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Lauren Ferranti-Ballem, National Post
When complete strangers buy into a condo building, they’re in for a big surprise. It doesn’t take long before they’re going for a swim with one of their neighbours and befriending others at the pub, on the treadmill, or in the shops downstairs. Then it dawns on them: They’ve lucked in to a vibrant neighbourhood — and life is good.
Let the kids have their condos. Let them fill their glittering jewel boxes in the city sky and live the adult life of maintenance fees, maxed credit cards and weekday hangovers. But as we well know, silly readers, condos aren’t just for kids. In fact, their elders, the ones who have flown the empty nest for a smaller, more sensational pad, may just be having more fun.
Valerie Rabold and her husband sold the family home in Markham and decamped for London recently — lofts that is. With their daughter on her way to university, the couple purchased their Esplanade condo four years ago. In the 12 months they’ve lived there, they have made an admirable effort to get a taste for the St. Lawrence Market neighbourhood.
“We don’t eat much at home anymore,” Ms. Rabold says. “There are just too many reasons not to.” Among their favourite spots only steps away, The Hot House Café, The Jersey Giant pub and Jason George, and, in winter, when they’re willing only to dash from the elevator to table, the brand new Keg outpost, Spaghetti Factory, Scotland Yard and Fionn MacCool’s, all in a row right below their building.
With two other couples of foodie friends nearby, the six have made a pact to experiment: dinner at a new restaurant every month from now on. On the rare nights they do stay in, the Rabolds entertain on their large private, flower-studded terrace. Between meals, they enjoy meeting up at the St. Lawrence Market for both groceries and antiques and strolling the grounds of St. James Park a few blocks north. They have tickets to the opera, are members of the Art Gallery of Ontario, and marvel at the steady stream of action that often shuts down the streets: festivals like Woofstock, bike races and the occasional Hollywood production. “There’s never a dull moment,” Ms. Rabold says. “We should have made the move years ago.”
Just west is the site of 300 Front Street, a Tridel development at the foot of the CN Tower. When Niyousha Falaknazi, a 34-year-old banker, moves into her loft in the summer of 2012, she imagines attending all of the consumer shows at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre without having to stress about parking, and spending lots of time eating out, taking nighttime walks along Queen’s Quay and entertaining guests in a private cabana lounge around the building’s rooftop pool. “I want to be close to the lake and where it’s all happening,” she says. “People keep asking me where I will buy my groceries, but for me it’s more important to consider where — which bars and restaurants — I’ll spend my nights.”
Rooftop infinity pools, paparazzi-proof private cabanas, fire pits and outdoor kitchens, bars and showers — this ain’t Miami, it’s the future of amenities for Toronto condo dwellers. Situated as they are in bustling neighbourhoods, developers are nevertheless making a strong case for staying home. Renata Casey, a 28-year-old professional, can’t wait until it’s her turn to host family Thanksgiving — in the party room that spills on to a rooftop terrace 55 storeys high. The term party room may not be apt — it evokes stained carpet and folding chairs and tables. The amenity space at UCondos, Ms. Casey’s future home in the heart of Yorkville, is designed with the clean lines and soft lighting of a modern lounge, and an anything-but-modest skyline backdrop. “I can’t wait to share this view with my guests,” she says. “I almost prefer to stay in with these kinds of amenities.”
As she currently lives in the area, Ms. Casey’s not at a loss when she is forced to go out. She brunches with croissants at Le Pain Quotidien, uses the University of Toronto’s verdant campus for runs, and spends special occasions on One’s wraparound patio.
Shawn Foley, a first-time buyer at Nicholas Residences, just south of Bloor, enthusiastically adds to the list of quintessential Yorkville meeting places. Though his building isn’t slated for occupancy until spring of 2013, as he works in the area, he’s getting a head start, establishing residency on the patio at Hemingway’s, and classics like The Pilot and Roof Lounge at the Park Hyatt.
On the subject of high-end hotels and their swanky amenities, both The King Edward and Ritz-Carlton residences will play up their social spaces, with banquette-filled, oversized lobbies and buzzing bars. In the thick of the black-tie district, hemmed in by Roy Thompson Hall, a handful of theatres and the new film fest headquarters, the Ritz will offer a 21st-floor sky lounge for residents only, while one of Toronto’s oldest and most renowned meeting places, the King Eddy’s Concert Bar, will see a facelift. On the very same day she learned the historical hotel was converting a number of units to permanent residences, Nalina Williams, a self-employed event planner, purchased two condos in the building. “I love the history of the hotel and the area,” Ms. Williams says. “I look forward to entertaining my clients in the famous bar.”
There’s certainly no dearth of social options for residents of the new condos coming to downtown — among other notable mentions: the green space under the Gardiner that’s being prepped as a pedestrian-friendly outdoor vestibule for Panorama, a condo project by Raw Design architects that’s currently being occupied; the cobblestoned streets and niche boutiques leading to Gooderham in the Distillery District; and the deluxe gaming room at Chaz on Charles, sponsored by Sony and equipped with multiple screens, surround sound, wireless and leather articulating chairs that gamers could spend hours in — as if they needed convincing.
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President of the Toronto Real Estate Board
Toronto Star Column
As of July 1st, the new Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) will be in effect and Ontario consumers will be hard-pressed to avoid this so called “tax on everything”. While that less than flattering nick name for the HST may be pretty close to the truth, it’s not completely accurate, especially when it comes to real estate, where the HST applies differently depending on the type of real estate, whether it is resale housing, newly constructed housing, or business properties.
Anyone who has ever purchased a home or has considered purchasing a home knows that budgeting for taxes is an important part of determining what they can afford. Whether it is the on-going cost of property taxes, or the upfront cost of land transfer taxes, the cost of taxes on housing can add up.
