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The Burnac Group introduces their newest loft conversion community
The Burnac Group has a reputation for doing things the way they are supposed to be done. And their proof is in their buildings, some of the finest developments in Toronto, including 85 Bloor Condominiums, 33 Delisle Avenue, and Park Avenue. And now they’re ready to add Madison Avenue Lofts to that list.
Located at the foot of Casa Loma at Madison and MacPherson Avenues, this loft conversion project is unique to the city. The original historic brick building, built in 1951, once stored wire bundles for Toronto Hydro. Now The Burnac Group, and renowned architect Paul Northgrave, is converting it into a stunning New York-style loft residence. The six-storey building will incorporate elements of industrial architecture and Art Deco design for a stunning one-of-a-kind residence, and will feature 211 lofts when completed.
“Because this is a loft conversion project designed around the space we have, we’re offering truly individual suites at Madison Avenue Lofts,” says Darlene Welton, Director of Marketing for Burnac. “There are over 100 different plans to choose from, all authentic loft spaces with expansive windows and soaring ceiling heights.”
Ceiling heights in the Madison Avenue Lofts range from 10 to over 14 feet, with interiors by II BY IV Design Associates, who bring their own urban flair to both the common and private spaces. The building will feature a dramatic lobby ideal for welcoming in guests, with a contemporary design, and expansive windows. There is also a beautiful rooftop terrace with gas barbecues and fabulous views, as well as a fitness centre with an exercise room, change rooms, showers, and steam rooms. In addition, there is a home theatre, a multi-purpose room with a large kitchen, a meeting room, and a 24-hour concierge.
The Madison Avenue Lofts themselves have also been designed with quality in mind, featuring dramatic eight-foot doors, as well as pre-engineered flooring throughout the kitchen, and living and dining areas. Kitchens also feature granite countertops, nine-foot tall upper cabinetry, with at least two glass-front doors, mosaic tile backsplashes, three stainless steel appliances, an integrated dishwasher with matching cabinetry panel, and designer chrome plumbing fixtures. The ensuites come with marble countertops, wall-mounted chrome faucets, and undermount sinks. The washrooms also feature subway pattern tiles along the shower walls, with an accent wall of mosaic tiles and 12 by 12 marble tile floors. Powder rooms have stunning vessel sinks on metal pedestals, specially designed by II BY IV Design.
“We finished this building the way we would if we lived there ourselves,” says Welton. “We wanted to create an upscale loft-style lifestyle for our buyers, surrounded by a truly wonderful neighbourhood that offers historic charm, easy access to downtown, and a strong sense of community. We think we’ve done just that with the Madison Avenue Lofts.”
Located in a mature Toronto community, the Madison Avenue Lofts are just steps away not only from Casa Loma itself, but from the Dupont subway station and neighbourhood amenities. The building has been designed to complement the area allowing buyers to make themselves at home in the existing neighbourhood.
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“If you buy this condo, you’ll lead a glamorous life just like the hot model on this slick, glossy billboard.”
Most shoppers are smart enough to know that’s not necessarily what they’re signing up for when they drop thousands on a condo.
While many developers continue to use these “heavy on fantasy, light on information” marketing strategies, they’re on their way out, says Matthew Slutsky, condo marketing expert and founder/president of BuzzBuzzHome.com, an online directory of Canadian condo developments.
“Purchasers aren’t stupid,” he says, speaking of the intended allure of model-esque advertisements and slick showrooms. “Nobody’s going to go to a sales centre without doing their research.”
That research, if done right, will involve brushing up on the kinds of strategies developers use to help sell the condos – and they involve more than just the billboard. They’re not done maliciously to fool the buyer, Mr. Slutsky says. “It’s just marketing.”
Here’s how to see through and interpret sales strategies while you’re shopping for that condo:
Knowledge is power
If a developer isn’t offering any and all information, they’re likely not worth your time or money, says David Allison, president of Vancouver-based Braun/Allison Inc., which does marketing for residential developments.
“You need to demand that information. If you’re going to be putting down your life savings and you don’t have all that information, then you’re not making a smart decision.”
Make sure the developer has an informative website and don’t bend to those who ask you to call them or visit a sales centre for more details. Shoppers could also visit home builders association websites such as the Greater Vancouver Homebuilders Association, which should have information on the developer if they’ve built in the area before, says Carla Bury, director of marketing at Intercorp Inc., a developer in Vancouver.
Visit an existing development
If you’re buying before the condo is built, ask whether that same developer has a condo nearby. If so, get a tour, Mr. Allison suggests. It will help you gauge the quality of the building. If the hallways are narrow, you can tell the developer was stretching to make the rooms feel larger in a small unit, he says.
It’s also smart to check out a view plan to make sure you’re actually going to see that sunset from your condo, says Ms. Bury, whose company is set to release a book to help condo shoppers make informed decisions when buying their new home. It also doesn’t hurt to talk to a condo owner or two in that building to see whether they got what they signed up for.
