Condominium Amenities

“Yeah this building is great, but does it have a POOL?”

“Well, would you actually use the pool?”

“Maybe…maybe not….but I still want this building to have a pool….”

dalhousiepool.jpg

The BEST part about living in a condominium, as opposed to a house, is that you never have to hope that your neighbor might possibly invite you over to his pool on a a hot summer day.  In a condo, you have access to all the same features that your neighbors do!

The WORST part about living in a condominium, as opposed to a house, is that you have to pay for all those useless features you’ll never use like an indoor pool…

Yes, I did just contradict myself.

The condominium buying public is split 50/50 when it comes to the usefulness of building amenities.

Some people think that there is no point in living in a building without a pool, gym, squash court, and movie theatre.  Others think that since they would never use these features, they don’t want to end up paying for them in one way or another.

It really depends on how you spend your free time, and how much free time you have, of course.

So what features should you expect to find in a condominium?

Exercise Room: Most, if not all buildings have an excercise room of some sorts.  This varies from a large fitness facility with ten different cardiovascular machines, an array of free weights and machines, and an area for amdominal exercises, stretching, and yoga; to a very small, very dark room with an old exercise bike and triangular free-weights from before WWII.  When looking at a condo, make the trip to view the exercise room a MUST!

Pool: The larger the building, the greater chance they have a pool.  The new “fad” in condominium design in Toronto, you know, those god-awful skyscrapers that line the Gardiner, is big, bigger, BIGGEST!  One building is 38-stories, the next is 40.  These new buildings all have indoor pools and hot tubs.  My humble opinion as to why: Well, you’ve got to give people some incentive to live there, and make a horrible decision and investment in the process.  But that’s okay, you can take out your frustration while swimming laps in your Olympic-sized pool.

Squash/Tennis: Tennis courts and squash/racquetball facilities are becoming fewer and further between.  Many condos built in the 1980’s feature squash AND tennis courts, as does the Palace Pier & Palace Place complexes on Lakeshore near Parklawn.  40 Scollard Street in Yorkville, a small building by today’s standards, also features a squash court.  But perhaps the cliche, stereotype of Yorkville-types playing raquetball then eating caviar and heading to “the club” is too much to overcome…

Rooftop Terrace: Most buildings now feature some sort of rooftop common area or party area, usually with BBQ pits open to residents, some with amenities on the roof itself (hot tub, pool), and a panoramic view of the city, which is the main attraction.

Basketball/Golf: These features are very rare, and other than 155 Dalhousie, I’m not sure of any condos that have full indoor basketball courts.  Golf practice nets can often be found in older buildings where there is an unused squash court, and small putting greens are also available in some buildings (real grass putting green at Palace Pier, AstroTurf putting green at 16 Yonge Street).

Recreation/Party Room: Every building in the city has some sort of party room, which is really just a very large, unused, furnished suite that residents can rent out when they need more space than their units provide.  Kitchen, bar, and big-screen TV are the norms in these recreation facilities.

Visitor Suites & Parking: Visitor parking is always a concern.  Older buildings don’t have anywhere for visitors to park, and overnight parking in Toronto is expensive!  Newer buildings set aside as many as 12-15 parking spaces, underground, where visitors can park anytime, day or night.  Places like Tip Top Lofts have outdoor visitor parking right in front of the building.  Visitor Suites are useful if friends/family are in from out of town and you don’t want them to stay at a hotel.

Security: The days of suite-security without 24-hour concierge are all but over.  If constructing a condominium were anything like making a Lego castle from instructions, Step-One on page-one would be a small Lego man at a desk near the front door….

When looking for a condominium, a prudent buyer needs to decide if he/she is going to actually make use of the amenities.  More often than not, the monthly maintenance fees are substantially higher in buildings with more amenities.

Take the Merchandise Lofts at 155 Dalhousie, for example.  Last week, a 1-bedroom unit sold there for $295,000, and the maintenance fees (NOT including heat, hydro, central air conditioning) are a whopping $375.55 per month, with an additional $51.62 for parking!  This building has more amenities than most buildings in the city, but the residents pay through the nose in maintenance fees!

The newer buildings I mentioned at 10, 12, 16, and 18 Yonge Street have somewhat affordable maintenance fees, considering how nice their amenities are, but the buildings themselves offer nothing in the way of character or location (right next to the Gardiner), and I think they are less likely to appreciate in value (see two rules: 1. supply vs. demand, 2. quality vs. quantity).

The pre-construction condo I purchased at Queen West is boasting a “rooftop pool with waterfall.”  I can honestly say that during the four summer months when this would be useful, I don’t see myself using the wonderful waterfall more than once.  And if my monthly maintenance fees are, say, $12-$15 higher because of the cost of construction and upkeep of this waterfall, then that would mean I’m paying over $150 for the ONE time I want to feel the make-believe tropical water flow freely through my hair.

If I want to see a movie, I’ll watch one on my plasma-TV with Samsung surround sound, or I’ll go, you know, to a MOVIE THEATRE!  I don’t personally need a condominium with a small, indoor movie theatre with 20 seats.  I would NEVER use this.  Oh and it’s not free just in case you’re wondering.  You need to pay for each and every use, as well as a hefty security deposit, as with the “recreation/party rooms” that most buildings also feature.

If I had my way, and it’s not “my way or the highway,” I would like a building with as little amenities as possible.  That way, my maintenance fees would be as low as possible, and I wouldn’t feel the need to swim in the pool just so I can say I’ve done so.

But that’s just me, and it seems like more and more people are desiring better and newer amenities.

My only question: With all this free time to swim in pools and frolic in waterfalls, play billiards or ping-pong, how can anybody make enough money to actually afford to live in a condominium?

Maybe they need to actually go OUTSIDE the condo for a change, and get a breath of fresh air…

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