The Canadian Press
The appeal of so-called shoebox condos – no larger than the size of two average living rooms – will face its first real test in Canada this year, with an influx of the compact homes set to hit the country’s largest real estate market.
Comment: Um, what? People have been buying them from the builders, so what is new?
Investors are betting on big returns from young renters who can’t afford to buy in the red-hot real estate market and don’t mind living in a unit, about 500 square feet, where their dining table might have to fold down into a bed.
Comment: We have had 400-500sf condos for quite some time now, they are not new. And they sell.
Although developers are pitching micro condos as an affordable entry point into the market, brokers say it’s mostly investors – catering to a demographic of young professionals increasingly flocking to the downtown core – that’s driving demand.
Comment: Says who? Sounds like an assumption more than anything. Without proof, that is just someone’s guess.
Micro suites tend to fetch higher rents per square foot than larger units, as many renters are willing to live in a slightly smaller space in order to save a bit on costs and live closer to the city core.
Comment: All property commands more per square foot as size goes down. To buy or rent, this is also not news.
Shaun Hildebrand, vice president of condo research firm Urbanation, says condos under 500 square feet can bring in well over $3 per square foot, while the rest of the market averages around $2.50 or $2.60.
There are nearly 3,000 micro condo units under construction in Toronto that are slated to be completed this year, Hildebrand says. If investors snatch them up, that could spur developers to build more of the micro units to satisfy demand from investors.
Comment: And if they are being built, they have already been bought and paid for. They aren’t being built on spec by the developer, hoping to list and sell them once they are complete. They have already been snatched up.
“This is something that the market and developers are going to be paying very close attention to in 2015,” Hildebrand said. “Sometimes we don’t know how strong demand is until we’re shown the supply.”
The challenge comes in securing a mortgage for the micro units. Brokers say Canada’s five biggest banks are hesitant to provide financing for units below a certain minimum square footage, concerned that investors will sell off the properties if the housing market starts to slide.
Comment: What brokers are these? Banks are hesitant to lend on a variety of properties, for a variety of reasons. If the banks had any concerns about future price drops, they wouldn’t lend to anyone, would they?
“Because these units under 500 square feet are relatively new, no one’s tested the market to see how desirable they are.”
Comment: That does not figure into the thinking of any bank. That is just stupid.
The major banks say the size of a property is only one several factors in the decision to offer financing.
“There are minimum square-footage guidelines that vary market to market, but the most important factor is the condo’s marketability,” CIBC spokeswoman Caroline Van Hasselt said in an email.
Comment: And it would have to do with size as compared to price.
Marketability is determined by factors such as the building’s location, whether the unit has a separate bedroom and whether it comes with a parking spot.
Marcus Tzaferis, the founder of mortgage brokerage MorCan Direct, says some buyers end up turning to credit unions or private lenders who charge higher interest rates.
Comment: Only because they want to buy a small condo? Or are there other reasons people turn to a lender that is not one of the big 5?
It’s not only the banks that are leery of micro-living. In Vancouver, city bylaws dictate that condo units can be no smaller than 398 square feet, although city council has occasionally loosened the restriction down to 320 for rental-only units.
Jon Stovell, president of Reliance Properties, would like to see the restrictions scrapped.
“Vancouver has this tremendous affordability problem and yet the city of Vancouver has just gone completely tone deaf to these needs,” the developer says. “They’re keeping a lot of young people out of the market.”
Stovell has proposed a development at Davie and Hornby Streets that would feature a number of “nanosuites” measuring under 200 square feet. But the proposal is mired in bureaucracy, as the city decides whether the units, which fetch higher rents than larger spaces do, could drive up land values, and exacerbate Vancouver’s affordability problem.
Vancouver and Toronto were identified as among the most unaffordable real estate markets in the recent international Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey. In Vancouver, the report said the median home price was $704,800 while, Toronto, it was $482,900.
Comment: Median property price in the GTA was $602,110 as of mid-February. In the 416 it is much higher.
Latif also wants to ensure that any communities where micro condos are built have the services needed – from parks to libraries to late-night coffee shops – to support a population of condo-dwellers who will be spending a lot of their time outside of their homes.
“It’s about making sure you’ve got a vibrant community around you that can support you living in a smaller unit,” he says.
Contact Laurin Jeffrey for more information – 416-388-1960
Laurin Jeffrey is a Toronto real estate agent with Century 21 Regal Realty.
He did not write these articles, he just reproduces them here for people who
are interested in Toronto real estate. He does not work for any builders.