‘Boxy’ condos optimize space for end users, investors

by Neil Sharma on 29 Apr 2021

A functional layout is imperative for condominium design because, in addition to creating healthy unit interiors, it keeps costs low for purchasers, whether they’re single millennials or growing families.

Condoville Realty Inc. is a sales team that doubles as strategic partners in real estate developments and works in secondary and tertiary markets, specializing in infill sites that have the potential to house small multi-family or boutique mid-rise residences. As such, layout design is one of Condoville’s specialties.

“When we’re sitting with developers, they generally have the idea that bigger is better and they rationalize that if they were going to be living in a condo they’d need a two-bedroom, two-bathroom that’s 1,400 sq ft.,” said Shaminder Gogna, Condoville’s broker of record and founding president. “However, the operating cost would be burdensome and if maintenance fees would be approximately $0.60 psf, and if you’re over 1,200 sq ft, you’re paying over $700 in monthly maintenance fees.”

The sweet spot, noted Gogna, is a 550-800 sq ft unit that would range between 1-bedroom, 1+dens, and 2-bedroom suite designs because the space can be optimized for functionality while also keeping the costs low.

“With millennials, it’s more effective to design functional layouts instead of automatically creating bigger spaces,” he said. “If it’s a one-bedroom, you’d want to have a living area, a kitchen with a breakfast bar, which definitely helps because then you get rid of your dining area, and the function would really come down to making it as boxy as you can. They’re easier to design and furnish. By boxy, I mean fewer angles.”

According to Mitchell Coburn, Condoville Realty’s director of marketing and sales, units with multiple tenants require maximizing personal space as much as possible.

“The least amount of sharing walls as possible is important,” he said. “Two-bedroom units should be bedrooms on both sides of the unit rather than side by side.”

That includes separating both bathrooms in much the same way the bedrooms are separated—one on each end—because it makes living with a roommate easier, which will increase demand for the investor’s rental unit.

Condoville is presently working with a landowner in Beamsville to develop a new site as well as selling Bench Condos, a five-storey, 32-unit boutique building that will have three ground-level commercial suites yet to be sold. Because it’s not in a downtown core, the project’s target market calls for a different set of design principles.

“Understanding our target market is always the first question we have to answer,” said Gogna. “If we’re selling in a tertiary market, like we are with Bench Condos, we have to make sure we have larger spaces for empty nesters, but with that being said, if the layout is smart and functional enough, we can serve the millennial market as well.

“Now you’re dealing with clients who are purchasing and living there themselves, so you have to consider how they want to spend that time in the unit, and the quality of the unit makes a difference. In terms of functionality, they might be okay with more square footage, so do the numbers make sense from an investor standpoint if they want to purchase, and do the numbers make sense for end users as well?”

One thing is for sure: post-COVID-19 condo design is different than it was before March 2020 when people often used condominiums for little more than sleeping at night.

“Architectural firms are encompassing more spaces for doing work,” said Gogna. “Buildings themselves have more green space, more amenities for people who are living in these condos. A lot of people are changing their perspective of condos. They used to be urban and you’d only go there to sleep, but older generations realize this is part of the real estate landscape now. You’d be surprised how many people still say they are against condos, but condos are here to stay with Ontario having a record number of sales year-over-year."

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