Your Condominium Lobby

Condos | March 14, 2011

Be completely honest – how many times per week do you walk through your condominium lobby and think to yourself, “Man, I feel really good and happy knowing that my lobby is upscale!”

I’d honestly like to know just how important the look, feel, and allure of a lobby appeals to both buyers and existing residents.

And would you pass up a great condo because the lobby is less than stellar?

Have you ever been to the nightclub called Lobby on Bloor Street?

I have.  Once.

I went there around 2005 the night before a friend’s wedding when he was forced to stay at a neighbouring hotel on account of the whole “Don’t see the bride before the wedding” deal.

My friend Scott was NOT the nightclub type, but rather the backpack full of weed and couch-marathon type.

After getting kicked out of the hotel by security (those 36-year-olds really knew how to party!), it was suggested that we go downstairs to Lobby since one of the high rollers knew the owner.

The first eight guys got inside alright, ahead of a massive line of caviar-eating 20-somethings, but the bouncer stopped Scott in his tracks.

“Nah man, hell nah.  This guy ain’t getting inside,” he said.

Scott was wearing a baseball cap, a thick green winter jacket, and was carrying the aforementioned backpack.

He didn’t look like the homogeneous lineup of wasps in their black top-coats and with their arm candy firmly affixed.

Ely, the high-roller, told the bouncer he was friends with the owner and that Scott was more than welcome.  The bouncer said, “Well then he’s gotta do something ’bout all this,” and pointed to Scott, up and down.

Scott was forced to remove his hat and in front of the top-coat-mafia, the bouncer said, “Now smooth out the hair,” and Scott did so, unsuccessfully.  The bouncer grabbed some snow in his hands and handed it to Scott and said, “Wet it down – smooth out the hair.”  Scott had a little more success this time, and was then asked to remove his green winter coat and hand it over along with his backpack.  These two items were quickly moved out of sight.

We were allowed inside the club, and Ely and the other high rollers went to the back to smoke Cuban cigars with the owner.  Scott and I left after ten minutes.

This is one of the reasons why I hate the nightclub culture of Toronto, as well as the young demographic that frequent them.

What does this have to do with your condominium lobby?

Nothing.  But it was a story worth sharing…

Last week, a client of mine brought her friend to check out a condominium unit that she was considering making an offer on.  She wanted some opinions, which I encouraged, and her friend came along and helped her inspect the unit.

Her friend seemed to be a bit preoccupied by the lobby, or more specifically, the lack of a lobby.  The condominium had no concierge, no reception area, and no “allure,” if you will.

She said that a lobby wasn’t that important to her, and her friend kind of shrugged.

What is important to one person may not be as important to another, such as a balcony, a view, a gym, upgraded hardwood, etc.

But it got me thinking about the relative “importance” of a lobby, and while I don’t really care one way or another what my condominium lobby looks like, it matters to many buyers.

My building is very unique as it incorporates a 100-year-old structure in the foyer as seen here:

This yellow brick building was constructed in the early 1900’s and was given a historical designation by the City of Toronto, thus it was worked into the condominium design in the early 2000’s.

The vestibule still has the original “IBC” mosaic, which stood for “Imperial Bank of Commerce.”

The lobby itself is absolutely gorgeous, and is likely the best lobby of all the buildings in the St. Lawrence Market area.

Having said this, I’m really not all that impressed.

In fact, I think that the lobby of my building is one of the things I could care less about.

But that’s just me.  Every buyer has a different set of search criteria when purchasing a condo, and their wants and needs may be the complete opposite of the buyer standing right next to them.

Having a “nice” lobby costs you money, whether you feel it directly or not.  Any aspect of your condo that requires maintenance and/or upkeep will be factored into your monthly maintenance fees, and thus that beautiful marble floor in your lobby that is shined twice per day will likely result in higher fees than your friend’s unit in a building with a dimly lit lobby with a cement floor.

