Seen from the curb, nothing appears out of the ordinary about the houses on Hyde Mill Crescent in suburban Mississauga.
Viewed on Google Streetview, the lawns look well-manicured, and the single-family dwellings aren’t unlike something you might find in a master-planned community of a certain era.
But these homes share something that sets them apart from nearly all others in the entire Greater Toronto Area.
They are both detached homes, as well as condos.
Developers only broke ground for 44 detached condo units across the Toronto census metro area last year, according to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.
“It’s probably about less than one per cent of starts,” Andrew Scott, CMHC’s senior market analyst for Toronto, tells Toronto Storeys.
Rare as detached condos are — and despite the Toronto Star recently billing them as “the newest housing type to hit the GTA” — they have, in fact, been around for years, existing on the fringes of the real estate market.
A recent high was reached in 2004, when contractors began work on 97 detached condos.
Most of the detached condos CMHC’s Scott has heard of are located in master-planned developments marketed to older purchasers as “adult-lifestyle” communities.
“There is [often] some sort of recreational facility as part of the complex, or maybe it’s centred around a golf course,” he says.
Mississauga-based realtor Willi H. Morbeck, whose office has been involved in detached condo transactions before, suggests the housing type appeals to older buyers. These buyers still want a detached home, but not the responsibilities that typically come with them.
“They don’t want to deal with the snow removal and the spring maintenance,” he says in an interview. Just like in high-rise communities, residents share the cost of amenities and upkeep.
“I think it’s a great opportunity for people who also want the freedom of a fully detached [home] and can’t afford it,” he adds, suggesting single-family condos can be bought for less than freeholds.
Morbeck sees development potential for some more of these units as the province’s population ages, but he says buyers will “most likely have to look outside the GTA.”
Within the GTA, there are recent examples of low-rise neighbourhoods with elements of condo ownership.
The Estates at Wyndance, a gated, 125-home subdivision by Empire Communities in Durham, was completed last year and features freehold homes with shared common areas.
“It’s a vacant-land condo [community] with freehold detached homes,” explains Gerald Lawrence, a Coldwell Banker RMR Real Estate salesperson who has completed 30 transactions in the neighbourhood.
“We just say it’s a detached home in an area where you share amenities,” he adds.
Residents pay maintenance fees that cover snow clearing, upkeep of common areas, and running the entryway gatehouse. The fees also go towards paying for the private water supply and on-site sewage treatment. Homeowners are responsible for maintaining their own properties.
Because the neighbourhood is architecturally controlled, there are limits to what can be done on the land.
Rather than a purely retirement-age crowd, the Estates of Wyndance has attracted mid-level execs, government employees, semi-retirees, a few professional hockey players, and one politician.
A two-storey, four-bedroom detached home Lawrence is listing at 13 Country Club Cres. has a price tag of $2,000,000 and monthly maintenance fees of $482.75.
Thinking of buying a detached condo for yourself someday? Be prepared for a potentially tougher sell if you ever want to cash out one day.
“They are a little bit tougher to market because many people don’t know they exist, to start out with,” Morbeck explains.
“There are not many out there.”
CMHC’s Scott adds that the style of development faces a number of challenges. “I think it is a very niche market. I don’t think it’ll become that popular, but it’s really hard to say,” he says.
One hurdle for builders of the housing type is the fact that its relative novelty can lead to a longer planning process, says Scott. To approve a recent proposal in Kleinberg, Vaughan planners and councillors rewrote the municipalities definition of a “detached home,” the Star reports.
Another issue is related to demographics. While some older homeowners are downsizing, many more are staying put, at least for the time being.
“The general trend is people do like to stay in their homes as long as they can,” he says.