Condominiums - like so much else in our economy today - are going through a transition. Here we take a look at recent past, present, and near/distant future scenarios in condo developments.
Good-Times Glitter of the Past
During the boom of recent years, the condo market reflected the lives of the rich and urbane: sleek fitness studios, pools, steam rooms, spa services, concierge, imported counter tops, mouldings and other drippings of fine living were standard in many condo developments.
Condo living was for the wealthy, rarely attainable for first-time home buyers or young families. Loaded with non-optional amenities that constituted the equivalent of the cost of country-club membership on top of the condo's selling price.
Today's Condo Chic - Basic, Affordable
But an interesting trend has been born of the recession, when sales came screeching to a virtual halt starting last summer: the Practical, Affordable Condo. Starting at about $380 per square foot, recession-friendly condos are broken up into smaller, plainer units with pared-down amenities in both the apartments themselves and those shared in the building.
Not the traditional condo owners' cup of tea... but these new 'light' condos are selling - and they're pretty much the only ones in the country doing so right now.
Builders are starting to see the need to redesign condos to:
• Suit younger, first time buyers
• Drop prices significantly
• Offer incentives to save condo buyers even more money
For example, Empire Communities' new downtown Toronto development, Fly Condos, redesigned their condo apartments to be smaller, more basic and dropped the price significantly - and units that weren't moving at all started selling like hotcakes.
The condo resale market remains more brisk than the new condo market. Looking-to-start-a-family types who had chosen a condo as their entry into home ownership are now taking their profit from selling their unit and putting it towards a house (having lined up a low interest mortgage.)
Builders are also offering incentive packages to entice buyers into new condos, such as Toronto's Cresford Condos, which recently offered buyers 1 year free maintenance.
The Future of Condo Living
Now, imagine a condo with no maintenance fees... ever! Yes, it's in the works - at a eco-friendly condo development in Milton, Ontario - the first of its kind in Canada.
The 150-unit GreenLife building can afford to offer fee-free living to buyers because the building, owned by developer Del Ridge Homes Inc., will produce enough renewable energy to cover all operating costs - including wind turbines, ground-source heating and cooling, hollow-core concrete floors, rooftop solar panels, R50 roof insulation,, insulated-concrete-form walls, motion-activated common area lighting and solar-powered parking lot lights. Marketing of GreenLife begins next month; units average 1,000 square feet, with prices starting at $190,000.
Other eco-leading condo developments in Canada include a Vancouver development that next year will offer 220 volt plug-in capability in some of the parking spaces for residents' electric cars.
For those of you who don't snag a spot in a fee-free development, think about buying a condo now vs. later - when repair and maintenance companies start charging harmonized sales tax (HST), thereby driving up condo fees.
Way-Out Future.. or Not so Far?
Running out of land space (and not yet ready to populate Mars), condo builders are starting to visualize building developments underwater - specifically, at the bottom of Lake Ontario!
A Toronto native who is v-p of engineering at U.S. Submarines thinks it will be less than 30 years before people live there, with "breakthroughs in both building and air cleansing technologies allowing submerged condos. " Maybe even condos located near "lake-bottom attractions" such as shipwreck, The Sligo, near Toronto's shoreline.
Michael Schutte, now based in Oregon, is managing the construction of an underwater five-star hotel to open by the end of this year on the edge of a coral cliff on the lagoon floor 12 metres down, near Fiji.
Twenty-four undersea hotel suites and apartments will cover 51 square metres of ocean floor. The cost will be US $15,000 per person for a week. OK, not necessarily in your snack-bracket!
Are you considering buying a condo? What benefits in that purchase, if any, do you see resulting from the recession?