Innovation Leads to Lower Condo Fees

*As published on Yahoo Finance

TORONTO, April 29, 2021 - Marla on the Park is a 4-story, boutique condo with a twist: low common element (condo) fees. Too often buyers must choose between livable, community-oriented buildings with high condo fees or tight, claustrophobic towers with affordable fees. Now, homeowners can have the best of both through innovative building design and layout, in the emerging Toronto-Glen Park neighbourhood.

Marla on the Park aerial view

Condo fees are collected from unit owners on a per square foot (psf) basis, and are pooled to fund maintenance of the building, expenses, and the rainy day 'reserve fund'. Often, bigger condos can offer lower per-unit condo fees by spreading the common expenses out over more units. A 20-story and 4-story building may have the same sized roof to maintain, but the high-rise condo can offer lower fees by dividing the cost among more units. This often leaves buyers choosing between livability and lower fees.

The average common element fee for a Toronto condo is approximately $0.65 psf, or $650 per month for a 1,000 square foot condo. At Marla, condo fees will be $0.42 psf, or a savings of $230 per month compared to the city average. "We believe that buyers want not only low condo fees, but control over their expenses," says developer Kultura co-founder Antonio Azevedo, who previously developed Abacus Lofts on Dundas St. W. "We've harnessed new, efficient technology and taken advantage of Marla's small size in a way that larger buildings can't." How are such low condo fees possible in a building that also boasts a beautifully modern design (RAW architects), plenty of greenery, and thoughtfully crafted indoor and outdoor amenity space? Mainly, through decentralization.

One example Azevedo cites is Marla's HVAC systems. "Larger condos have centralized HVAC systems that, while smaller than traditional standalone furnaces, are expensive to maintain. At Marla, we have sourced new, efficiently designed furnaces and A/C units that are smaller than traditional in-unit systems. These units are owned by the purchaser and not maintained by condo fees. Purchasers will have control over maintenance costs, repairs, and sourcing contractors. Big buildings struggle to offer in-unit A/C because of condenser placement, which can only be so far from each condo unit. At 4-stories, we're the perfect height to run half the condensers to the roof and half to the basement parking area. Any taller, and it becomes impractical."

Sub-metering utilities like water, gas, and electricity is becoming more common in Toronto and is another strategy employed at Marla to lower condo fees. Sub-metering encourages responsible usage and lowers costs for everyone in the building. According to Azevedo, decentralization is the way of the future for smaller, more livable, and community-oriented condos. "Supplying more Missing Middle housing to Toronto will help the city grow in a more sustainable way. But, ensuring that new housing is efficiently designed with ongoing expenses in mind is critical for homeowners."

Marla on the Park interior view
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