How important is visitor parking to you when you’re looking at purchasing a condo in a given building?
Is it enough to make or break the sale?
Have you ever been to the furniture store on King Street East that goes by the same name?
If you haven’t, your chance is GONE! The store is apparently out of business, which is too bad for my friend, who paid for her couch in full, only to discover after a non-delivery of the item that the store is out of business, the phone is disconnected, the website has been taken down, and she’s out a few thousand dollars.
Where did they get the name Visitor Parking from anyways?
When it comes to downtown Toronto condominiums, I find that visitor parking is usually an after-thought.
Some buyers ask about the availability of visitor parking spaces in the building, but few take it beyond the preliminary steps.
After all, visitor parking isn’t something that you are going to use and benefit from, but rather something your friends and family will.
As every outdoor parking lot in Toronto slowly becomes a condo sales-centre, and eventually a condo, there are fewer and fewer places to park when visiting friends. Maybe, just maybe, the amount of visitor parking spaces in a new building is becoming an important criteria for a buyer.
I was in a building last week on Windermere where there were sixty-five visitor parking spaces, most of which were empty. I couldn’t believe my eyes! Sixty-five spaces – that’s unbelievable!
There are 308 units in this 28-storey building, plus about 30 townhouses adjacent to the building, which means that the 65 visitor parking spaces for the 338 units represents almost one parking space for every five condominium units!
A 5-to-1 ratio? Is that unheard of, or is that the norm?
Let’s take a look at my building, for example.
On Sunday night, instead of watching Mad Men, I went down to the parking garage and counted the number of visitor parking spaces – there are thirty-three in total, that service BOTH buildings at Vu – 112 and 116 George Street.
There are 530 units at Vu Condos, and 33 visitor parking spaces.
That’s a ratio of 16-to-1.
This hardly even compares to the condo on Windermere, which suddenly looks like it encourages nightly guests and swinging socials!
My old condo on King Street had 332 units, and 20 visitor parking spaces – a ratio of 16.6-to-1.
And in my old condo, I didn’t even bother checking visitor parking on a Friday or Saturday night, because I knew the spots were all taken.
It bothered me too – I had a friend who lived in the building that would encourage his friends to park there, whenever they felt like it. I’d see them park their car and take the elevator up, and I’d say, oh you are going to see “Joe?” They’d smile and say, “Nah, we’re going to the Blue Jays game, but Joe said we could park here.”
That really pissed me off. It’s not like our building was attached to the Rogers Centre! Why couldn’t they take TTC, park in a parking lot, or cab like the rest of society? There were nights when I knew 3-4 of his friends were parking their cars in the mere 20 visitor parking spaces we had!
Some buildings police the visitor parking better than others, and some don’t do it at all.
Then there is my current building, where the concierge asks you for the licence plate of your visitor’s car, plus the colour of the car, plus the model, and when you say “Mercedes 500,” they’ll ask “Is that C-class or E-class?”
I’m not a car guy. I basically tell them “Black, with four wheels and a roof.” But they take things so seriously! “Toyota Corolla LE…….is that LE, or LE Plus?”
But at least they’re keeping track!
Not all buildings in the downtown core have sixty-five empty visitor parking spaces like the building out at Windermere!
Those spaces are pretty coveted on a Friday or Saturday night when you don’t want your out-of-area friends to have to run down and feed the parking meter, or drive around aimlessly looking for a spot on the street!
So how important is a decent amount of visitor parking when you’re a buyer looking at various condos?
Some people won’t care, in the slightest.
But others will take this into account, and might pass on a building if visitor parking isn’t ample.
I have one client who is downsizing from a small house with a private driveway and 3-car parking. She is looking for a condominium with one owned parking space for her one car, but she needs visitor parking for her family and friends.
Over the last fifteen years, she has grown accustomed to using her long driveway for her own car and 1-2 of her visitors, and if she happens to have 20 people over for Thanksgiving dinner, they can park all the way up the street for as far as the eye can see.
So imagine her dismay when we go and look at a condominium with one owned underground parking space, and only a dozen spaces for visitors?
The building we looked in had a reasonable amount of visitor parking: about a 12-to-1 ratio, which as we’ve demonstrated above, is better than many buildings downtown!
But the condominium was situated on a major intersection and a very busy corner of midtown Toronto, and if there aren’t any visitor parking spaces available underground, it could take a half-hour to circle around and find a spot on the street.
Add to the mayhem that many streets don’t allow parking from 4-6pm, and suddenly finding parking gets that much harder.
My client has parents in their 80’s, who are not that mobile, and from whom walking three blocks from the car to the condo is simply not an option. If push comes to shove, and it’s parents versus condo, the parents obviously win-out, and thus for my client, visitor parking is tremendously important!
Every buyer is different, and every buyer uses a different set of evaluation criteria when looking at a condominium, and I get the feeling that visitor parking does not even make the top-20 list for most buyers. But I also feel that when it is important, it’s one of the top-3.
For my client mentioned above, an entire building was eliminated just because of the visitor parking situation. It doesn’t matter that the unit itself was everything she could ever hope for and more. What good is the unit itself if your friends and family, whom you’re accustomed to seeing 3-4 nights per week, can’t readily find parking and thus won’t come and visit you when you make the move?
Then there is something different altogether, like one Richmond Street East building which has no visitor parking, but does have an on-site (underground) Green-P parking facility that, in theory, will never run out of parking spaces.
Some people see the downside to this: there is no visitor parking for the building, and people have to pay to visit!
Others see the upside: there will always be a spot available, and you have room for one, two, or ten of your friends.
As I said, every buyer is different, and I wouldn’t expect everybody to see this situation one particular way. But perhaps it’s the lesser of two evils? And with so many people abusing the visitor parking situation, perhaps this is a compromise?
As for abusing the system, consider those buildings with no concierge where the visitor parking is on the “honor system,” and residents are left to their own accord to fill out passes and encourage their guests to put them on their windshield.
Am I naive for thinking that would ever work?
Just ask the people who park there all the time, and don’t live there…