Should I RENT or should I BUY? Two Perspectives
“Rising Interest Rates”, “A Cooling of Housing Prices Expected”, “Banks Tighten Mortgage Rules”…these are the headlines dominating the Canadian real ..
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“Rising Interest Rates”, “A Cooling of Housing Prices Expected”, “Banks Tighten Mortgage Rules”…these are the headlines dominating the Canadian real ..
Ottawa is on fire No, not literally. Although we can’t be blamed for seeing smoke emerging from the city’s hot ..
Most of us are familiar with the landmark “needle point building” that once housed Ottawa’s largest tech company, the now ..
Canadian mortgage rates are rising. Back in mid-2017, news sites predicted the Bank of Canada was preparing to raise its ..
A major announcement on the new Lebreton Flats Development is expected according to sources involved in the talks between the ..
The Ontario rental market is on fire. Rental properties, yes rentals, are going into multiple offer scenarios and have been ..
An authentic Hard Loft is a rare beast. Lofts in Ottawa are in short supply due to the nature of their origin. In order to fit this category, a former industrial or commercial use space must be converted into a residential living space. Out of this formula, some common elements arise. Old, often exposed brick, visible mechanical elements of the building such as pipes and beams, large windows and vaulted ceilings. The latter is the element from which a loft derives its name. A lofted ceiling that allows a living space to feel much larger than the square footage of the floor plan. Ceiling heights from 11 to16 ft are common.
There are no rules regarding whether or not a loft includes separate bedrooms. There may be no separation at all. Partition walls at less than ceiling height may be present or a second floor with partial walls or overlooks can be found. These are usually seen in units where the ceiling height is generous enough to allow room for a partial second floor.
The conversion of these commercial buildings are one-off. Often what makes them stand out are the singular elements associated with that particular building. Some will feature 100 yr old flooring, the wide beams and large nails that made up the factory floors of the day. Others may be touted for the uniqueness of the brick used to construct the building or the shape and style of the stonework. Window style will also be particular to each building, with original glass and frames, shape and size all contributing to the style of the lofts in Ottawa.
Of special interest, will be the history of the building. The story that these conversions tell is almost as important as the design in conveying the style of the home. The original use, any subsequent commercial conversions and the date of the original construction, all contribute to setting the buildings apart. All of these factors naturally limit the height of the buildings, but not necessarily the amenities. There are Hard Lofts that also include common areas, fitness rooms and shared rooftop spaces. Of particular interest are buildings that have been reclaimed from the public domain such as schools and churches.
The other criteria that must be filled is location. While this applies to every home and business, the trick with Hard Lofts is there must be underutilized or vacant industrial space near to an urban centre. Simply converting a vacant factory in the middle of nowhere, doesn’t have much appeal. Look for office, commercial and retail conversion as live work spaces to fill the gap in demand. It is also important to note the distinction between living spaces and those designated for mixed use, as this adds volume to the available Hard Loft category. Those with dual zoning are sometimes listed as artists spaces, or live work units. Both styles are more likely to be found in urban centres with high foot traffic.
The price tag associated with these one of a kind lofts in Ottawa, is not often congruent with the artists label they may receive. In some cities this was born of the use of buildings that could house projects, but were not necessarily converted to living spaces. In the past, inexpensive, unused industrial space was a great fit for artists. Necessities like plumbing and heat, were ignored in favour of the affordability. City zoning and housing laws will play a large part in determining what’s on offer for Hard Lofts today. Each city will determine what constitutes a space fit for living, and where inhabitants are allowed to offer commercial services from their residence.
Soft Lofts are new builds designed to offer the space and style of a hard loft. The demand for hard lofts far exceeds availability and the costs associated with these one of kind spaces, place them out of reach for many buyers. Here is where the Soft Loft comes to life. Builders, eager to fill the demand for open concept spaces, adopted the term loft and applied it to units which outside of the conversion elements, fit the design and style criteria of a loft.
More commonly found in low and mid rise buildings, upper floors in high rise buildings may also have units that have been given a Soft Loft treatment. The popularity of the Soft Loft is growing along with demand for higher ceilings, open floor plans and unique design elements. Luckily supply is high, since the units are created with new builds, there is no limit on how many can hit a given market. However, due to the low supply Hard lofts are more likely to retain their value over time and suffer less vulnerability to market shifts.
