Private elevators, heated floors, valets: How Boomers are transforming the Toronto condo market
Condos are no longer mere starter homes. Once the domain of twentysomething professionals on the first rung of the real estate ladder, baby boomers are now scooping up them up for their golden years — driving demand for luxury, turnkey developments.
A 2018 survey of 1,000 Canadian baby boomers by Royal LePage found that at least half were looking to downsize in the near future. Seventeen per cent planned to purchase a new home in the next five years and, of those, 32 per cent said they were most likely to purchase a condo.
However, that doesn’t mean moving in next door to their kids. In both the U.S. and Canada, baby boomers hold the majority of household wealth. And high-end buyers don’t want to trade spacious estates for anything less than luxurious quarters. Many are also retirees with multiple properties who only spend part of the year in town and need a low-maintenance home base.
Although some units are certainly expansive (think 4,000-plus square feet) the decades-old notion that luxury is directly proportional to square footage is beginning to change. Instead, buyers in the $1.2-million and up range, see value and prestige in built-in amenities, walkability and hotel-like service.
It’s no coincidence that distinguished hotel chains such as the Four Seasons, Ritz-Carlton and Shangri-La are increasing residential offerings around the world (including sizeable residences in their Toronto properties). Even outside official residences, the number of extended hotel stays has risen 34 per cent in the last five years, according to the Wall Street Journal. Now, condo developers are mirroring hotel offerings in hopes of cashing in on the quickly growing demand for luxurious small spaces.
Yorkville, known for its designer boutiques and posh restaurants, is ground zero for developers targeting wealthy boomers. The neighbourhood is currently home to approximately 6,630 condo units with more than 9,840 under development to open in the next five years. Many of these units will be in luxury properties.
50 Scollard, for example, bills itself as a “seven-star” condominium. The property from Lanterra Developments will consist of only 77 units starting at $2.5 million and ranging from 1,293 to 4,209 square feet. Features include heated bathroom floors, gas fireplaces, wine fridges and lavish free-standing tubs. A 24/7 concierge will both attend to residents at home and oversee their properties when they’re away, making the development an ideal turnkey solution for frequent travellers and snowbirds.
Nearby, The Davies by Brandy Lane Homes will have only 36 residences and eight penthouse suites overlooking Robertson Davies Park. Starting at $2.2 million, suites will have private-access elevators for suburb-like privacy in the middle of the city, and both gas fire fireplaces and gas barbecue hookups (a rarity for Toronto condos). A rooftop terrace will host outdoor reading gardens, space to sunbathe and a wet bar.
The Winslow Condos, meanwhile, under development in Lawrence Park, offers 68 units starting at 1,100 square feet and $1.6 million. The property by Devon includes open floor plans, and each unit’s “expansive central kitchen” has customizable design options ranging from contemporary to classic. Pet owners downsizing from detached homes won’t even miss their mud rooms — there’s a well-placed, ground-floor pet wash.
That all of these properties allow for maximum mobility, with or without a car, is part of their appeal. The Winslow, The Davies and the 50 Scollard are also situated in lively neighbourhoods, catering to a new generation of seniors who are more active than ever and who have no interest in either the isolation of traditional retirement communities or empty-nest life in the suburbs.
Living in close proximity to others, both in buildings with attractive communal amenities and near plentiful social spaces like parks, restaurants and shops, is certainly a health-conscious choice. According to Harvard Health, “How connected you are to other people can be as important to healthy aging as not smoking or maintaining a good weight. Social engagement may also help to preserve your memory.”
While not a boutique property, Tridel’s Chateau Auberge tower at Leslie and Eglinton East promises exactly the sort of mobility boomers crave and units as large as 2,079 square feet. TTC buses practically stop at the building’s doorstep and the Crosstown LRT, set to be completed in 2021, will provide more transportation options. Nearby parks include Sunnybrook, Wilket Creek, Serena Gundy, and E.T. Seton Park as well as conservation area Edwards Gardens. Flemingdon Park Golf Club is 10 minutes away.
The wealthy boomers of Forest Hill may not even have to move neighbourhoods. Once the sole province of sprawling detached homes, One Forest Hill by developer North Drive offers units starting at a generous 2,098 square feet from $2.5 million. In addition to 24/7 concierge, occupants will have 18-hour valet service.
All of which may just be the beginning of the luxury trend in Toronto. If the market here follows the trends in cities like New York and London, we may soon see even more extravagant amenities geared towards downsizers, from onsite “experience coordinators” to tennis courts.