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Tag Archives: buyer demand

Building on optimism over condos

Toronto Star

Jeanhy Shim is busy with the final details of a condominium project she is launching later this month.

The final pricing and size of the suites still have to be determined on the $30 million midrise building on the east side of Toronto.

“We still obviously have a lot of confidence in the market,” said Shim, a vice-president at boutique condominium developer Streetcar Developments Inc. “I think there is still demand for unique, quality projects out there.”

Other condominium developers in the Toronto area seem to share Shim’s optimism.

According to figures released by Statistics Canada Thursday, developers were busy in December, taking almost $1.2 billion worth of building permits in the Toronto area, up by 15% from a month earlier.

Much of that increase was due to condominium building and non-residential permits such as commercial and institutional development, while low interest rates, first- time buyer demand and the fashionable lure of downtown living have lifted sales.

Streetcar’s most recent project, a 54-unit condo beside the Gladstone Hotel in the Queen West neighbourhood, sold out when it went on sale in October.

Buoyed by those sales, Shim launched Streetcar’s new 97-unit, eight-storey development in the city’s east end at the end of February. And she isn’t worried by the prospect of a deluge of new condos competing with her project, because buyers “want something distinctive.”

However, the developer says she is looking closely at interest rates and the impact of the Harmonized Sales Tax later this year.

“No one knows exactly how this will impact the industry, but the bigger issue is interest rates,” said Shim.

Higher interest rates would affect first-time buyers, but even if interest rates did go up, they would still be close to historical lows, the developer said.

Affordability has become an issue in the Toronto market as prices creep up.

Residential permits were down in the bellwether single-detached sector as some buyers are priced out of the market.

The condominium market remained strong. Multiple dwelling permits such as condos and apartment buildings were up 30 per cent in December from a month earlier.

According to Statistics Canada, commercial and institutional building intentions were up significantly in the Toronto market, suggesting that the corporate sector is preparing for a rebound.

Building permits were also up by 7.8% from the prior December. Year over year, however, building permits in the Toronto area were down in 2009 by 16.5% over the prior year, showing the effects of the recession.

The market is still being driven by first-time buyers and by investors. But Shim says she is noticing that larger condominiums, particularly two-bedroom units, are picking up in popularity as more mature condo buyers move up.

Meanwhile, the down-market move of retirees and seniors who may be buying more upscale product seems to be slowing down, said Shim.

“These are the more cautious buyers who may have been hit hard on their stock market or mutual fund savings, as opposed to the 25-year-old first-time buyer who is just starting out,” said Shim.

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