Expect to find a wide range of styles. Many units will mimic Hard loft design features, while the external building may be represented in a more modern style. Many of the architectural components in a Hard loft may differ and so too do the elements of a Soft Loft. The expanse of options can make choosing a Soft Loft more difficult, the lower prices will surely ease that burden. You’ll find completely open concept units, partially walled bedrooms and open concept overlook sleeping quarters. Large windows will be an easy to find feature as they lower the construction costs for the building. Soft lofts may also still include features such as exposed brick, polished concrete floors, wood beams and other industrial elements.
One of the biggest bonuses of Soft Lofts is their inclusion in building projects that compete for best amenities. New build condos have to offer a wide and exciting range of amenities to attract potential buyers. Finding a soft loft in a building that also has concierge, party rooms, pools, full scale gym and rooftop BBQ’s is not uncommon. They are also not restricted by any existing structure. A soft loft can be built into any design or building, offering more options for style and layout. Developers will sometimes use the mixing of these elements. They design multiple building complexes, combining Condo units, Soft Lofts and Townhomes into a single project.
A very special portion of the real estate market exists in the area of Development condos. These are units that are purchased based on the projected plans for a building. A buyer may visit a temporary showroom, located near to the proposed location of the building to see models and floor plans of the various units the seller hopes to construct. Purchasing at this stage allows the buyer to have a greater control in the outcome of their unit. They can make a different type of investment and purchase at a lower price per square foot than what will be available post construction.
Buyers may choose the option of Development in order to make a future investment. Those who know they will be retiring or downsizing in a few years, may take the opportunity to plan. Buyers that are making a first time investment might like more time to save before diving into full mortgage payments. Others still will purchase these units as rental properties or with the forethought of the increased sale price at closing.
If you want to be able to choose your floors, finishes and appliances, at less than the cost to purchase someone else’s choices from the past,Development might appeal to you. It’s not often that you have so many design choices when looking to purchase a home. There will be a number of layouts, options for total square footage, number of bedrooms and location within the building to choose from. Usually this type of customization will require a second investment in renovations. As well as, the purchase price of your home.
When taking the leap on a Development condo, you’ll be given a list of options that you’ll be able to customize. Everything in the home will be brand new and they will likely be under warranty. Keep in mind that the developer is speculating on what they believe the final outcomes will be for the unit and building, they require some flexibility, not everything can be fixed into even the best agreements.
This can make a good case for looking at the past projects of the developer. How close to their projected dates did they come? Do they have a history of big surprise closing costs, or a history of great relationships with their buyers? How have their projects held up over time as places people want to live and as investments. This type of home purchase, more than others, requires a long term deal with your developer. You’ll want a long term relationship that is mutually beneficial.
Purchasing a unit in a building prior to the work beginning, can have some tremendous benefits. It also requires a deeper knowledge to arrange this type of purchase. A realtor who specializes in Development units may be helpful for protecting your investment. The money spent on a qualified agent may be easily recuperated with the thorough shaping of your agreement. You’ll want to understand how the Development payments are going to be structured and where you’ll be spending versus saving. In an already finished home it’s easy to see how your money is being spent. With a Development condo, being well informed will be a must.
A symbol of modern living, the High-Rise condo has actually been used throughout history. There is evidence that high rise buildings were present 2000 years ago in ancient Rome, though made of mud and sticks and not particularly safe. They were also seen in circular structures in China 700 years ago. Some buildings used 500 years ago in Yemen can still be seen today. At the turn of the last century high rise buildings began to solidify their place in urban centres, as you can see with the development of High-Rise Condos in Ottawa. Especially in the downtown core. The industrial revolution created the need to bring more workers closer to work and elevators and concrete made them functional. Public housing then pushed the volume of high rise buildings in and around cities all over the globe.
The original reinforced concrete and steel buildings of the mid century are slowly being replaced by glass condo towers in city centres and mega cities. Units are shrinking but public and shared use spaces are increasing by way of amenities like community meeting space, party rooms, fitness centres and even theatres. This, along with more thoughtful use of the areas that surround these buildings is meant to create living communities. These living communities will have access to daily needs and services and connected to the larger communities that surround them. Today’s best high rise buildings offer choices for unit style and design, extra amenities to increase community involvement, green space that is cared for by maintenance fees and ground floor businesses. High rise life is best enjoyed in walkable communities with plenty of business and services that connect to the larger city.
High rise units today can be; designed as soft lofts, have multiple floors and have the opportunity for a luxury of options when purchased pre build. Building to building, units have a huge range for layout, upgrades, amenities, ceiling heights and storage space. A buyer or renter will need to know what’s on their priority list or they risk being overwhelmed by the choices. One commonality will probably be floor to ceiling windows. Growing in popularity is also on open plan for the main living area, something easily found in high rises today.
