Highest Maintenance Fees In The Downtown Core (Part I)



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The next time that you complain about your rising maintenance fees, just think about the folks in these buildings that are paying upwards of $1.22 per square foot!

Suddenly, the 5% yearly increase in your building doesn’t seem so bad…


Remember last summer when I had that bright idea to comb through MLS for hours on end, compile data, make notes, and finally release my list of “Most Over Saturated Buildings in Toronto”?

The response was……mixed, to say the least.  I think about 80% of all people who commented supported my thinking that when a third of all units in a building are for sale, perhaps the market is over-saturated.  But those that didn’t agree certainly made their feelings known!

Well, I’m at it once again!  A combination of events has left me alone for the weekend with nothing to do, and I’ve spent hours going through MLS and compiling data on the highest maintenance fees in the downtown core.

Anybody who lives in these buildings will likely post negative comments, but what am I supposed to do?  Never post anything negative about condos?  Pfff.  That’s for the other 99.9% of Toronto Realtors to do…

I’m not saying that buildings with high fees are all bad, and aren’t worth buying into.  I’m just putting the data out there, and it’s up to the buyer pool to make judgements.

I’ve always thought that there are three thresholds for maintenance fees:

Below $0.50 per square foot - these fees are artificially low, and the developer who conned you into buying pre-construction because fees were only $0.41/sqft is going to leave the cupboard bare.  Watch out!
$0.50 – $0.59 per square foot
– anything in this range is exceptionally low, and I might expect that the building is only 2-3 years old.
$0.60 – $0.69 per square foot – the mid-point of this range is likely the average, but anything in the range is quite fair.
Over $0.70 per square foot – anything over $0.70 per square foot is “high,” in my opinion.

I’ve decided, however, to split this blog post into two separate articles.  Most of the buildings on the list of “high maintenance fees” would be hotel/condos, so I’m going to detail those buildings in the first post, and then exclusively the condominiums in the second.

A quick note about the data below – I’ve used MLS listings no more than four months old, where square footage and maintenance fees are both detailed on the listing.  I’m going to say that every number stated is “approximate,” since variances might occur.

Here are the buildings with the highest maintenance fees in C01 & C08, aka “The downtown core.”

1 King Street West

Fees in this building are as much as $1.22 per square foot.**

See those asterisks, however?  Those are there for a reason.

I’m not sure how the fees in this building are calculated, but the smallest units – the ones in the 400-500 sqft range, have the highest fees per square foot.  The larger units have fees around $0.80 per square foot, which is still insane, but not as bad, comparatively.

Many of these condominium units are are part of the “pool” that are rented out on a nightly basis.  Look at the photos of these units on MLS – they all look like actual hotel suites!

Nevertheless, paying $525 per month in maintenance fees for a 430 square foot condo is exceptionally steep, no matter how good room service is.

8 Colborne Street – “The Cosmopolitan”

Fees at this hotel-condominium are around $1.05 per square foot.

Maybe that’s why there are currently fourteen units for sale with an average days on the market of 65, but I digress.

In case you’re asking yourself, “What’s the benefit to living in a hotel-condominium and paying such high monthly fees,” the answer is: pool, gym, room service, self-worship, ego-mania, and telling your friends that you live in a hotel.

Sure, having a spa and a restaurant in your building might be ‘cool,’ but who the hell has time to swim and play racquetball every night?

200 Victoria Street – “Pantages”

Why did I choose this picture?

Well in case you’re not aware, when most Realtors go to list a condominium for sale on MLS, they’ll scroll through the MLS archives and find a photo of the exterior of the building that they want to use.  The result is that the same 2-3 photos are used for most condos.

When I listed a condo for sale at 205 Frederick Street shortly after the building was registered, I took a photo of the building with my tiny little Canon Powershot.  That very photo has been used in a good majority of the listings for units at 205 Frederick in the last three years.

So – back to the photo above at 200 Victoria Street.  I chose this one because it appears all over MLS, and it’s an awful photo!  That dude is leaning on his Toyota, very proud, as he poses for his wife/girlfriend in front of “Pantages.”

And THAT is the photo most Realtors use when they list condos at 200 Victoria Street.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot – fees in this building are approximately $0.90 per square foot.

It’s less at 210 Victoria Street, but they’re both pricey.  Still, I’d rather live in the centre of the city at Pantages than at 8 Colborne Street or in the Soho Hotel…

350 Wellington Street – “Soho Condominiums”

Fees at the “Soho” are about $0.85 per square foot.

The building shares amenities with the Soho Hotel, and residents can “benefit” from the in-house restaurant and gym.

If you’re lucky, you might catch a glimpse of a C-list celebrity, such as that guy from that show about those people…

Many of these units are rented as hotel units like 1 King Street West.  I remember showing a unit last year and accidentally stumbling upon a piece of paper that detailed the security for every moment of a Hollywood A-list starlet’s visit to Toronto.  On another occasion, I found a pile of movie scripts spread out on the bed.

____________________________

If you guys can think of any others, please let me know!

I think the lesson we can take away from this blog post is that any condominium that is linked to a hotel will undoubtedly have higher monthly maintenance fees.

Tomorrow, we’ll take a look at the condominiums in the downtown core (sans hotel) that have the highest fees.  It’s a shame because some of them are truly amazing spaces and in unbeatable locations!

Consider the hard lofts at 71 Front Street that are right next to the St. Lawrence Market!  What a location!  But can you justify paying $0.83 per square foot in fees when newer buildings up the street like Vu Condominium have fees around $0.49?

