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Carrick on money: These condo frills will cost you money

Posted on Dec 20, 2013 in Mortgage Market Updates and News

Condo amenities that aren’t worth the money

Almost every developer is offering “special” features to entice buyers. If your condominium has excessive amenities, you’re paying for them, whether you use them or not.

BY: David Fleming

If a condominium had a rooftop bungee-jumping platform, would you pay extra to live there? Would you see the value in this feature or would you scoff at the idea? Perhaps that’s an extreme example, but as condos become more extravagant, buyers must decide what they want to pay for.

Monthly maintenance fees are split in two: one part goes towards the reserve fund, and the other towards the building’s expenses. These fees range from around 50 to 90 cents per square foot, depending on how much it costs to run the building. If your condominium has excessive amenities, you’re paying for them, whether you use them or not.

The most common and probably the most-used features are the gym, rooftop terrace, and party room. As a condo owner, investor, and realtor, I see value in all three, but anything else is unnecessary. Have a look at the following amenities and make up your own mind.

Do you want to swim laps in an Olympic-sized pool, or hang out on the deck on a hot July day? The worth of a pool depends on whether it’s buried in the basement with no windows, like at 30 Wellington St., or in open air with the sun beating down and a fantastic CN Tower view, like at 33 Mill St.

Games room and movie theatre:
A games room might be useful to parents who want to get children out of their hair, but how often would you go up to the 28th floor to play pool, Ping-Pong, foosball, air hockey, or pinball? And who has two uninterrupted hours to use an in-house movie theatre? Would you have 10 friends over for a vampire-flick marathon, or would you, you know…just go to an actual movie theatre?

Bowling, basketball, and squash facilities:
Condos are a graveyard of sports amenities. If the last time you went bowling was for your eighth birthday, why the heck would you want a lane in your condo, like at Super Club in CityPlace? I haven’t played basketball since I sprained my ankle in 2001 and wouldn’t go for a nightly dribble, but residents of 155 Dalhousie St. and 323 Richmond St. E. always seem to be on their respective courts. As for squash courts, they’re always empty and are usually on P2 down a long hallway. In older buildings, you’ll often find a makeshift gym on a former squash court.

I’ve never quite figured out the purpose of the condo library. Maybe it’s where spouses can get away from each other, but often it’s just a place for lazy residents to store books they don’t want to find a home for. If you like paperback romance novels and back issues of People, then fine, but I find the space would be more useful as a guest suite or a coat closet for the party room.

Virtual golf and batting cages:
Who has this kind of time? After you’ve swam, bowled, played pool, thrown a basketball, swung a nine-iron, and whacked some baseballs, how do you have time to do any work and pay off your mortgage?

Juice Bar:
Now we’re just getting silly. A new condo development on York Street is offering a seventh-floor juice bar to go along with what we can only assume is a yoga/Pilates fitness centre. Does anybody think that this juice bar will come at less than a 700 per cent mark-up?

Almost every developer is offering “special” features to entice buyers. Dry cleaning, dog-walking, shuttle service, and mint-on-your-pillow turndowns used to be reserved for a select few condos like Palace Pier, but now these so-called luxury amenities are entering the mainstream. Ask yourself how much the perks are going to cost you, and then decide if you can take in your own dry cleaning.

David Fleming is a Realtor with Bosley Real Estate in Toronto, and author of the best known real estate website in the city: A constant thorn in the side of condominium developers, David’s sarcastic, opinionated, outlandish thoughts can be read daily, although for some people, that’s far too often.


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