, this is an Altree project? 

ZM: Altree is all about understanding neighbourhoods! When we decide on a neighbourhood, we place importance on understanding the character and feel that is already in place, so we are able to blend in. The common denominator of all our projects is that we are generally not coming into an area where there are other buildings in the immediate vicinity, meaning that the architecture of the area really has no identity. We need to create an identity within that building that is unique to the character of that neighbourhood. Essentially, we marry a building with the neighbourhood around it.

The most important vision to Altree, is we look for where a community is going to be in the next five to 10 years, not where it is today. It is difficult to do this, as humans are very “touch and feel,” where if something is not there, it’s hard to visualize. When we first look at a site, we analyze the area and really understand the core values and characteristics of a neighbourhood and build on how we understand it to be in the future. Once we understand this, the sky’s the limit. So, if you look at all our projects, we are entrenched in neighbourhoods that have the fibre of growth already existing.

CL: Forest Hill Private Residences is another milestone project from Altree Developments, in a high-profile neighbourhood. What is it about Forest Hill that will stand out from other projects in the area?

ZM: Forest Hill Private Residences is a unique building. When we first saw the project and the piece of land and understood how the zoning would come to be, we noticed that this was a project that would not only be on the cusp of Forest Hill but would be a statement to the neighbourhood.

Seeing that every floor from the third to the ninth has terraces – units with tremendous outdoor exposure – this aspect is one that is missing in buildings in the area and elsewhere in Toronto. Usable personal outdoor space while not having the responsibility of a lawn or backyard. There seems to be quite the gap between condominium and lowrise housing living. There are towers that span up 30 to 40 storeys with great views and exposure, but without much personal outdoor space. There are lowrise houses that have large lawns and backyards, but have become completely unaffordable. Forest Hill Private Residences is a project where we are marrying that outdoor and indoor space. Merging that indoor-outdoor lifestyle together in condominium living is a type of living that is missing in Toronto. It’s the missing middle between a home and a condo, and we are so happy that Forest Hill Private Residences will be able to bring this happy medium to the future homeowners.

CL: What is the current status, in terms of planning, sales launch, suite sizes and price range? 

ZM: Currently Forest Hill Private Residences is at the tail end of its zoning. We hope to have that completed by the end of the year and be in the market early next year, with units starting from 900 sq. ft. and up, so there are units catering to everyone.

On a Personal Note…

CL: You’re a third-generation developer… how has essentially growing up in the industry, with a strong family legacy, formed who you are and what you want Altree to become?

ZM: I have learned everything I know from my family. It all started with my grandfather, Sandy Hofstedter, who started H&R Developments 70 years ago. All I remember from a young boy was talk about buildings, neighbourhoods, construction and development. Dinner table talks were all about neighbourhoods in Toronto, the planning context and what we were doing to change it. So, to me, the only thing I have ever dreamt of was building buildings that add to Toronto – buildings that have names that people would look at. The satisfaction of being involved in developments that added to the city skyline, is something words can’t describe. My goal is to make sure Altree continues that legacy for my children for generations to come.

CL: You’ve had some other executive level stops in your career, at Marlin Spring and Lanterra Developments, for example. What did you learn – about development, housing or homebuyers – that aids you in your current role at Altree?

ZM: I started off working in all the family businesses, from H&R Developments to Lanterra Developments, until I formed Marlin Spring along with my two brother-in-laws. In each role, I specialized in the development industry, from acquisition to zoning to marketing to sales to construction to registration to warranty and all the way to the end. At each phase, I was able to delve deep into each aspect of condominium development. Anyone who regularly develops land can tell you that, when you’re a builder it’s all about perfection! It’s all about specialization, working the kinks out of the design, taking that design and tweaking it until it’s perfect.

Working at Lanterra allowed me to see massive projects at macro levels and being able to work alongside the team. When I formed Marlin Spring, I was able to take everything I learned from my family and work on different projects and partnerships. Now with Altree, I’m able to work on specific projects that interest me, allowing me to put my own stamp on this world.

CL: Your greatest inspiration in the development industry is:

ZM: My father and grandfather. For as long as I can remember, I have been inspired and awed by what they have accomplished – from so many great buildings in Toronto and so many artistic styles, to communities that have changed the landscape of the way we live. From ICE Condominiums to Maple Leaf Square, which has totally changed the south core of Toronto, to Murano and Burano that has completely changed the Bay St. strip, to many other areas that both H&R Developments and Lanterra Developments have been involved in shaping.

CL: When not at the office or in the field…:

ZM: I’m spending time with my three children and wife, exploring Toronto’s neighbourhoods and parks and exploring off beaten tracks of Toronto’s gorgeous ravine systems.

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