Watch the details in ads
If it’s really important to you that you can barbecue on your balcony, just like the happy couple in the ad, make sure you actually can after you buy, says Denise Lash, a condominium lawyer at Heenan Blaikie LLP in Toronto.
“They may show people on the roof so you assume your condo would allow barbecuing, but then you find out it’s only for certain units,” she says. If the ad shows a nice beach scene, check whether that development is actually near the water. After all, she says, “marketing is marketing and no one is legally bound.”
You walk into a model suite and it looks like a spacious cove of wonderful. That’s probably because it doesn’t have a ceiling, Mr. Slutsky says. “It gives a much airier feel to a small suite.” Model suites are often in industrial spaces, making it hard to envision where the ceiling would be. That said, there’s usually a little line on the wall denoting the ceiling height; ask the agent to point it out, he says.
Furniture size may vary
Layout plans will often feature furniture – a little window seat here, a breakfast nook there. Ask about the size of the bed drawn into the bedroom. “They may be using a double bed instead of a queen-sized bed,” he says. “You may not even be able to fit a queen-sized bed in the bedroom.” Other pieces of furniture may be smaller, too, even those featured in the model suite. “It’s to make it look bigger. They will put in furniture that will fit with that space.”
Love the granite countertop? That’ll be extra
Model suites are often peppered with upgrades that are not included in the price of the condo, whether it be gleaming countertops or slick pot lights in the ceiling. “The standards are often very nice,” Mr. Slutsky says, but it’s key to ask what’s an upgrade and what’s included in the price.
How big is this big?
Don’t be fooled by the majesty of the show suite – sometimes they’re bigger than what you’re hoping to buy, Mr. Slutsky says. “Usually the show suite is [the size advertised], but they may be showcasing a larger unit rather than, say, the 500-square-foot unit,” he says. It’s up to you to know whether the model condo you’re walking through is really the model you can afford. Don’t be shy to ask. Ms. Bury from Intercorp suggests walking through two or three different units to get a real feel for the sizes available.
How many ‘steps’ from the subway is it, anyway?
A lot of developers describe the proximity of the condo tower to restaurants and attractions with amenity maps. However, they’re not always drawn to scale, Mr. Slutksy says. “Often they’ll make the development look much closer to the amenities than it may actually be,” he says. Gauge the distance for yourself, he says. Take a drive to test it out or, better yet, spend a few days scoping out the neighbourhood to get a feel for where you’d be doing your shopping and restaurant-going.
Check out the layout
As in “don’t buy that big leather couch before buying the condo.” It just might not fit. Layouts on a piece of paper can seem a lot more ideal than the layout in real life, Mr. Slutsky says. It’s a conundrum often encountered when purchasing condos before they’re built. “There are a lot of two-bedroom, 520-square-foot units selling, which is very tight,” he says. Try to place yourself there “so you can get a feel for how the unit’s going to work, which way the doors are going to swing.”
Check the contract
“People get all carried away with the beautiful marketing and don’t really realize that what they’re buying is defined in the legal documents,” says the lawyer Ms. Lash. The model suite you’re looking at might be 800 square feet, but unless it says it in the legal documents, that may not be the case for yours. “If there’s something important to the purchaser that they have or they need, they should get it in writing,” she says. “If the dimensions of the suite are important or have a certain piece of furniture to get in, they’d better be clear what their specifications are.”
And a sales strategy that could come back
When interest rates were higher and the condo market not so red-hot, some developers held contests so shoppers could win their condo suite, Mr. Allison says. He even remembers one developer in Vancouver who gave away a free car with the purchase of a condo. “A lot of those promotional, attention-getting things are out of vogue,” he says. “But who knows what people are going to do when interest rates go up?”
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Get out of the traffic and into an easy-living, luxurious downtown condo
Canwest News Service
When the pace of life gets too hectic, some people head for the hills — but not Frank and Lori. This fortysomething couple will soon be shipping out of the picturesque village of Kleinburg and diving straight into the bustle and confusion of downtown Toronto.
For Frank and Lori (who asked that their last name not be used), the move makes perfect sense. He is a partner at an insurance and estate practice near York University, while she teaches school in Mississauga. They bought their current home — a 2,500-square-foot bungalow across from the celebrated McMichael Art Gallery — about 16 years ago. They like it just fine but admit they are rarely there. Instead, they spend an excessive amount of time in their cars, either commuting to work or scurrying downtown to take in their favourite restaurants, films or operas.
“Between business and pleasure, we drive into the city about three to five times a week,” Frank says. “We wanted a lifestyle change, and thought we should get out of our cars and into an area where we could walk to the action. So we started to search for something that could provide us our last move; a spot that would give us all the luxuries but in a setting that didn’t feel like a condo complex.”
