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The Rise of the Luxury Townhome

There is never a dull day in real estate. That much is for sure. And it’s really quite interesting to be in the business, and to be watching as it shifts – sometimes dramatically, and sometimes just over the course of months or years.

One trend I’m watching is the rise of the luxury townhome. It’s by no means a ‘new’ concept, but it’s been a little slow to catch on in Guelph. As usual, I have an opinion/theory on the matter!

I think, for those of us who have grown up in smaller communities, outside of Toronto and event its immediate suburban neighbours like Mississauga, for example, a townhouse is… well… it historically signified something ‘less than’ a home.

It’s not detached; for starters. They were, from my perspective, always something we thought of in terms of a good first step up the property ladder. And eventually, naturally… you’d buy a detached home.

But things are changing, for a few reasons.

First, not all townhomes are created equal. Within the last 15 years, we have seen townhomes and semi-detached homes rise quite significantly in size. I feel like, ‘back in the day,’ semi’s and towns were always narrow. They felt hard to work with, in terms of furniture and living space. The whole effect was a bit like a bowling lane.

Now, we’ve got townhouses that are well over 2,000 square-feet… that’s literally double the size of my detached home. They feel as big as detached homes – and often they are. Narrow, restrictive layouts are gone – and it’s about wide open spaces, and often extremely high-end finishes. Builders like Thomasfield have perhaps most notably ‘nailed it,’ when it comes to making a townhome truly feel like a home. Sound-proofing and build quality have been high enough to completely rule out the classic, “I don’t want to hear the people on the other side of that wall,” objection. They’re quiet… quieter than some detached homes, I’d argue – when they’re done right.

That aside, we are – very generally speaking – seeing the gap between semi’s/detached homes shrinking. Why? I think a big part of the reason can be attributed to the amount of in-migration we are getting from GTA Buyers. They, after all, for the most part have never dreamed of being to afford a detached home in their bonkers market. For them, a semi/town has probably all that’s been on the radar for a very long time. It doesn’t, as a result, feel like a big concession.

Secondly, let’s talk about our busy lifestyles… shall we? So, the ‘downside’ is the lack of outdoor space. Kiss the notion of a big backyard and large perennial gardens goodbye. A nice deck or a patio and a small amount of green space / yard is pretty much the norm, even at very high-end price points for these properties.

Except, it’s quickly becoming a positive and not a negative. We’re all so busy, and the notion of a big backyard and gardens and all of it… it’s great – until you realize that you actually don’t have any time to manage it. Weekends, for a lot of us, are spent in the summer doing yard work. Repeat: work.

Myself, I finally relented and turned over my gardens to the care of a great landscaper. I want to enjoy them. I certainly don’t want them to get all weedy (been down that road before with a gout-weed take-over that nearly had me pave the entire yard, but I digress. But I also don’t find the ‘work’ of the yard enjoyable. Now, I pay someone to keep them looking beautiful, and it’s easily the amount of the average condo fee, when I do the math in my head. And as for big yards… they’re great. So are parks – and that’s where my daughter wants to be when it’s time to have fun.

So, it’s a lifestyle thing, then. The lack of private outdoor space to maintain is a concession, on the one hand – but it does free up a great deal of time (and possibly money, for those of us who outsource this stuff,) and there’s something pretty awesome about just enjoying the outdoors and not labouring over it.

Guelph Buyers have been a little slow to adapt to the rise of the luxury townhouse, but that’s changing. Some of our Realtors, too, haven’t figured this one out. Comments like, “but it’s not detached” signify an old way of thinking. Because, after all, “not being detached” could actually represent a lot of upside for the right Buyer. “But there are fees,” others comment… without possibly thinking through the amount of cash spent to maintain exterior property on a larger freehold property.

We are in a constant state of change in the world of real estate. This is one trend that will be interesting to watch.