Interested in real estate but have no idea where to start? Ask an agent. In this new Toronto Storeys series, we get Toronto real estate agents to answer all your real estate questions.
This week, we turned to 17-year real estate veteran Susan Toughlouian from Toronto Condo Boutique at Royal LePage Terrequity Realty to talk about downsizing while maintaining your lifestyle.
Q. Can a person still have the lifestyle they’ve become accustomed to (enjoy the same hobbies, partake in the same activities, have the same things, etc.) if they are downsizing from a house to a condo?
I think they can, but it really becomes a question of what can they afford? There are buildings with much larger square footage that can give you more room as opposed to crunching into a “smart home” which may only offer 350 square feet. It’s the luxury condos where you’ll find that they’re going after the more high-end buyer so they have more amenities. If you are willing to pay, you can find everything from porter services to pet services (like grooming stations).
If someone has a lifestyle that is more all-encompassing like they need the gym, a theatre, pet services and a hair salon, then I would say moving into a luxury condo that has all that under one roof would be the perfect solution. And those types of buildings are great for seniors too. If I didn’t have kids to worry about and I was coming from a neighbourhood like Forest Hill I would sell my five or six million dollar home, move into a $2 million condo and bank the rest.
In addition to honestly assessing what you can afford, you have to make sure the building is being managed properly. Sometimes, the developer hands the building off to a board of directors who might run you into a negative reserve fund while trying to manage all of these amenities. It’s something you have to watch out for. Request the condo status certificate to see if your condo board is running a deficit and whether the facilities are well managed.
It all comes back to the affordability issue, really. If someone can afford it and they want to maintain that luxury lifestyle without having to manage a home and mow the lawn or shovel the driveway then it definitely is an option for people.
For example, if you are a person with two cars, look for a building that sells parking spots in tandem where you can buy one parking spot and then another one right behind it. If you have a pet, some buildings offer pet spas where you can bathe your dog or trim their nails. Some buildings have boardroom spaces for meetings, car wash stations, along with your more traditional indoor/outdoor pools and fitness centres. Plus, if you’re a person who likes to garden, some buildings feature private terraces for those downsizers who might miss a yard and at least one building – The Plant – features communal planter boxes where residents can grow their own herbs and vegetables within the building’s common kitchen facilities.
These buildings cater to the elites, so you’ll have to factor in that you’ll be paying for all those elements, including heating the pool — remember everything comes with a cost.
In 2017, Condos.ca revealed the average maintenance fees in Toronto cost $0.65 per square foot with the high end being $1.35 per square foot and the low end being $0.22.
It all comes down to dollars and cents. You have to figure out what services you will actually use regularly and whether the fees you are paying for combined services is actually cheaper or better for you than paying for each service separately. Add up how much you’re paying for all of these services already then look at how much the condo is charging you for these services. Maybe you don’t need to live in a building with so many amenities given your low-key lifestyle or maybe that top of the line condo gym will save you hundreds on memberships to boutique fitness centres. Either way, this is the best way to determine what your downsizing lifestyle picture will look like.