With all the condominiums in Toronto, there is an ongoing question in the minds of future buyers regarding the value of aesthetics: along with the common area interiors and amenities, does the exterior facade of a condominium have any bearing on value? We wonder.
To start, we assess the materials used for construction (are they attractive or ugly, trendy or timeless?) We also ask how the elements of the development (size, proportion and scale) relate to people (do you feel comfortable when standing in front of it?) and neighbouring buildings (is it similar in size?) Thirdly, and perhaps most interestingly, we consider how well the condominium fits within the context of the neighbourhood (does it look like it belongs on the street?)
Although it can’t be quantified, we believe many (but not all) buyers include the appearance of a building’s exterior (realtors call this ‘curb appeal’) as part of their decision to purchase in one building over another. After all, over the past few decades we’ve seen condominium facades continually evolve as developers attempt to tap into the changing architectural styles and trends of the times in which they’re built. Given condominiums are typically marketed as a ‘lifestyle’ to specific targeted groups of buyers, then the overall aesthetics of a building must play into the market’s desire for a beautiful home, inside and out.
A Brief History
Although condominiums have been in existence in Ontario since the late 1960s, their presence and popularity in downtown Toronto began around 1980. When the real estate market bubble burst at the end of 1989, real estate values began a precipitous decline by as much as 35 percent, while thousands of new condominiums were simultaneously completed. Speculators quickly discovered buyers had all but disappeared from the market, leaving them in a negative equity position that forced many owners to lose their properties and their fortunes. The massive oversupply of new builds amidst a climate of few buyers resulted in a substantial number of bank repossessed ‘power of sales’. It would take years for the glut of condominium units to be absorbed into the market place. In fact, while the market bottomed out, Toronto saw few new condominium projects being launched between 1990 through 1996, until the market began its recovery.
Once real estate sales returned in the mid to late 1990s, condominium developers responded by going in one of two directions. First, we began to see transparent glass edifices (which developers commodified and buyers embraced) because they contained suites that celebrated light and views. The increasing use of glass as the dominant ‘skin’ on the exterior facade allowed the glittering floor-to-ceiling city views to become a focal point. In bringing the outside in to create the illusion of more space, developers were able to build smaller suites. These centrally located urban dwellings served the growing market for single first time GenX buyers. While this architectural trend is more visually pleasing than the brick bunkers of the past (to the detriment of birds who keep flying into glass towers), most any urban resident will say these high-rise towers pretty much all look the same.
In conjunction with these ubiquitous boxes-in-the-sky, we also saw the beginning of development teams who targeted Buyers looking for something a little more unique. In fact, this is where urbaneer has its roots in the adaptive reuse conversion loft market, where we were involved in over a dozen projects. In the late 1990s we also began to see the rise of the ‘soft loft’ condominiums which embraced clean lines, spare interiors (often with exposed concrete) and higher ceiling heights of 9 or 10 feet.
As the 2000s approached the end of the decade, the pared down aesthetic of modern living became firmly entrenched in the residential condominium market. In fact, it’s moved into an even more elevated aesthetic called ‘New Modernism’, which caters to the increasingly sophisticated taste makers (and purists) of modern design.
Today, the monochromatic black exterior is now all the rage. Although I love a black house (and am the owner of one!) I didn’t anticipate tiny black bricks would appear as coating on the facades of mid and high-rise condominiums. Unless you’ve been reading Dwell Magazine for the past decade, black brick appears fresh and innovative.
But will the trendy rise (and inevitable fall) of the black brick building ultimately be deemed as too flash-in-the-pan trendy? While black brick is making its mark, what is also trending right now are condominiums with more futuristic shapes and facades. We’re thrilled!
With thirty years of mid and high-rise condominium towers competing for buyers, we’re pretty sure there’s a segment of the market whose purchasing decision is influenced, in part, by the exterior facade of any building. And why not? Living somewhere aesthetically beautiful could be just the boost someone needs to love their home even more. However, one has to be careful, for there’s the risk that what you consider ‘high style’ right now could be trashed as ‘oh so 2000s’ in a matter of a few years. So be careful not to put too much of your ‘value’ on the exterior of a condominium.
Can we help? With a multi-disciplinary education in housing, over twenty years of real estate sales, marketing and development including a sterling reputation as one of Bosley Real Estate’s Top Ten Producers, my team and I make it our mandate to guide buyers and sellers through all their real estate needs.
We’re here to earn your trust, then your business.