National Post

Toronto’s waterfront is one of the biggest redevelopment projects underway and it’s estimated that the Lakeside community will be home to about 40,000 residents

Muhammad Kazi is looking forward to moving into his new home.

Muhammad Kazi’s lived in Toronto for four years and was keen to get on the property ladder. The 37-year-old recruitment manager spent two years saving and one year doing research before finding the perfect condo.

Kazi, who grew up in Pakistan and came to Toronto after living in Vancouver, currently rents a place on his own downtown. But he wanted to find a future home to share with his “significant other.”

Kazi had his heart set on something central so he could walk to work downtown. He also wanted at least a two-bedroom condo, with flexible financing.

After seeing a number of places, he bought a $650,000 one-bedroom, two-den condo at Lakeside Residences, with a 2022 move-in date. Post Homes spoke to him about his search and what he loves about his new home.

Q: How did you approach your search?

A: This was the first time I got serious about my future in terms of housing and getting a place where I want to live in Toronto long term. I didn’t want to pay for someone else’s mortgage and so I wanted to get into the market.

I wanted a place that was 20-25 minutes walking distance to my office. And I wanted something with more than one bedroom, so I could have guests stay, and I wanted a big balcony. Basically, I wanted something over 600 square feet and two washrooms, with a good price per square footage and a flexible payment plan.

I spent the first six months planning, meeting real estate agents and getting newsletters to learn about the market. Plus, I spoke to a few mortgage brokers to find out what I could afford. It was cumbersome, but I’m glad I did all of that because I ended up getting exactly what I wanted and when I saw it, I jumped on it.

Q: How did you narrow down what you wanted?

A: I saw a number of places, but I wasn’t happy with the market. I was looking at what I could afford if I could put five or 10 per cent down and I wasn’t able to afford what I wanted, so pre-construction was the way to go for me. It was the most cost-effective option for me, in order to keep my costs low and get a good return on my investment.

I found there were a lot of developments in East Toronto and the prices were generally lower than in the main downtown core. Also, Google is building a development in the area.

This part of the city was originally an industrial area and it’s turning into more of a residential area.

Q: Tell me a bit more about your search.

A: It was very stressful figuring out what I wanted and choosing from the options available. And then I had to find out if what I liked was still available because it’s a very competitive market.

Also, I’m a new home buyer, so I needed a flexible payment plan over the course of two years. That was really important.

Q: I understand that you’ll be moving in with your significant other, who is currently in Pakistan. Was it challenging to buy this without her being here?

A: She hasn’t been to Toronto yet. She’s still in Pakistan getting her visa finalized. But, I definitely got her input.

I sent her the brochures and the floor plans and asked her what she’d like. She said we’d definitely need two washrooms. And I said, you’re right.

Q: Were you able to get what you wanted right away at Lakeside?

A: Actually, I had originally chosen a different apartment — a one bedroom, one den and one washroom on a higher floor — but then I asked if they had any one bedroom, two dens and two washrooms available and they did. I was lucky.

The real estate agent didn’t know that condo was available, so, it’s good to ask — because you never know if another buyer might drop out.

Q: What else was important for you?

A: I looked at all of the information and researched the builder — Greenland, who is known for having good finishings. And, of course, the location was important. It’s by the lake and downtown, so I don’t think you can go wrong.

Q: Do you have any tips for other people saving to buy their first home?

A: I saved for about two years before I started looking. It’s a huge chunk of money. My advice is just don’t leave your home. Stay home and keep yourself busy.

Investing in pre-construction also helps me save in a way I wouldn’t otherwise and it has taught me some good lessons. Now, I research everything before I buy to make sure I get the best price possible. I’ve definitely improved my saving habits.

Q: What are the best things about your condo?

A: I like the location because it’s close to work, the water and also I think the return of investment will be good because this is a developing area. And this is the only area in Toronto that doesn’t have many highrises.

Amenity-wise, it also checked most of the boxes. They have a gym and that was important because I don’t want to pay for a gym membership.

Q: What do you think of your overall experience?

