Separating the wheat from the chaff
In the age of the highest high-rises, breathtaking backdrops are becoming rare
There have been a lot of changes in the high-rise field over the past two decades. Not so long ago, high-rise was a small specialty sub-market aimed at a limited number of empty nesters and professionals who wanted a maintenance-free lifestyle in a central urban location. The housing market then was predominantly oriented to low-rise, and the high-rise component was less than 20 per cent of total sales. That has since changed significantly.Today the GTA has “come of age” and, like other major European and North American cities — London, Paris, New York, Chicago and Miami — condos are a flourishing commodity and often the homebuyer’s first choice for a place to live. In the last few years high-rise sales have consistently exceeded low-rise. The reason is, in part, because of a restrictive low-rise development policy, but also, because high-rise offers significant advantages to the homeowner — great central locations with proximity to shopping, transportation and cultural facilities; freedom from the automobile; wonderful recreational amenities on-site; and, of course, a carefree “resort-style” lifestyle usually found only in five-star hotels.
Another factor is price. The cost of an average new high-rise home is well below that of the average new low-rise home. According to real estate analysts RealNet Canada Inc., the cost of an average new home, as of September 2012, is $437,265 for high-rise and $623,245 for low-rise.
But for anyone shopping for a new condominium, the array of choices out there is bewildering. Currently, there are 428 active high-rise sites being marketed. The following graph puts all of this in context by charting active high-rise sites since 2001, which is the first year that statistics were gathered:
As you can see, the number of high-rises for sale has almost doubled in the last 11 years. So, how does one make an informed decision about where to buy? You can rely on the same criteria we use when choosing a high-rise site to develop: location and views.
Location may be obvious, but it cannot be emphasized enough. Choose a “crossroads” location, where all the action is — at the centre of major intersections, within walking distance of transportation routes and convenience shopping, close to cultural facilities. Be careful, as there are currently many sites out there that I would call “B-grade” because they don’t fulfill these requirements. Location is one of the most important factors in determining resale value and appreciation, as well as your enjoyment of your home while you’re living there.
Views are another very important consideration, one that’s often overlooked. At the Conservatory Group, we always try to choose sites that guarantee all our homeowners a great view. Although not always possible, it’s a major criterion for us before we purchase a new high-rise site, and it should also be yours. When you buy a “piece of the sky,” make sure you’ve got a view of it because that’s your window into the world. When my late father, Teddy Libfeld, moved into his own condo, he valued the calming effects of Toronto’s night skyline, all the way from Thornhill.
At the Conservatory Group, we design our communities to maximize views for the homeowners. A good example is our Milan community, currently under construction at Yonge and Davenport, right in the heart of the city. Milan’s north and east sides offer unobstructed views of historic Rosedale Valley, allowing you to enjoy the fall colours right from your living room. To the south, the CN Tower seems within reach, while mere steps to the west is the always-trendy, always-vibrant Yorkville. Face any direction and you will be dazzled. Milan is a single 37-storey glass tower on an 8-storey podium, which maximizes views to both the valley below and the city beyond it. Truly, it’s a one-of-a-kind opportunity and one — well, four — of the finest views in Toronto.
Milan is now under construction, which should be another of your criteria when purchasing your home: Is the project already being built and when will it be completed? Also under construction is our Infinity community, located between the Rogers Centre and the Air Canada Centre, on Lower Simcoe, a block from Harbourfront, with direct access to Toronto’s unique PATH underground walkway system. Infinity was the first condominium community to be built in the area, and we — and all our homeowners — think the best one there.
We’re currently selling our third and fourth (final) towers, and they’re worth checking out. If you’re an east-ender, our Altitude community next to the Scarborough Town Centre and McCowan LRT station may be the right choice. It’s built and ready to move in. We also have two other prime communities available now — Waterways, which just opened, a unique site right on the waterfront; and Mirage, a “Mississauga City Centre” condo, in a crossroads location next to Square One.
You can find details on these Conservatory Group high-rise communities below and on the next page. Remember, shop carefully. Buy the best location and best views, and you won’t go wrong!