Last year, they finally found their dream condo — a spacious 1,600-sq.-ft. unit at 77 Charles, Aspen Ridge Homes’s 15-storey, 47-unit project currently under construction in Yorkville. So much about it is right, says Frank, from the quaintness of the building to the proximity to the University of Toronto, his alma mater, and the many interesting areas to walk their cocker spaniel, Dixie.
There are an abundance of Franks and Loris waiting to put down elegant doormats at a luxury high-rise. Many have put last year’s monetary concerns behind them and are once again putting down hefty deposits in anticipation of their next big, luxurious move.
OK, it hasn’t all been rosy. Last year was a roller coaster ride for real estate, the gloom coinciding with the economy’s demise. “It was definitely challenging — for everyone,” says Howard Tikka, director of marketing, Trump International Hotel & Tower. “We continue to make sales, but at a much slower pace than we have been accustomed to. While the Canadian economy has fared better than most, even those with the capital to make luxury purchases and investments in luxury real estate have scaled back a bit as well,” he says.
“From November ’08 to a couple of weeks into February, we would have weeks where nobody — not even a single soul — would come into the sales office, so that was pretty scary,” recalls Sam Crignano, president of Cityzen Development Group. “You had traffic in the order of 45 to 70 [visitors] a week down to nothing. Some support staff had to get cut. … We were preparing for the worst, and thank God it didn’t happen.”
The market eventually rebounded in spring 2009 and sales offices in the Greater Toronto Area started to see some action from both local and foreign buyers. Within weeks, sales were back on track and developers started feeling relief. In fact, last October Mr. Crignano began construction on three new luxury buildings that are selling fast: Pier 27, comprising 700 units in two towers at the foot of Yonge Street, priced up to $4.6-million; 58-floor L Tower a few blocks north, priced up to $2.6-million; and Oakville’s The Shores, 202 suites and nine town-homes priced to $2.6-million.
“Once people took a look around and realized the Canadian economy and our housing climate were very different from what was happening in the States, when they saw our market was very stable and had solid underpinnings, they were able to get comfortable with making purchasing decisions again and looking at properties and what their options were,” says Mimi Ng, vice-president of marketing for Menkes Development, one of three partners building the Four Seasons Hotel and Private Residences in Yorkville.
Boosting the buying frenzy are cranes and construction workers visibly busy behind the hoarding. Many luxury buildings and major hotel brands, such as Trump, Shangri-La and Four Seasons, used 2009 to tout their residences and have now broken ground, with The Ritz-Carlton already topped off and ready for its first occupants by summer.
“A lot of people are scrambling to get new products on the shelf for the early part of 2010 while the world is cautiously optimistic, and people will continue to buy,” predicts Mark Cohen, senior vice-president at The Condo Store Marketing Systems. “As long as borrowing rates remain low, prices remain competitive and the general economy seems to be healthy from a rebound standpoint, people will continue to buy new homes and condos. There’s a guarded sense of optimism for a very good 2010.”
One curiosity that has come to light since the recent boom is that local buyers are outpacing those from overseas. Christene De Gasparis, Aspen Ridge Homes’s marketing director, says many own properties in New York and Muskoka and are selling their large Toronto home for a smaller but equally luxurious pied-a-terre. Robbyn Hayden, sales manager for Living Shangri-La, is delighted by the local interest because “you don’t want to be in an investor-only building.”
Despite the bounce-back, luxury high-rise players are hopeful about 2010. Ben Myers, executive vice-president of Urbanation, says few projects launched in 2009 due to the economy, leaving plenty of inventory left to sell, and he does not expect many new projects to come to the market until the current units are sold. Mr. Myers says the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST), which kicks in this July, will not make a big impact on luxury buyers “because they are already spending a lot of money in this market.”
Julie Di Lorenzo, co-president of Diamante Development Corp. that is building The Florian, a 21-storey, 90-unit building in Upper Yorkville, says prices will certainly rise due to the dearth of units.
“There aren’t a lot of luxury two,-three-and four-bedroom units out there, period,” she says. “They simply have not been built. Inventory of high-end condos is not available. Yet there are still many, many couples who will be downsizing. That demographic is just starting to influence luxury sales. The first Baby Boomers are just hitting 65 and thinking about their luxury home without stairs to climb and eavestroughs to clean. And now many young families have substantial recreation properties and they prefer [to have] the home in the country and the condo in the city for lifestyle.”
Kind of like Frank and Lori. They may not own a cottage, but they want the lifestyle that goes with luxury high-rise living. Judging by the reactions of their family and long-time neighbours, they will have plenty of company at their new pad.
“One word: envy,” laughs Frank as he describes the reaction when he started telling people of the downtown move. “We’ll have a lot more friends and family coming to visit. We’ll be the cool aunt and uncle — and we’ll get to enjoy all the fun and frolic of Yorkville.”
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