And Just When You Thought Toronto Was Expensive…


3 minute read

January 13, 2017

…we see what condos are selling for in red-hot Sydney, Australia!

But the following example combines the two biggest problems in Toronto real estate: rising prices, and shrinking unit size.

A few years back, I lamented that condos in new-construction were getting smaller and smaller, and pointed to all the 300-square-foot units at “Art Shoppe.”

But last month, a 150 square foot condo smashed records in Sydney, Australia, so maybe we’re not the only ones with a real estate “problem”…


2015, wow.

Two years, and like 25-30% ago!

All joking aside, time flies, but the trends remain the same: rising prices and shrinking condo sizes.

The blog I’m referring to was titled, “Living Inside A Box,” and I even found a great picture of a guy literally living inside a box, to go along with the blog.

In the post, I showed off floor plans for the new “Art Shoppe Condos” at Yonge & Eglinton, which with their 325, 336, 379, 424, 478, 510, 521, 558, 590, 607, 689, 697, 756, 809, and 882 square foot models, the developer clearly showed how condo sizes were rapidly shrinking.

And FYI – those models from 590 square feet and up were 2-bedrooms.

The condos are shrinking in size, of course, because developers are building for investors, and not for end users.

Investors buy more pre-construction condos than end users do, after all.

Have you ever been inside a 325 square foot condo?

They’re obviously quite small, and not that functional, but in Toronto the functionality is far worse, since developers just build a smaller version of a larger condo, rather than implementing innovative, space-saving features.

Have you ever seen the TV show “Tiny House” on HGTV?  I’m embarrassed to say that I have, but only because my wife watches it, and she can do whatever she wants without judgment since she’s mother to a newborn…

On the show, they constantly display novel, space-saving solutions, with hidden, retractable, fold-out, tuck-away, recessed, below-grade, or built-in features.

How the hell else can you live in such a small space?

Toronto seems like the one place where tiny houses, or in this case, condos, don’t really get the Innovation Award.

And at an average of $930/sqft for the units at the Art Shoppe, who the hell is buying there anyways?

On Thursday, I filmed a Pick5 segment on the average price per square foot of downtown, 2-bed, 2-bath condos, which I suggested was around $650 to $700.

That sure puts the $930/sqft at Art Shoppe into perspective, but that’s a topic for another day…

The condo I wanted to talk about today isn’t in downtown Toronto, or even in midtown like Art Shoppe.

It’s a little bit further than that.

It’s in Sydney, Australia.

We often make comparisons to New York or London, but we rarely venture into another hot market, which at the moment, is absolutely red-hot.

In December, a micro-condo of only 150 square feet was sold for a whopping $350,000.

The Aussie dollar is almost even with the Canadian dollar, so call it a wash for discussion purposes.

Here’s the floor plan:


It’s in metres, like any good member of the Commonwealth.  Shame on us Canadians for using square feet

Here are some photos of the unit, in all its glory:





There’s nothing quite like being able to sit on your toilet, and chop veggies on your kitchen counter, is there?

I’m not sure if you guys did the math on this one yet, but that’s actually the bigger story here.

Sure, a 150 square foot condo is small, but we’ve seen smaller.

Recall that ridiculous 78 square foot condo in Manhattan from back in 2011-12:

But that’s a novelty that makes for a weird video.

This condo in Sydney actually sold, and sold for a lot.

$2,333 per square foot.

That’s more than TRIPLE the average price per square foot in downtown Toronto these days.

So as is the theme every time we turn on CNN these days, remember, “It could always be worse.”

We may find ourselves in a red-hot Toronto market, and prices may have appreciated massively in 2016, but a quick Internet search will show you dozens of cities around the world where people would kill to pay only $700 per square foot.

Oh – and to live in a condo as big as 325 square feet?  That’s just a dream to many of them…

Written By David Fleming

David Fleming is the author of Toronto Realty Blog, founded in 2007. He combined his passion for writing and real estate to create a space for honest information and two-way communication in a complex and dynamic market. David is a licensed Broker and the Broker of Record for Bosley – Toronto Realty Group

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  1. Paully

    at 9:26 am

    It may be cliche, but holy crap, you would even have to step outside of that condo to change your mind!

    Interesting how much loooonger the white drawer cabinet looks in the third picture than in the fourth. Slick photographic work.

  2. jeff316

    at 9:32 am

    Wow. You are pretty much pooping right in your kitchen!

    1. Kramer

      at 9:41 am

      Yah… that is disgusting. There’s no need to fertilize your vegetables once they are in your kitchen.