With that in mind, one of the most important things to know about the HST is that, fortunately, it will not increase the tax burden on the purchase price for homebuyers who purchase resale housing. That’s because resale housing, which was never subject to Provincial Sales Tax (PST) or the federal Goods and Services Tax, will continue to be exempt from both taxes once they are combined under the HST.
The same is not true for newly constructed homes, which will be hit with additional tax under the HST. Newly constructed housing has always been subject to the GST, meaning thousands of dollars of tax for home buyers choosing this option. Now, with the HST, new housing will also be subject to PST, meaning thousands of dollars in added costs for home buyers of new housing.
There is a silver lining for new housing: the provincial government provides a rebate of 75% of the PST on the first $400,000 of a newly constructed home, or a maximum of $24,000. For example, someone purchasing a new home priced at $500,000 would face $40,000 in additional tax from the provincial portion of the HST, which would be reduced to $16,000 with the rebate. Obviously, the rebate softens the blow, but an extra $16,000 of tax for a newly constructed home is nothing to laugh at.
Fortunately, home buyers choosing to purchase a resale home don’t have to worry about paying HST on the price of their home. That’s money that they can keep in their pocket, or use to keep their mortgage costs down.
There is also encouraging news when it comes to real estate for businesses. Although the costs of purchasing or renting a commercial property are subject to HST, businesses are allowed to claim tax credits to offset these costs. Even better, when purchasing a commercial property, the business can claim the tax credits immediately so that no upfront costs are incurred for the HST, and cash flow is not impacted.
It won’t be long before the HST is a reality in Ontario and taxes on a long list of goods and services will increase. Although it would be nice if HST didn’t apply to any real estate transactions, luckily, there is some encouraging news, especially for homebuyers of resale housing, who won’t see the purchase price of their home increase due to HST, and businesses buying or renting commercial properties, who will be able to offset their HST costs.
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Toronto’s housing market roared back to life in the first half of 2010, with single-detached homes and condominium apartments and townhouses posting unprecedented double-digit gains in average price in most districts, according to a report released today by RE/MAX Ontario-Atlantic Canada. This is in stark contrast to the July 2009 RE/MAX report that found that values in approximately 80% of neighbourhoods surveyed in Toronto had depreciated over the same period in 2008.
RE/MAX examined 63 Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB) districts in the single-detached category between January and June of 2010 and found that 85.7% experienced double-digit gains. Mississauga’s Lorne Park (W13) led in terms of percentage increase in average price with a 30.2% upswing in the first six months of the year, bringing year-to-date values in the area to $880,373 (vs. $676,289 in 2009 and $830,041 in 2008). Markham (N01) ranked second with a 27.7% jump to $779,168 (vs. $610,322 in 2009 and $683,050 in 2008) while Armour Heights, Bathurst Manor (C06) came in a close third at 27.5% (rising to $732,535 from $574,599 in 2009 and $589,808 one year earlier). Mississauga’s Creditview, Erindale area (W16) secured fourth spot with an average price of $561,973 – up 26.5% over 2009′s $444,221 and 2008′s $476,877. Rounding out the top five was York Mills, Hogg’s Hollow, Bridle Path (C12) with a 26.2% increase over last year and an average price of $1,868,591 (vs. $1,480,296 in 2009 and $1,580,851 in 2008).
“While first-time buyers dominated housing markets during the first half of 2009, move-up buyers ruled during January to June of 2010,” says Michael Polzler, Executive Vice President, RE/MAX Ontario-Atlantic Canada. “Rising interest rates and the introduction of the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) in the province helped drive activity, with more than 50,000 sales reported year-to-date – a figure on par with record 2007 levels.”
As in years past – the exception being 2009 – the second half of the year will be more tempered, with price appreciation moderating somewhat in most neighbourhoods. The one exception to the rule will be the hot pocket areas that continue to experience limited inventory.
With affordability a growing issue for many in the Toronto market, the city’s vast supply of existing condominium apartments and townhomes offer a financially attractive alternative. Like single-detached homes, however, condominium prices were on the upswing in the first six months of the year in the 59 TREB districts examined – with 61% reporting double-digit increases.
The Danforth, East York (E03) was the top performing condominium market in terms of price appreciation – with values up 28.2% to $222,421. While the increase is significant compared to the same period in 2009, it’s a more moderate 15% ahead of the $195,019 reported in 2008. Yorkville (C02) secured second spot, with a 22.6% increase in values, bringing average price to $653,745 – a serious uptick over the 2009 level of $553,302 but only a nominal 5.6 increase over 2008′s $619,151. Markham (N01) took third place with an increase of 22.1% to $332,590 over the 2009 figure ($272,316). Bayview Village (C15) – Toronto’s newest condominium corridor – saw a 19.6% increase, with values rising to $331,063. North York (C14) continued to experience upward momentum during the first half of the year, with average price on the Yonge St. line up 19.5% to $363,685, compared to the $304,342 reported during the same period in 2009.
Overall, single-detached homes in TREB’s North district (north of Steeles Ave.) saw the greatest percentage increase, with year-to-date average price rising 17.5% to $617,723 (compared to $525,635 one year ago). Not surprisingly, condominium apartments and townhomes in the central core experienced the most significant upswing, with average price in TREB’s Central district rising 16.8% to $385,996, up from $330,517 one year ago.
“Both housing types experienced serious percentage increases year-over-year – yet its important to keep those price hikes in perspective,” says Polzler. “Last year, 80% of those districts experienced a decline in value. The bounce-back – fuelled by unprecedented market conditions including a severe shortage in listing inventory – simply returned average prices to their normal course.”
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