There is no right or wrong answer.  That’s what makes each individual buyer an “individual”…

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16 Comments

  • Joe November 14, 2011

    50 Lombard St for tomorrow….


  • David November 14, 2011
  • Phil November 15, 2011

    Is $0.5/sf really artificially low? I live at 105 Victoria St (steps away from Pantage). The building is 13-14 years old but the condo fee is still somewhere near $0.47/sf. It has very few “amenities” to speak of except an old fashioned party room, but who cares. It is kept in decent condition. If I need a gym, there is plenty within 10 minutes walking. For me, I’d prefer a low maintenance fee with no amenities for the flexibility to pay for whatever facilties I may need out of my willingness, not the condo committee.


    • David Fleming November 15, 2011

      @ Phil

      Some buildings can pull it off – 105 Victoria is one of them.

      25 The Esplanade is a building where fees are about $0.49/sqft, and the building dates back to 1987. All the parking in that building is rented out by the condominium corporation and it helps them to keep fees low.

      Most newer buildings have fees set around $0.45/sqft by the developer, and then the fees increase some 30% in the first two years. THAT is what I mean by “being set artificially low.”

      If a building, like yours, has established itself and has shown the ability to keep fees low on a consistent basis, then I wouldn’t worry about the “typical” increase.


      • Phil November 15, 2011

        thanks David. Seems it is rather risky to purchase new condos since you have no idea about the competency of its management!
        Always enjoy reading your blog!


  • syed July 21, 2012

    I have a condo, about 353 square feet in 1-Kingwest. It is rented for 1600
    per month.The tenant is paying in this range because they pay nothing for utilities.Power,cooling,heating,land line phone,cable TV and internet are all free for the tenant.Connected to PATH and obviously all the luxuries of this historic building. As an owner I pay 440 $ per months maintenance fee, which you are right comes out to be 1.25 $ per square feet but I am getting a better rental value, on a condo which costs me 185000 only.

    Just wanted you to know that the maths gets better in 1-Kingwest both for tenants and owners, if you compare the location ( underground subway)and being in the downtown core. Agree that this is small for a family but the downtown core is not for family


    • Nic November 7, 2013

      Sayed, your story doesn’t add up. In Vancouver, a 350 square foot apartment would cost about $800 per month and this would be in the city center. I thought that Vancouver’s housing was the most expensive in North America. Your tenant is either a sucker or you’re full of it.


  • Luke November 7, 2013

    Nic,
    $1600 does seem a little steep. But there is no way you can get an apartment right downtown Van (equal to King St in T.O) for <$1300 that is ALL INC of Cable TV,Internet,Phone,A/C, Heat, & Hydro ++ Roomservice?? Add the individual avg costs up for those services as well as price increases from City CORE's even change every 1KM.


  • George November 7, 2013

    Any condo fees need to cover maintenance costs including a building reserve, any included utilities and landscaping/snow removal etc. Most of these costs will be higher in a hotel type setting but otherwise shouldn’t be dramatically different from one building to another.

    The second item that condo fees will cover will be amenities like 24 hr concierge, valet parking, pool, excercise facilities, etc., etc. Here again a hotel type facility will need to be higher because more amenities are provided but there is also a likelihood of condo fees ending up helping support the hotel costs, although it could also go the other way.

    At the end of the day look at building to building with similar services and amenities. The ones that are at either the low or high end of the range probably have something out of whack. Buyers need to understand why this difference occurs and be comfortable with it or they could end up holding a very expensive bill that they will have trouble getting out of.

    By the way my monthly condo fee is about $.135/sq ft, half of which is for the building reserve fund. This is not in Toronto and is for a condo with no amenities.


  • Rob November 7, 2013

    1 King W. $1600 is about right. People who rent there are not really ‘people’. There are many corporations who put up their travelling staff there, so they rent the place etc. etc.
    Cheaper than a hotel.


  • john durst November 7, 2013

    I think your analysis is flawed and not doing an apples to apples comparison. Some condos fee include much more (hydro, cable, water, etc…) while other you would pay that individually. This is very misleading, I wish you would be prudent in your research.

    As of the statement “Below $0.50 per square foot – these fees are artificially low, and the developer who conned you into buying pre-construction because fees were only $0.41/sqft is going to leave the cupboard bare. Watch out!”

    The toy factory lofts are just one example of a well managed building with very low condo fees. To suggest that something is wrong would be misleading.


  • Nick S. November 8, 2013

    An interesting building to look at is 66 Collier St. Units are around 1850 sq ft. Low density, only 4 units per floor on 14 floors with a monthly maintenance of $1675. It is a very niche building where location, location, location seems to merit the $0.905 per sq ft.


    • Jr November 8, 2013

      Location has no bearing on maintenance fees.


  • Tony November 8, 2013

    The average condo fees in Vancouver is about half of Toronto’s, how did they do it ?


    • ChampertyandMaintenance November 12, 2013

      Tony – it’s heating costs mostly but also A/C. Toronto is way colder than Vancouver in the winter, and gets much hotter in the summer.


  • Phil December 9, 2013

    the most significant factor affecting condo fees is usually the # of units in the building. The greater # of units the better economies of scale. Small buildings with a concierge or valet are sharing a fixed cost fewer ways. The history of the building also plays a role. Don’t compare T.O. and Vancouver, unit and common element energy costs are not comparable.





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