Get up and GO

Calgary Herald New Condos - - Front Page - MARTY HOPE CAL­GARY HER­ALD

Condo liv­ing is a life­style choice. Those who have cho­sen to live the multi-fam­ily life typ­i­cally do it as a way to re­flect how they use their time — or how they want to use it.

They don’t want to waste time shov­el­ling snow, cut­ting grass or tend­ing gar­dens.

They want to be able to get up and go, en­joy leisure time, or pack up and head away for a va­ca­tion without the se­cu­rity wor­ries that may hound those in de­tached homes.

Baby boomers, empty nesters and young peo­ple make up the bulk of the de­mo­graphic snap­ping up con­do­mini­ums.

For the most part, the rea­sons are the same — con­dos are a bet­ter life­style fit.

For Kathi and Rob McAu­ley, the de­ci­sion to go condo had def­i­nite life­style im­pli­ca­tions as they per­tained to their work and leisure time. The 50-some­thing pro­fes­sional cou­ple had been shop­ping the condo mar­ket off and on for a year be­fore tak­ing own­er­ship of a re­sale town­house on the west side of the city. De­mand for con­do­mini­ums in Cal­gary has been on a gen­eral up­ward trend for more than a

decade.

On the new side, de­spite the slow­down that has put a se­vere crimp on the pace of construction ac­tiv­ity, cranes con­tinue to hover over the city sky­line as de­vel­op­ers work on mid-and highrise build­ings in the down­town and Belt­line ar­eas.

In the sub­urbs, foun­da­tion holes are be­ing dug and fram­ing is un­der­way on semi-de­tached homes and town­house de­vel­op­ments.

There’s no doubt, though, the econ­omy has bat­tered the multi-fam­ily sec­tor.

For Septem­ber, Canada Mort­gage and Hous­ing Corp. has re­ported new mul­ti­fam­ily construction to­talled 159 units in­side the city lim­its com­pared to 172 for the same month last year.

For the first nine months of this year, work started on 987 town­houses, semi-de­tached homes and apart­ments, down 85 per cent from the same pe­riod in 2008.

On the re­sale side, there has been a de­cided in­crease in sales through the Cal­gary Real Es­tate Board.

The 580 sales recorded in Septem­ber is more than 24 per cent higher than the same month a year ago.

That level of ac­tiv­ity brings the Jan­uary to Septem­ber to­tal to 4,884 — more than two per cent higher than the same pe­riod last year.

But the growth in con­do­minium ap­peal has been go­ing on for years.

CREB fig­ures show that in 1995, con­dos ac­counted for just 15 per cent of the to­tal re­sale ac­tiv­ity. It now sits be­tween 25 and 30 per cent. “In­deed, we have seen a slow­down in the num­ber of con­dos be­ing built, but this is a form of own­er­ship that is here to stay,” says board pres­i­dent Bon­nie Wegerich. “Condo re­sales are re­bound­ing in a trend sim­i­lar to sin­gle-fam­ily homes.”

The McAu­leys have a sec­ond home in In­ver­mere, B.C., where they spend a lot of time, and felt they didn’t want to con­tinue with the main­te­nance re­quired for their de­tached home and prop­erty in Cal­gary.

“We wanted a place that more re­flected our present phase of life,” says Kathi, who owns a learn­ing and de­vel­op­ment con­sult­ing com­pany called Man­age­ment Devel­opMen­tors Inc. and also teaches at the Uni­ver­sity of Cal­gary.

Both she and Rob, lead for the Of­fice of the Cap­i­tal in the City of Cal­gary’s recre­ation depart­ment, both needed more home-of­fice space.

But there was much more than that to their de­ci­sion to buy a condo.

“We love trees and back onto a treed green space, so this was very im­por­tant to us,” says Kathi. “Even though we are in a condo, it doesn’t have a re­stricted feel to it.”

What they pur­chased was a three-level. 5,000-square-foot condo for $880,000, a fig­ure they con­sid­ered within their bud­get. Their pre­vi­ous home cov­ered 2,000 square feet.

Wegerich says the McAu­leys fit one of the de­mo­graphic mod­els for condo own­er­ship.

The other is the mil­len­nial gen­er­a­tion, which con­sists of peo­ple born be­tween the late 1970s and the mid-1990s.

“They are both at a stage where they want sim­i­lar things,” says Wegerich.

For many of the mil­len­ni­als, con­do­minium liv­ing is their first taste of home own­er­ship, but in all like­li­hood won’t be their last.

Devon Wolfe and Priscilla Naber are both 20 years old and are cur­rently looking for their first home — a condo in the south­west area of town close to where Priscilla works as a reg­is­tered den­tal as­sis­tant.

“We pri­mar­ily chose a condo be­cause of the life­style,” says Devon, a full-time ar­chi­tec­ture stu­dent at the Uni­ver­sity of Cal­gary. Main­te­nance wasn’t high on their pri­or­ity list.

“Also, we were looking for more of a step­ping stone than a fi­nal home and con­dos seem to fit that due to them be­ing gen­er­ally more af­ford­able and re­quir­ing less main­te­nance than a sin­gle-fam­ily home,” he says.

As they con­tinue their search, they have es­tab­lished some pa­ram­e­ters. They want a condo that is be­tween 700 and 1,000 square feet in a price range from $220,000 to $260,000.

Wendy Jabusch, gen­eral man­ager of Hawthorne Homes, the multi-fam­ily build­ing divi­sion of Carma De­vel­op­ers, says it’s typ­i­cally young sin­gles and cou­ples who are buy­ing the com­pany’s prod­uct.

Af­ford­abil­ity is a big part of the buy­ing de­ci­sion, she says.

“Our buyer de­mo­graphic — sin­gles and cou­ples in their late 20s and early 30s — are very cog­nizant of af­ford­abil­ity and qual­ity, so we have to work with our trades and sup­pli­ers to re­duce the num­ber of de­fi­cien­cies and thereby save money,” says Jabusch.

The fo­cus of Hawthorne, she says, is to pro­vide home fea­tures they value and can af­ford.

“Young buy­ers are smart, well-in­formed and have a clear idea of what they can af­ford and are will­ing to spend,” says Jabusch.

Ted Ja­cob, Cal­gary Her­ald

Rob and Kathi McAu­ley de­cided to pack up their de­tached home and move into a condo for life­style rea­sons.

Cal­gary Her­ald Archive

Wendy Jabusch, gen­eral man­ager of Hawthorne Homes in Cal­gary.

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