  3. Francesca

    at 9:33 am

    Very interesting blog today David and I love the video too. I think the way things are going right now in Toronto and Vancouver it’s safe to say that we are heading more in the direction of other large metropolitan world cities in Asia, Europe, in NYC and it seems like Sydney too in terms of smaller more compact urban apartments. I think up until now we have been spoiled in Canada and are used to living in much larger spaces than other countries of the world but I believe our expectations of urban living may have to change if we continue to want to live in urban areas. In fact I lived for a third of my life in Italy in both Milan and Rome where it’s not uncommon for a family of four to live in a two bedroom, one and a half washroom of approx 700 sq feet. Anything above 1000 sq feet in these two expensive cities is considered luxurious! When we moved back to Italy for a while into 1400 sq feet apartment we thought it was so small coming from Canada although all our fellow friends and family members there thought we were lucky to have so much space. Then when we moved back to Toronto years later we were amazed at how much space we could find and how cheap it was compared to Milan and Rome. Yes it’s true Toronto prices have increased a lot since then (1994) but it is still more expensive per square foot in Italy than it is here and I’m willing to bet pretty much anywhere in Europe that’s on par with Toronto (London, Paris, Madrid, Zurich, Berlin). The apartments in Europe though seem to be better equipped to dealing with less space with more compact kitchens (small fridges as people tend to shop almost daily for food and not in bulk like in North America) and we don’t have walk in closets there but rather armoires that you buy custom built to fit the bedrooms and then take with you when you move. We also don’t have king beds, queen is the biggest you would find there so easier to fit in smaller apartments. It’s crazy to think that builders are building and selling such small apartments like the Art Shoppe ones you mention David but I guess the demand especially for millennials and investors is there right now. I agree with you David that the prices are ridiculous though compared to resale prices of larger units in the same area. What I find is the biggest paradox happening right now in our city is the two extremes between smaller and smaller shoebox condos and then the flip side is these huge monster like houses that keep getting built on the larger lots where small 1950s-1960s side splits and bungalows used to be. I see this happening a lot in the Yonge and Sheppard/Finch corridor, Banbury/Denlow area, Leaside and even in the suburbs like old Oakville and Markham village. Surely there has to be a happy medium between the 750 sq foot condo and the 5000+ sq foot monster home. If families want to stay in the city there isn’t much choice. Builders need to start building more townhouses and larger family friendly condos to meet the demand of people who prefer not to live in such small spaces and that don’t want to move to the suburbs to get more space. My first condo at 28 was a one bedroom one bathroom 650 sq foot condo and I thought that was super small coming from my parents large detached house. I can’t imagine squeezing another bathroom and bedroom into that space now! I have to say if this is the way we are heading I feel really bad for millennials and the generations after as they won’t be able to have the same standard of living as previous generations had.

  4. Libertarian

    at 10:55 am

    Is it just me, or is that a full-sized fridge on the right in Picture #4? There’s a mini-fridge under the countertop stove/range, so why a second fridge?

    To me, it looks like the first 2 pictures are one unit and the last 2 are of a different unit.

    Picture 1 shows the bed, but there is no fridge to the left of it. There is the window/door to the far left.

    Picture 4 – it appears that the bed is folded away, but you see the fridge and the window/door.

    Also, how can a place so small have a front door AND a back door? Two doors???? Really???

    I admit that I’m not using to looking at floor plans, so maybe I’m missing something,

    While too small for me, what I like about these units is that it forces people to be minimalists. No knick knacks, tchotchkes, collections, DVDs, video games, extensive amount of clothes, etc.

    1. Libertarian

      at 10:57 am

      Sorry, I meant the first picture seems to be a different unit than the last 3 pictures.

    2. Ralph Cramdown

      at 10:02 am

      It’s Australia. The mini fridge is for your fresh protein, dairy and vegetables. The full sized fridge is for the beer.

  5. Kyle

    at 10:59 am

    Geez, 350K and there is only one window in the whole unit (the barred up one on the door). How much does a place cost in a nice location where one doesn’t need bars on your window?

  6. Max

    at 11:09 am

    And this is why the smart developers aren’t building condos anymore; they’re building public storage.

  7. BillyO

    at 12:15 pm

    Sydney and to some extent Melbourne make Toronto look like a bargain. I just got back from NYC, where $850K gets you a studio on 6th Ave. new pre con in Boston is $1400 PSF. Having been elsewhere in the world TO is definitely undervalued. $800-$1000 PSF for non-Yorkville product will be the reality in another 5 years.

    1. Geoff

      at 1:53 pm

      Maybe so – but to some extend a Tesla makes a Ford look like a bargain too. Toronto isn’t NYC, it’s not even Boston.

      1. AT555

        at 3:50 pm

        I have lived in all three cities for considerable mount of time. Agree Toronto is no NYC but come on…its a bigger metro than Boston is…in every aspect.

    2. Sly

      at 10:05 am

      Not only the prices but the Cad/Usd exchange makes our real estate be a bargain for those foreign investors.
      $1000/Sqf in Toronto is actually only $762 in USD.

  8. WEB

    at 7:51 pm

    Just before the housing crash in 1990, the conventional wisdom of the day was that real estate prices were still cheap in Toronto because they were lower than several other large cities around the world. So one could be cautious about the current same argument.

    That being said, Toronto has really grown up and has changed massively for the better since 1990 and so perhaps those comparisons are more justified now.

    I grew up in 4,000 – 5,000 SQ FT homes so my current house of 2,300 SQ FT (excluding a finished basement) feels small to me. But today’s post sure makes me feel better!

  9. Chris

    at 6:38 pm

    Wow, great, so prices are out of whack in Australia too. This doesn’t convince me at all that real estate in Toronto is rational.

    All it does is lend further evidence to the massive distortion being caused by the trillions of dollars of capital outflows currently hemorrhaging out of China. When their government finally clamps down on outflows, or the Chinese debt crisis materializes, look out below!

  10. Condodweller

    at 8:23 pm

    I get that people buy small places out of necessity but I don’t get why one would buy a premium small unit for a price that would get them a larger unit.

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