November 9, 2017 | older condos
Sometimes they look like a 70s prison. Often they have condo boards run by cranky retirees who do not want a dime spent to update the decaying hallway carpets. And then there’s the maintenance fees. Higher than Cheech and Chong in their “Up in Smoke” days. If you have’t figured it out, I’m talking about older condos. For some, they are avoided at all costs. Grim buildings, ugly and dated common areas, and fees that include things you don’t want or won’t use, like a pool or a cable package with Turner Classic Movies. For others, they are an opportunity to buy something at a more reasonable price.
If you are the kind of person who likes to have a “done” unit with modern finishes, then older condos are not for you. Just remember, new condos have issues too. Maintenance fees that often increases more than most condos in the first five years to build up the reserve fund. Price/ square foot is higher. And if you are buying preconstruction, you run the risk of never receiving the condo you purchased. Just look at the much-admired, luxury condos: the Museum Flats. If you bought a unit here preconstruction, you would have learned that the project has been cancelled despite the hype and number of sold condo units.
Of course, there are always good new condos and good older condos. Terrible new condos and terrible old ones. Today, let’s take a look at the older condos that are worth your contemplation.
For those who wish to explore the potential behind the older condo, you could certainly appreciate that older condos have a lot more space than most modern condos at the same price. Your dishwasher and oven are not Barbie sized, but the same size you would find in your standard Toronto house. Also, with older condos, you could easily find one at a reasonable price AND in a central location downtown. If you pick an older condo that needs some updating, you can put your mark on it yourself. Your condo unit doesn’t have to look like all the other condo units in your building. You would be surprised how amazing these condos can look once you do a bit of work.
When looking for an older condo, you want to make sure you choose wisely. Not all older condos are run the same. You can go wrong here. Poorly run buildings. Lame management. Toxic condo boards that have trouble moving forward on anything. So, without future ado, here are my top three picks, in no particular order, of the best three older condos in Toronto.
40 HOMEWOOD AVENUE
This condo is old, even in older condo years. In fact, it was part of the first wave of condos ever done in Toronto, registered on Halloween 1972. The units vary in size. The location near Jarvis and Carlton leaves you slightly east of downtown. You have beautiful city views to the west, and pretty Cabbagetown side street views with mature tree tops to the east. It’s a quiet location, which is unusual for downtown, and certainly helps for sleeping. For a long time, this older condo was run by those cranky older folks I mentioned above who didn’t want to change any thing. They did save money though. And now change is in the air. This condo has recently received a major lobby makeover. And there are plans to update the rather dingy hallways in the future. The best thing about this condo is that every unit has its own enormous deck. Right now, the condo is replacing all of the old doors and windows to the decks. Most people won’t like the old doors and windows that look pretty shabby, but the new ones are going to look amazing. You can even update your door and windows with sliding glass doors, if you choose. The cost of this is extra. For the new windows and door to the deck, the condo covers the cost with the reserve fund. In terms of layout, these condo units are wide, and tend to have more windows and more light. Not the long tunnel units you often see with some modern condos. The downside is that these old condos have no laundry. And you are not allowed to add these appliances to the unit. So, you have do do your laundry in the basement like everyone else. Still, the value here has gone unnoticed for a while. Only now, are we seeing a serious uptick in prices here. Once the renos are done, this building will look much better. One final perk: Back in 1972 when the condo was built, they added enough rental parking spots for almost everyone. No one owns a parking spot, but for $95, you can rent one, and there is a very good chance it will be available if you buy a unit here.
65 SCADDING AVENUE (ALSO KNOWN AS “ST. LAWRENCE ON THE PARK”)
This is another oldie, but a goodie. Like 40 Homewood, the units are on a quiet street even though they are very close to the hustle and bustle of downtown. Built in 1988 in the St Lawrence neighbourhood, this condo is part of the visionary ideas of Jane Jacobs. This neighbourhood has been used as a model over and over again for how to develop a mixed housing neighbourhood that is well-integrated and successful. Since 1988, many of the units here have been renovated but still maintain a great price per square foot. Some of the top floor units even have fireplace, something that would never be allowed in modern condos. Here you have a new lobby and updated hallways. The money saved since 1988 has been put to good use to improve the aesthetics of the building. Views all around the building are often bright and are rarely blocked by an adjacent building. You have low-rise townhouses to the south and a long boulevard parkette along the north side. Yes, there is a pool included in your fees, but dammit, you can use that pool!
120/130 CARLTON STREET
Carlton By the Park is a well located duo of condos at the corner of Carlton and Jarvis. It’s a bit more unusual than the other condos. 120 Carlton and 130 Carlton are two different condos. 120 Carlton contains commercial units and 130 Carlton contain residential units. Both, however, share the same amenities. All of which have been nicely updated in recent years. New lobby, freshly painted and re-imagined outdoor exterior, updated pool, updated meeting rooms, and updated hallways. All with some of the best price/square foot in the city.
In fact, 120 Carlton has some of the least expensive commercial condo space in Toronto. Prices vary more from unit to unit since some have been completely renovated top to bottom. Others have not even seen a new coat of paint since the condos birth in 1985. Any way you slice it, 120 Carlton is central and still has a low cost with a lot more updates than many other older condos. 130 Carlton is a different animal since it is residential. One of the most impressive things about this condo is the size of the units. The residential condos at 130 Carlton boasts some of the largest sizes of condos in the city, most well under a million dollars. The smallest condo at 130 Carlton starts at 1256 sq ft. As the name suggests, 130 Carlton or “Condo on the Park”has south facing views overlooking Allen Gardens.
Now, these three are not the only older condos worth mentioning. 117 Gerrard Street is beginning to show signs of coming back to life. Some plans are in the works for some updates here. It’s not an ideal location for some since it’s on a busy street, and it’s a little more crack-ish nearby, but the price per square foot is fantastic. 135-155 Dalhousie or the Merchandise Building was one of the original loft conversions. It was done well and done right. Some of the inner courtyard units don’t have great views, but this conversion was done well. The updated units are spectacular.
So for those of you who are looking for the “The Ten Most Anticipated Condo Developments in Toronto” then let BlogTO be your guide. Older condos may not do it for you. They won’t top any lists with their daring designs or star architects. I have nothing against these condos. They do make the skyline prettier, but if you are looking for space on a budget, then put on your potential goggles and re-think some of the condos you see above. With a little scrubbing, TLC, and your own smart design, you may dig up a diamond in the rough.