Get up and GO
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
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.
Rob and Kathi McAuley decided to pack up their detached home and move into a condo for lifestyle reasons.
Wendy Jabusch, general manager of Hawthorne Homes in Calgary.