Home buyers needing room to grow have even fewer options within the City of Toronto, according to the latest market numbers. The Toronto Real Estate Board’s November report finds the average detached house price in the 416 has hit $1,345,962 – a 32.2% leap from last year.
That means anyone who needs more than two bedrooms is facing huge price premiums – and as most families don’t have a million to spare, they’re forced to abandon their dreams of detached living.
While condos are still a relatively affordable entry point into the market – TREB reports the average unit could be had for $471,256 last month – those looking to upgrade their homes face steep buyer gridlock, as Toronto real estate prices have far outstripped wages and savings in the past few years. Consider this: with an income of $72,830 (the median income in Toronto according to Statistics Canada), a buyer could expect to qualify to buy a home worth $584,767. That’s less than half of what you’d need to purchase a detached house in the city, though many condos and townhouses fit comfortably in this range.
Stated President Larry Cerqua in TREB’s Q3 Condominium report, “The annual rate of condominium apartment price growth has accelerated over the past year as the supply of units available for sale become more constrained while demand remained strong. Price growth remains well-below those for low-rise home types. Condo apartments continue to be an affordable entry point into homeownership for first-time buyers.”
More Families Choosing High-Rise Living
Many young families are flocking to the suburbs to buy houses at lower price point, as evident by booming activity in the 905; but “driving until you qualify” isn’t an option for every Torontonian. As a result, there’s a growing trend of young families choosing to live in condos, sacrificing space for the conveniences of downtown living.
The increase of families choosing high-rise living means demand for multi-bedroom units is also on the rise. It’s a message developers are responding to by upping the number of roomier options in buildings, and marketing them directly to an end user – someone who plans to live in the condo, rather than an investor buying on concept. For example, new developments, such as the ones at the foot of Sherbourne Commons, include more larger units aimed at family living.
“This year we have seen the introduction of larger suites aimed at purchasers who have been priced out of the low-rise market,” stated Brian Tuckey, president of the Building Industry and Land Development Association. BILD’s latest report finds the average condo unit size is now 809 square feet, up from 767 year over year. The cost per square foot has also increased to $601, up $26 from last year. According to BILD, condo sales accounted for 60% of the 34,736 home sales in the GTA between January and September, as the supply of low-rise housing dries up – only 764 detached homes were listed for sale in August.
Keep Neighbourhood Top of Mind
The quality of neighbourhood where your condo is located can hugely impact the quality of your family’s lifestyle. Condos located in already established areas are likely better suited to a growing family’s needs as newer builds tend to be in places where local businesses and infrastructure haven’t quite caught up.
It’s most important to determine whether there are school and daycare options in the area. In many newer downtown Toronto neighbourhoods, these facilities may be a few years off, despite the growing number of small children. For example, in Liberty Village and Fort York, kids of all ages must be bussed to schools in other neighbourhoods. In CityPlace, where the population has rapidly grown over the past decade, it was only recently confirmed that two schools and a community centre are slated for development.
Is the Building Kid-Friendly?
As many condos are built with the sophisticated young professional in mind, some may be more suited to family life than others. Condos in downtown locations may attract more night-life loving clientele than others, and the resulting increased noise should be taken into consideration.
Other buildings may feature common areas that aren’t so kid-friendly, like outdoor hot tubs, party areas and gyms. If your building’s common areas don’t accommodate families well, is it situated close to parks and other green space where your child can play and mingle? Are there community centres in the area that offer after school and weekend programs?
As well, some condo boards are more family-focused than others. While this may not directly impact your family’s quality of life in a condo, it could mean the difference between social events especially for families (think lobby trick or treating or movie nights), and adult-only functions. A family-friendly building may also be open to offering services designed for family needs – for example, on-site daycare service is quickly becoming a hot commodity!
Work with a Pro
Ensure your real estate agent understands your family’s needs and expectations while on the home search so they can help you find the best option within your budget. Is condo life going to be a long-term solution for your family, or do you still plan to move up in the market eventually? Is it worth finding a unit with a convertible space, such as a den, in case your family expands faster than you expect? A good agent can help you navigate these potential needs, as and guide you to neighbourhoods with the best family qualify of life – arguably the most important feature when choosing your real estate.