Exercising your Options: When are Condo Amenities a Good Investment?

Date
19.01.2015
Words by
REW Editor
Exercising your Options: When are Condo Amenities a Good Investment? hero image
When is it a good idea to purchase a home with lots of extras – and when are you better off with a local fitness centre membership? We crunch the numbers

If you’ve purchased a fancy gym membership for 2015 and are already finding it hard to stick to your new regime, you may have wasted a lot of cash. But what if your fitness centre was in your building – would you get better value?

Amenities in today’s new condo market have reached new heights, with full-size fitness centres, pools, rooftop patios with barbecues, lounges with chef’s kitchens, guest suites and other common-use areas expanding your home beyond its four walls. Developers are selling more than just homes – they’re selling a lifestyle.

But amenities don’t come for free – they can add to your purchase price and strata fees. So when is it a good idea to purchase a home with lots of extras and when are you better off sticking with that local fitness centre membership?

Hani Lammam with Cressey Development Group advises buyers to purchase homes where there are as many amenities as possible – provided they can afford the asking price and the associated strata fees.

“There is a maintenance cost associated with amenities,” he said, “but they can also protect your resale value. The vast majority of developers today are including amenities in some form, but the extent to which, for instance, a fitness centre is equipped is what sets them apart. It’s the attention to detail that distinguishes buildings.”

Cressey is just a few weeks away from presales on Beverley in White Rock, which will include a two-storey club featuring a fitness centre, whirlpool, steam room and lap pool. The condo development also includes a patio, lounge, guest suite, garden, barbecue area and playground.

“It’s difficult to say how much the fitness centre adds to the [purchase] cost of each unit at Beverley,” said Lammam, “but it’s a very small percentage because that cost is spread out among all the owners. It’s likely less than five per cent. In terms of what a fitness centre adds to your monthly maintenance fees, it depends on what’s included in the facility. ‘Wet’ amenities, such as hot tubs and pools, can add an extra 15 per cent to your strata fees. Pools will last a lifetime if properly maintained. And, the commercial grade equipment at the Beverley’s fitness centre should last about 20 years.”

With the price of a high-end gym membership running around $1,000 a year, taking the extra hit instead to your monthly maintenance fees can be a good investment according to Katie Dunsworth-Reiach, a personal finances expert and co-founder of Smart Cookies. Annual strata fees for larger units run around $5,300 a year, with 15 per cent (about $800) paying for the gym, pool, sauna and steam room. That’s substantially less than belonging to a private club. With an estimated 60 per cent of annual gym memberships purchased in January going unused by mid-February, Dunsworth-Reiach notes it is also important to consider long-term value.

Cressey isn’t alone in offering a wide array of amenities to attract potential buyers.

Shato Holdings and Talisman Homes are transforming a 137-acre site into a new community at Tsawwassen Springs, where amenities include a golf course, wellness centre and a 32,000-square-foot clubhouse. The developers aim to keep strata fees low by using a pay-as-you-go system for things like green fees and the fitness centre.

Emerging from the ground in downtown Vancouver, the 333-unit Tate Downtown by the Bonds Group of Companies will offer residents a concierge, a private theatre, lounge, billiards room, library, yoga and pilates studio and fitness centre.

And the owners at the new towers at Anthem Properties’ Station Square in Burnaby will enjoy almost an acre of elevated private green space along with community garden plots, a Tai Chi area, a fully-equipped gym and yoga studio, steam room and infrared sauna, plus a lounge with a gourmet kitchen for entertaining and shared electric cars.

Empty-nesters downsizing from detached homes to condos can find amenities especially appealing – and cost effective. With a guest suite available in your building, there’s no need to buy a unit with an additional bedroom for the odd time you have overnight visitors. Common areas such as lounges and kitchens provide entertainment spaces that can accommodate a large number of guests, something your new living space may not allow for. And having a fitness centre so handy can make it a lot easier to stick to your New Year’s resolution to work out regularly.

“Amenities add to the value of your home and can save you money,” said Dunsworth-Reiach. “Buyers need to determine what these add to a condo’s strata fees and compare that to what their bottom line is. Amenities are selling features and they have a big impact on your lifestyle. In the right scenario, they can enhance your life.”

“Developers are including amenities because they are a big part of condo living,” said Lammam. “You may have less space within your condo itself, but your living area extends beyond your strata lot to include all these many benefits that are available at very little cost to you.”

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