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Toronto Luxury Home Demand on the Rise

Toronto Luxury Home Demand on the Rise
By Susan Pigg
www.moneyville.ca

As status symbols go, they don’t have as much flash as a sports car, but high-end househunters are looking for a different kind of luxury in Toronto’s top neighbourhoods these days — two laundry rooms.

The well-heeled are also seeking out swimming pools — no matter how tiny — as well as home-office/homework rooms where they can catch up on work while keeping an eye on the kids.

Wine cellars are being downsized, but not expectations, says Paul Maranger, senior vice president of sales for luxury realtor Sotheby’s International Canada.

“We’re seeing very charming but much smaller wine cellars. Most people still like wine,” Maranger said in an interview after speaking on a BMO Financial Group panel Thursday about the state of Canada’s housing market.

And in bigger homes, the basement laundry room is being augmented by a second — but not too close to the kids’ rooms because of the noise. Instead, they’re being tucked into closets or off the master bedroom.

“We’ve seen a significant uptick in sales over $2 million this year,” Maranger told the panel, noting that some 128 luxury properties have sold in Toronto during the first three months of this year, compared to 95 during the same period last year.

Increasingly the wealthy want to be close to subways so they can leave the Lexus in the driveway and walk to restaurants, schools and other amenities, he added.

“The difference with ‘luxury’ in Toronto now is that it’s not defined necessarily by size, but by appointments,” Maranger said in an interview.

“We’re seeing better and better appointments in smaller houses and greater demand for those. Oddly, in Toronto the luxury buyer is not looking for value, they are looking for convenience.”

That’s why higher-end buyers now seem willing to pay a substantial premium — he cited one home in the Summerhill area of central Toronto that recently sold for $370,000 over asking price — to be near the subway, and especially the Yonge St. line.

Maranger anticipates substantial renovations, retrofits and teardowns of older properties within walking distance of subway lines over the next few years as higher-end homeowners abandon luxurious suburban homes to ease their commute to downtown jobs but look to replicate the lifestyle they afforded.

It’s not unusual to see these homebuyers spend $125,000 to $250,000 on small, but elegant, backyard renovations to create an oasis in the city, he said.

One couple even installed an in-ground dipping pool that was just 4 feet by 4 feet by 5 feet deep and heated.

The high-end market, and condo sales in particular, continue to be driven by wealthy international buyers from China, the Middle East and elsewhere, looking to park capital in the city or take advantage of this “elite education hub.”

Many, like one Japanese couple who recently bought a high-end house, are looking for properties, usually condos, where their kids can live while going to private or post-secondary school here.

There are two luxury markets in the city, Maranger stressed — single family homes priced at $2 million-plus and condos, especially in the tony Yorkville area, that are selling for $1,200 per square foot and up.

The high-end condo market sales — newcomers include the Ritz-Carlton and Trump International and the soon-to-be-opened Shangri-La and Four Seasons Hotel properties — are softer so far this year than last, he noted.