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Are condos at a tipping point?

I live in a condominium in the St. Lawrence Market neighborhood of Toronto. And recently, I’ve had a number of “empty nesters” ask me if they could come check out my condo and get a feel for what it’s like to live in a downtown neighborhood like the Market.

And they’re asking because they’re contemplating something that has become quite common for folks whose kids have left the roost. They’re considering, for a number of reasons, selling their suburban home and right-sizing to a downtown condominium.

Whether it’s because they want to free themselves of cutting grass and shoveling snow, they don’t like stairs anymore, they want to be able to lock the door and head to Florida for the winter, or they want an amenity rich urban lifestyle, the uptake on condos has been significant both in Toronto and other cities around the world.

Indeed, the condo market has become great at serving “both ends” of the market: first time buyers/young professionals and empty nesters. But what I wonder is if we might be at a tipping point with respect to the middle segment of the market: families.

The average new construction low-rise home in the Greater Toronto Area is roughly $650,000 right now. But this would be more for houses in the center of the city. There, you’re probably looking at anywhere from $650,000 to $1 million for a “typical” 3 bedroom Toronto house.

By comparison, a new condominium might average somewhere between $550 and $600 per square foot in the city. So for a 3 bedroom condo at, say, 1,300 square feet, you’d be looking at somewhere between $715,000 and $780,000. Add in parking and you’re somewhere between the mid $700,000’s and just over $800,000.

In all cases, we’re talking a lot of money. But the point I’m trying to make is that condominiums and houses are becoming cost competitive. There are obviously differences between both housing types, but if your goal is a 3 bedroom place to raise a family, that utility could be met in both cases.

There may still be psychological/societal barriers to raising kids in a condo, but I wonder if we might be close to a tipping point now that the economics are starting to line up. What do you all think?

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