The big question I have to ask is this: For those of you that want a “nice” lobby, is it because you feel warm and fuzzy coming home after a long day of work, or because you want your friends and family to be impressed when they come to visit?

There is a small “waiting area” in my lobby with a few cushy chairs that I have never sat in before, but when my dad and stepmom came to visit the first time, that’s where I found them!  The first words out of my stepmom’s mouth was, “My, what a beeee-autiful lobby!”  As a result, they seemed somewhat unimpressed with my condo itself…

Some people really do feel better coming home after a long day and walking through the thick, rich mahogany doors, over a 25-foot marble foyer, and past the concierge who knows everybody’s name and always smiles ‘hello.’

Having a concierge in your building will cost you a pretty penny as well, and though we’ve debated this topic before, I’m going to speculate that people are evenly split 50/50 on whether they would prefer to have slightly higher maintenance fees in order to employ a gentleman at the front desk of the building.

But as for the lobby itself, does this make or break a purchase for you?

If you found a fantastic condominium with almost everything you were looking for, but the lobby of the building hadn’t been updated in 20 years, there was no natural light, low ceilings, no concierge, and the foyer smelled like old cheese – would this prevent you from purchasing the condo?

Again, I think the split of buyers that are interested in a “grand” lobby is likely 50/50, but I wonder how many people put the lobby in the top five most important considerations of a condominium unit/building.

Have you been to 75 Portland Street lately?

It’s like walking into The Matrix!

The lobby is incredibly bright and has a neon green and yellow reflection.  It’s all part of the design, which certainly gives the building that “WOW” factor when you walk inside, down a long ramp, and to the elevators that are about 300 feet away from the front door of the building.

Have you been to Element?  The lobby is like something out of a Stanley Kubrick film.  I can’t help but think that Malcolm McDowell is going to pop out of the corner and hand me a glass of milk

A great condominium lobby certainly will give a potential buyer a good first impression, but when you get down to the nuts and bolts, is it something that truly matters?  Or is it just a “bonus” of sorts?

For my client last week, it was enough to turn her right off of the building altogether.  I have to admit – the lobby was awful.  It wasn’t really even a lobby, but rather just an entrance way that lead to the stairs.   It looked like my 1980’s elementary school, and there was nothing in there worth showing your friends or family.

I have a couple of clients living in that building, and none of them have ever mentioned the lobby.

It just goes to show you that some people care, and some don’t.

I may say that I don’t care, and I think that 99% of the time, but every time I step into another condominium in my neighbourhood, I can’t help but think to myself “This lobby sucks.”

Maybe it’s a case of, “You never really know what you have until it’s gone”?

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  1. Mila

    at 9:41 am

    Probably will not make it or break it for me, but it could be indicative of the condition of the building. And if it smells like old cheese, then yes, it will be a show stopper…

    So for me its not on top of priority list, but does play a certain factor.

  2. Wooba

    at 9:42 am

    It my previous condo the board wanted to convert a part of the lobby into an office. This created a huge issues for many residents and we had an emergency meeting about it to reverse. I couldn’t see the big deal.. It wasn’t an exciting lobby and it’s not exactly used a lot!

    BTW David,
    David Mitchell wants a word with you:

  3. buk

    at 10:59 am

    75 portland lobby = phillip starck’ss wet dream. it’s even referred as the one and only amenety of the building!

  4. BobbyV

    at 1:17 pm

    a nice lobby is important, just like an attractive exterior or streetscape. Who the heck wants to walk through a ghetto lobby to go into their luxurious suite?. It’ll be like driving through the ghetto to get to your mansion at Jane and finch. Aside from Trump, Ritz, and the high end hotel-condos, i think One Sherway and Tridel’s Skymark in North York have the best looking lobbies i’ve seen.

  5. Gerrit

    at 10:19 am

    Don’t care about the lobby, as long as it’s not junky or stinky. Other than that, it’s about 30th on the list of priorities…

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