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Downsizing to the city

John and Pat Balint have enjoyed newfound freedom since downsizing from the suburbs to a Distillery District condo.
John and Pat Balint have enjoyed newfound freedom since downsizing from the suburbs to a Distillery District condo. - Postmedia

Empty nesters ‘ready for the next stage of their lives

TORONTO, Ont. —

John and Pat Balint didn’t plan on downsizing to the city when they purchased a pre-construction condo in the Distillery District as an investment property a little more than a decade ago. By the time it was built, however, they decided to crash there a few nights a week instead of commuting to their downtown workplaces from Markham.

“ We moved into the condo with a couple of sleeping bags and an air mattress,” says John, an information technology professional. “We’d walk to and from work and on our way home, would pop into a grocery store or a restaurant.

“ Our condo is really close to the lake so it’s an easy walk to Cherry Beach and Harbourfront. We thought, ‘This is really nice.’ When you live in the ‘burbs, you drive everywhere, even if you need just milk. We discovered living downtown was a healthier lifestyle for us.”

At about the same time, John and Pat found themselves empty nesters, with their two daughters moving out of the family’s 4,200-square-foot home after graduating university. They appreciate the equity the sale of their house freed up and enjoy being able to travel without worries about leaving a house empty. They’ve ticked off numerous bucket-list destinations, including Seychelles and Iceland, and purchased a home in Florida.

They also like condo amenities that include a pool and gym. Theirs is a two-bedroom, two-bathroom condo but they take advantage of their building’s guest suites when their daughter and grandchildren from North Bay visit. John often hops on his bike and takes the Waterfront Trail to visit their other daughter in Ajax.

With Toronto condo prices rising dramatically over the past few years, he’s grateful he and Pat purchased when they did. But that’s not the only challenge empty nesters wanting to downsize face. Many of the condos that have been constructed in the city in recent years and those in the pipeline are geared towards millennials.

“ Over the next 10 years the demographic shift will be immense, with the largest cohort being seniors,” says Cherise Burda, executive director of the Ryerson City Building Institute. “They’re going to be looking to downsize but don’t want to downsize to a studio apartment…They need that missing middle kind of housing so they can downsize to a spacious two-bedroom apartment.”

‘ Missing-middle housing’ is a term used to describe multi-unit homes such as townhouses, stacked flats, duplexes, triplexes and laneway housing, as well as lower-scale five to eight-storey midrise buildings in urban and suburban neighbourhoods that are suitable along neighbourhood main streets. More two to three-bedroom units in higher-scale condos are also needed.

Philip Kocev, a broker with iPro Realty Ltd., would also like to see more options for downsizers. “We see a lot of people who are cashing out and leaving the city because of affordability but the reverse is happening as well,” he says. “Some people are choosing to leave the suburbs and downsize to the city.

“ They’re ready for the next stage of their lives and want to be near dining, entertainment and the water. The condo market is just starting to get there but we could do better by offering properties that attract that demographic.” That includes units with large principal rooms – especially for those accustomed to large dining and living rooms – and outdoor space, such as a terrace.

Ira Jelinek of Harvey Kalles Real Estate Brokerage is working with a couple that has lived at Yonge Street north of Eglinton Avenue for more than 30 years and wants to sell the family home. “They’re looking to downsize but don’t want the cookie cutter 600 to 800-square foot condo that’s coming out in new buildings. A lot of developers are building for the millennials – smaller products that are easier to sell,” he says.

But about 60% of downsizers want a place larger than that, he estimates. “There are some larger units available in new buildings but they’re about the same price as what they could get for their family home and that may not make sense because a lot of them want some more cash. What’s filling the void are the condos that existed before the 2000s because the older buildings were built with larger footprints.”

By Linda White, Special to Postmedia Network

Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019

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