Obstructed View?


5 minute read

July 8, 2011

I’ve written many, many blog posts dealing with the view, or the lack therof in condominium suites, but I’m noticing a new trend amongst buyers.

It used to be that the view mattered, or perhaps not.

But now buyers are looking at the potential view down the road, and making decisions accordingly…

Stand on any balcony, in any condo, in any area of downtown Toronto, and I’m positive you’ll see the same thing that I see: cranes.

All I see, anywhere I look, are CRANES!

No, I don’t mean one of these:

And I certainly don’t think we’re talking about one of these, are we now, Daniel-san?

I’m talking about the #1 sign that development is rampant across our fair city; that being the presence of crane, after crane, after crane.

I was in a unit at DNA yesterday overlooking Liberty Village and I counted about 4-5 cranes, which of course signified 4-5 more condominiums are under construction.

Look left, right, up, down – anywhere you look, you’re likely to see a development going on.

And this brings me to an issue that I fear we cannot solve, and that is what to do about your VIEW.

We all know that buying a condo that overlooks a barren plot of land or a parking lot is a terrible idea, and that when the crane goes into the ground and construction begins on a 30-storey tower, you have nobody to blame but yourself!  (Tell that to the people at Glas…)

But the fear of a condominium being built “at any time” and blocking out your gorgeous view is ever-present, and it’s spreading like the rash I seem to have on my back…

What’s more is that as a result, buyers’ outlooks have changed completely!

Downtown condo buyers used to start with a 2-3 year outlook, since that’s about the average time that a buyer is in a condo before moving on or up.

But now buyers are looking 5-6 years down the road, and not because they’re considering themselves.

Buyers  are so concerned with resale value that they’re looking further down the road than ever before.

What started as, “I’ll be here for a couple of years, so I’m not too worried about that vacant lot next door,” has turned into, “Well in three years when I sell, if there are plans to build a condo next door, then the buyer pool for my unit will be concerned!”

And with rampant development, everywhere you look is cause for concern.

It’s hard to ignore resale value, but I tell my clients, “Try not to think too much about the resale value down the road for a condo that you haven’t even purchased yet!”  Sometimes buyers get so concerned with appreciation and potential resale value that they forget the whole purpose of the purchase is to find a place to call home.

But you can’t deny that a gorgeous lake-view has to be protected in order to maintain the value of the asset.

A beautiful patio, gourmet kitchen, or vaulted 14-foot-ceiling will never change.

But a view can, and often does.

I was looking at a few south-facing units at Mozo Lofts last month, and while the lakefront views were beautiful, the pending zoning application for the two condos that will be built on the Greyhound lot were somewhat ruining the experience.

Personally, the lake-view wasn’t the reason for being in those units.  Having “open air” is great no matter which direction you face and what you see.  If you happen to face out at another building and you have another balcony directly on top of yours, then you don’t really have the space to feel free.  It’s a bit cramped, and it feels like the walls are closing in.  But if you have six-hundred feet in front of you before the next building, then I don’t really care what I’m looking at!

This was the case at Mozo, where the lake-view will eventually be blocked out by a condo.  But from King down to Front Street is a helluva distance, and I wouldn’t feel like I’m hurting for space.

But alas, what you have now and what you’ll have down the road will always be compared.  If you showed that condo five years from now when the Greyhound condo has been built and the view of the lake is gone, nobody will ever say, “Great view, except I wish that giant building wasn’t there.”  Because you’d never think to remove things that are already there.  That condo will be a mainstay, and only the people who lived in Mozo from 2006-2012 will remember the lake views.

Perhaps as somebody who lives on the second floor of a building with no view of anything but brick walls, I shouldn’t be offering opinions on views.  But my 500 square foot terrace more than makes up for the lack of a view, and having a Juliette balcony on the umpteenth floor with a city-view isn’t even in the same realm, as far as I’m concerned.

But from an investment standpoint, I do sympathize with buyers who are constantly concerned with the threat of a crane going up outside their window.  I just don’t think it’s the end of the world.

People often say, “On a long enough time horizon, every view will be obstructed.”  There’s some truth to that, although it also makes me think that this will only serve to put a larger premium on condos that do have great views!

I have a client in my building who purchased a couple years back on the 9th or 10th floor, and his southwest view is certainly a nice feature.  There is a condo called “King Plus” being built on the corner, and assuming they start this condo in late 2011 or early 2012, he’ll have been at his condo for three years before the obstruction takes place.  Clearly it’s a nuisance that he could do without, but we always knew this was a possibility.

Back when he purchased, that site was going to be developed as “Bahaus Condos,” and it looked like the project had fallen through.  I told my client, “That will be a condo eventually, but not for some time.”

Bahaus did fall through, and it took years for “King Plus” to come to the forefront.

He ended up with a few solid years with an unobstructed view, and it might take a couple more years for that condo to actually be developed.

I tell my clients to enjoy what they have, while they have it.  If the view is eventually obstructed, it’s likely something we could have foreseen in the first place.

A view is only one aspect of your condo, and while you could put a $200,000 premium on something like Palace Pier where you’re literally overtop of the water, those views are very rare in the downtown core, and most condos are in very close proximity to other buildings.

For a buyer looking to purchase in the downtown core, I would suggest not getting too bogged down with what “could” be built six years down the road.  Like I said – you’re going to be there for three years, but don’t worry on the behalf of the person that’s going to buy your condo in three years, having a further three year outlook.  With that method of thinking, you’ll never end up with a place.

Just don’t buy a condo next to a parking lot, and God forbid if you do – don’t blame the “evil” developer for taking away your sunlight.

There’s always the rooftop terrace!  Assuming that’s not obstructed either…

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. Clara

    at 4:49 am

    What the hell happened to your website 😐

  2. Clara

    at 5:03 am

    Look at you big guy, your website even has its own acronym now!
    ps. i like your winking at the end of your video bio. 😉

  3. Moonbeam!

    at 11:01 am

    Kudos on the new blog design!! and great video-bio, can’t wait to see you on TV!
    As for a great view, your readers should know that some condos in the GTA do have great views that are not threatened by new development — if you’re willing to go north of the lake — eg Inn on the Park…. you can overlook a park!

  4. Jenn

    at 8:16 pm

    I know this is old, but I felt I had to comment on this one. I’m one of the buyers considering future view, but only because sellers are factoring in view and charging for it! So on the one hand, you can rightfully say the view will change, and nobody will remember when you could see the lake… but at the same time the buyer who paid extra for the lake view (versus another cheaper unit in the same building without the view) is the one who will take the unfortunate hit.

    Your points are valid, but they seem to neglect that one aspect that sellers are asking more for the nice view (more money that won’t be recoverable upon selling) and they assume that the units with the view are priced the same as those without. As a real estate agent, you of course know this isn’t the case.

    We’ve made the decision to buy something ideally facing the side of another building or a wall, because I absolutely would feel like an idiot if I paid for a great view and lost it 3 years later. Haha! I don’t even care about the view… I just don’t want to be the sucker that paid for the view there once was. 😉

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