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Toronto Townhouses: How do They Stack Up?

Toronto Townhouses: How do They Stack Up?

Apr 17, 2015
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We’ve been talking this week about townhouses for sale in Toronto as they’re becoming an increasingly hot commodity. Toronto townhomes have outpaced semi-detached properties in terms of year-over-year sales growth so far in 2015. In fact, townhomes are fast on the heels of the Toronto condo market in terms of percentage growth in the number of units sold.

This is largely due to the affordability of townhomes for sale in Toronto in comparison to traditional houses and the fact that they tend to offer more square footage than most condos for sale in Toronto do, often with private backyard space (although we’re seeing less of this in new developments).

Today, let’s talk about the latest trend in Toronto condo development: the modern, stacked Toronto townhouse.

What the Stack is that About?

Stacked townhouses are exactly what they sound like–two or three units stacked on top of each other. In traditional design, a Toronto townhome is more like a row-house in that it only shares horizontal space with its neighbours. With stacked Toronto townhomes, you also have someone living above or below you.

So, kind of like a regular condo, no? Well, they’re really a cross between a townhome and a condominium building. Think of them as low-rise condos with some (if not all) units having direct-to-street access.

Image (c) Minto.

Image (c) Minto.

Image (c) Minto.

There are plenty of examples of modern-design, stacked towns currently in development. Wallace Walk in the Junction Triangle, pictured in our lead image, and Minto Longbranch , pictured above, both of which sold out quickly, are two of the most talked-about stacked townhomes in Toronto in right now.

But there’s also the Edition Richmond in Queen West, the Park Towns near Bayview Village, the Tree House in Birch Cliff and 455 Dovercourt, pictured below, which is a little different in that it’s mixed-use building; units are stacked above retail space.

Image (c) Curated Properties.

Image (c) Curated Properties.

Image (c) Curated Properties.

Each of these developments has its own unique features but in general, the main differences with stacked townhomes versus condos in Toronto are that the buildings are usually much more intimate in terms of size, units are often multi-leveled, they typically have private entrances and some sort of outdoor space, and you’re eliminating a lot of the amenities and common areas that you get with Toronto condos, thereby keeping maintenance fees in check.

Now, stacked designs aren’t anything new architecturally–with re-sale towns we have the Liberty Village Townhomes , Redpath Townhomes and the Brownstones on Bloor just to name a few–but they are becoming increasingly popular and we’re seeing much more attractive, slick designs now which is why it’s a Toronto real estate trend worth discussing.

The question for buyers is, do they really offer greater value than a traditional townhouse for sale in Toronto or a regular Toronto condo for sale can provide? Or are these just regular condos in disguise, often at a higher price tag than nearby comps?

To answer that, you gotta do the research on each development in question; have your Realtor analyze those options closely in comparison to viable alternatives. It’s not just down to price and location. But if you’re considering a stacked townhome, here’s a quick overview of some of the pros and cons to get you started.

Image (c) Symmetry.

Image (c) Symmetry.

Image of the Tree House (c) Symmetry.

The Pros

Affordability - in general, stacked townhomes are more affordable than comparable, regular townhouses. I underscore comparable because you can get a larger, traditional re-sale townhome in an older community like King West for less than many of these smaller, pre-construction models. And that’s without the inherent risks of buying pre-construction. But if you want top-end finishes and modern aesthetics in a hot new neighbourhood, then a stacked town is going to be one of your more affordable entry properties.

Private entrances - in many stacked townhome designs, all units have separate, private direct-to-street entrances. This isn’t always the case (some projects have upper levels that share common hallways and entryways like a condominium) but it’s a feature of many stacked townhome communities. And it’s a feature that’s in high-demand.

Location - Toronto townhomes tend to be on sites that don’t allow for high-rise, high-density buildings. True, sometimes developers choose to build a low- or mid-rise building even when they have other options. Often times though it’s because their hand is forced–they see demand for a particular neighbourhood but they simply can’t get approval to build up any further.

Why is this a pro? Because low-density sites in Toronto tend to be located in more family-friendly, community-centric neighbourhoods and they’re often near schools and parks. Now, you can get this in a regular townhome as well, it’s not exclusive to stacked designs, however it’s worth mentioning as it’s a big plus for family buyers who are priced out of the semi-detached and detached housing market.

Cool designs – again, this isn’t something that’s exclusive to stacked townhomes (there are great regular townhome designs on the market as well) but we’re particularly impressed with some of the latest stacked townhouse concepts, especially ones that consider their fit into the natural surroundings and the larger community in a way that you don’t often get with high-rise condominiums.

Whether you care for the aesthetics of these particular projects or not, there’s a thoughtfulness to the plans for both the Tree House Towns, which you can read more about on our post about modern townhomes , and the Perth-Sterling Townhomes pictured below, which you can read more about on our post about Junction Triangle condos . It’s clear that the developers are thinking about how urban planning can and should foster community.

Image (c) Castlepoint.

Image (c) Castlepoint.

Image (c) Castlepoint.

The Cons

Lack of family-friendly outdoor space – in stacked developments, only ground level units have private backyards. Although upper units may have rooftop terraces or balconies, it’s just not as attractive a feature if you have pets or kids.

Noise - sound bleed is potentially worse here than in traditional townhomes or row-houses, particularly if you have people partying above you on a balcony.

Atmosphere – this is subjective but stacked townhouses may not feel as private or home-y to you as alternative property types. Most people who choose a townhome over a Toronto condo do so because they don’t want to live in a multi-family dwelling but they can’t yet afford a house. Some of these stacked designs give off a feel of being packed in like sardines, despite the extra interior square footage.

Lack of private driveway / garage – most stacked towns share a common parking garage as you would in a condo building.

Stairs – now, you’re going to get stairs in any townhome. These are vertical, narrow properties by definition. But with stacked towns, if you’re on the upper level, the issue’s exasperated. On the other hand, it justifies missing yet another gym session. But if you’re a family with a stroller or if you have any mobility issues, the upper levels are probably not for you.

Should You Buy a Stack?

For readers considering buying a Toronto townhouse, I wish we could give you a simple, black and white guideline to follow that says this type of home is good, this type is bad. But like all real estate matters, it’s not that simple.

There’s a lot to be said for the very attractive, modern designs we’re seeing in stacked townhome developments and a lot of these projects offer good bang for your buck. They can also get you into a great neighbourhood that your budget may not otherwise afford you access to.

On the other hand, you’re not necessarily getting the lifestyle of a traditional row-house town so you need to think carefully, particularly if you’re buying pre-construction, about whether or not the “stacked” lifestyle is still going to appeal to you years down the road.

That said, the introduction of more stacked towns to the Toronto real estate market means greater variety and therefore more choice for buyers. And in this crazy hot market, that’s a good thing. As always, just make sure to do your research before buying a stacked townhouse, watch those square footage prices (particularly on pre-construction) and take a look at other re-sale comps that may offer you more privacy and outdoor space before making a final purchasing decision.