A: I didn’t think I’d be able to afford to get in to the real estate market — given the way it’s going, and so I’m just excited to be in it now. And I’m glad because the value has already gone up quite a bit since I bought in the summer.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

National Post

The home may be nice, but really it comes down to the pooch-friendly factor

A view is nice. Square footage certainly counts. But whether they’re looking 30 storeys above Bay Street, or for a leafy commuter bungalow, buyers want more than just the basics. Here are some of the hottest amenities on offer across the GTA.

VIRTUAL PERKS

Toronto’s Line 5 condos, in the Yonge and Eglinton area, are named for the light rail transit system under construction. But that’s not the only transportation advantage for future residents. The new development from Reserve Properties will incorporate an Uber pick-up lane in the courtyard. And for owners who don’t want to go outside at all, there will be hot and cold storage for food deliveries as well as fitness studios with computerized floors, lighting and walls suitable for virtual training sessions — a bike ride through virtual mountains, say, or an on-demand exercise class.

Technology is also central to the Notting Hill townhomes in Cambridge, by Gable View Homes, a Burlington-based developer. Their new two-, three- and four-bedroom builds will include Think Nest thermostats, which residents can operate using their phones or tablets to suit their temperature preferences and schedules. The homes are also equipped with Amazon Echo Show, a voice-activated system that can turn on lights, check security cameras and operate sprinklers.

And at Tridel’s “smart condominium” at Ten York, residents won’t even need keys. Units are accessed via digital door locks, common areas are controlled by a smartphone app and the garage recognizes residents’ license plates. Naturally, future owners can also keep watch on how the building is going via a construction cam, which updates images of the site every 30 minutes.

FOUR-LEGGED FRIENDLY

With James Gardens and Humber Valley Park nearby, the condos at 293 The Kingsway already have obvious appeal for dog owners. But the new development from Malen Capital and The Benvenuto Group, which is currently registering units from $484,900 to $1.3 million, has gone one step further for Fido: It includes an on-site pet “spa,” a wash basin with a hand-held shower suitable for dogs of all sizes.

Of course, 293 The Kingsway has plenty of amenities for people too. There’s a game and billiards room, a rooftop barbecue terrace with a large-screen TV and fireplace, and a 3,500-square-foot fitness centre. But with 230,000 dogs in Toronto — and about three to five dogs per building floor, according to city planners — four-legged residents are increasingly an essential part of developers’ plans.

The Upper House Condos in Leaside, completed last spring, not only has a dog washing facility but features a hydraulic clipping table and adjustable blow dryer. DavPart’s new development in North York, The Avro, has a dog run on the property as well as a dog washing station. And The Livmore, a luxury rental development at Bay Street and Gerrard has an outdoor dog run on the fifth floor, complete with fake fire hydrant.

Not every development is dog-friendly. In the last year, residents at one Etobicoke property were told they could only have dogs small enough to be carried through the lobby. Another building in Toronto’s downtown core posted a notice they would be charging residents $15 per dog to cover the additional building maintenance that can arise from pets. Outrage followed, however, and lawyers interviewed by the press said such rules are not enforceable.

FAMILY VALUES

A family of four in less than 800 square feet? No problem at condo developments like Tridel’s Evermore at West Village.

The 28-storey condo just north of Bloor Street at the West Mall, will include both an outdoor terrace and an indoor kids play area decorated with cubbyholes, hexagonal shapes and primary colours. There will also be a youth hub with high-speed internet and a mix of recreation and study spaces. And for those aspiring rock stars (are moms and dads welcome too?) there will be a music room with studio equipment.

Access to good schools and parks has long been a real estate selling point. But as it gets increasingly expensive for young families to afford detached homes in Toronto, many are staying in condos longer or looking for permanent high-rise living spaces. About 13 per cent of the city’s families now live in condos, according to the 2016 census — up 8.9 per cent from 2011.

While kid-friendly amenities are a bonus (CityPlace’s Navy Wharf, at Spadina and Lakeshore, has a basketball court) developers are also catering to growing families with bigger units. At Lakeside Condos, a development from the Greenland Group at Lakeshore Blvd. East and Lower Sherbourne, there are not only two-bedrooms but suites with two bedrooms plus a den and three bedrooms. Set for occupancy in 2021, the building is part of a master-planned waterfront community near Sugar Beach, the Cherry Street YMCA and Young People’s Theatre.