Anything over five stories, or a height that firefighters would have difficulty reaching, qualifies as high rise. New high rises in some cities will follow neighbourhood design and sight lines, with some areas upholding height guidelines. Other cities are in a race for the sky and 50 floors wouldn’t be out of the ordinary. This is especially true for the glass towers that have so much more flexibility. The record holders and breakers are pushing high rise living ever further with 100+ floor residential towers. Some aiming to push past a full kilometre into the sky.
Low-Rise condos can be found all over the world. Depending on the city, they can be a highly sought after living arrangement. Low-Rise condos with most commonly be referred to buildings of less than four stories. They tend to be walkups without the benefit of an elevator. The charm and character of these buildings makes up a large part of the draw. Smaller buildings that are less expensive to build overall, may include more architectural features and other design features that set it apart. Newer builds in particular will strive to keep the continuity of the neighbourhood. They may take historical reference from the buildings around them, and strive to offer what can’t be found in a high rise buildings. These thoughtful Low Rise projects are of particular importance in neighbourhoods where bylaws stand to uphold sight lines and other existing community elements.
In some parts of the world the buildings may have historic value and are sought after for their cultural cache. The uniqueness of these buildings sets them apart as one of a kind living spaces. Older Low Rise buildings may lack some of the amenities of newer Low-Rise builds. However, new units are not as easy to find with rising cost to build and developers wanting to maximize the number of units in their buildings. This is most evident in urban centres where density and cost of the footprint for the land are high. In the developing suburbs around city centres, new builds of all heights can be found. The density of outer urban centres is increasing at super speed. These newly designed communities offer much by way of options, including interesting low rise choices.
The size of Low-Rise buildings can vary greatly, with just a few units or they may be quite dense. The choices for configuration of Low-Rise buildings can also have a wide range. Some townhouses share a sidewall, are two or three stories and might include a front and back entrance and yard. Similar units may be found that are stacked, run front to back and may still include multiple stories within the units. These units may or may not all have entrance at grade.
It’s also possible to find townhouses that have back to back configuration, where units share a backwall. Multi-story low rise apartment buildings will have units that are stacked vertically, usually with fewer than four floors and will share an interior corridor. There are fewer examples of older buildings that share an exterior corridor. Hybrid buildings will have grade access units at the base with stacked units on top that share in interior corridor.
A luxury living experience in an urban setting is a highly sought after commodity. Luxury is a word that is frequently used in real estate. It’s a relative term and what may be a luxury for one, may not be for another. The qualities that might be included in the definition of a luxury unit will be determined by the renter or buyer. In a modern market, buildings are in high competition to offer the client as many high quality amenities as possible to set themselves apart. These luxuries should be present across a spectrum of criteria. They should include: location, square footage, layout, design, finishes and services. Depending on location and age of the building there may also be other features on offer. Features such as theatres, pools, saunas, full size fitness centres and rooftop terraces.
It would be fair to expect to find Luxury condos that offer more square footage in urban centres. These units are located on the upper floors of the buildings and have high end appliances and finishes. The more detailed definitions of those items will vary by city but should remain current and updated even in historic buildings. Windows, counter tops, hardware and flooring should all be high quality and in excellent repair. Access to modern, technical necessities should also be seamless. The building itself should also be in an excellent location, offer spectacular views and cultural or architectural cache. The unit does not have to necessarily be housed in a high rise building. Although, luxury in a lower rise building may be harder to find depending on the country. Hard lofts may be included in this category depending on the level to which they are executed and maintained.
Ease of living is a component that must also be given consideration. Residents are expecting to live maintenance and hassle free. The presence of privacy and security will also factor into the luxury of the building. Twenty four hour services should include concierge and security. A doorman may also be present although that may only cover daytime and evening hours.
One sure way to find a building intended to offer top of the line features is the hotel unit. Whether purchased or rented, these units will come with all of the features the hotel has on offer. There will often be onsite restaurants and cafes. There may be dedicated elevator service, where hotel guests are restricted from accessing the floors on which residents are present, adding privacy. Fewer, larger units on residential floors will contribute to privacy as well. There will be daily cleaning available, all maintenance will be covered and with quick turnover. Gyms, spas and other beauty services will be at the other end of the phone. Most of these amenities, other than perhaps room service should be present in a luxury building even if it isn’t a hotel.
Depending on the height of the building, garden or terrace units will add incentive to those who require private outdoor space. In a hotel these may only be possible in units with rooftop access, or those designed with step-backs on the upper floors.