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A new, creative condo project comes to Queen West

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Andrew Kelly has travelled the world, but his heart — and home — belong to Toronto’s Queen Street West.

Kelly, 33, is co-founder of Secret Walls , a global “Fight Club” of the art scene as the world’s largest black-and-white live-illustration event, and works with emerging street artists in 42 cities, including Toronto.

Artist Andrew Kelly, second from left, with partner Lyal Abu Lawi, discuss 1181 Queen West condo with the builder, Armaan Salek, president of Skale, and Jamie Phelan, right, with interior design firm The DesignAgency.
Artist Andrew Kelly, second from left, with partner Lyal Abu Lawi, discuss 1181 Queen West condo with the builder, Armaan Salek, president of Skale, and Jamie Phelan, right, with interior design firm The DesignAgency.  (Hannah Yoon / The Toronto Star)

“I love the Queen West-Ossington area so much. I’m helping on the mural front and have helped curate street art and to guide artists,” Kelly says. “Art is important to me — and what we can do in the community to elevate it.”

Four years ago, after exploring various city neighbourhoods, he moved to a condo on Queen West. “There’s a creative buzz that’s happening and I’m part of the fabric of that.” He plans to move again — this time to a new, two-bedroom condo across the street from his current residence. Kelly has bought a unit at 1181 Queen West, an architecturally unique building designed by Quadrangle Architects for Skale Developments at the corner of Queen and Sudbury Sts. The development is tentatively slated for occupancy in 2021.

“I really loved the design esthetic and the ethos of what they are striving to build. It’s not a loud, brashy condo. Every single unit is stand-alone, no two units are alike,” says Kelly.

The pie-shaped, 15-storey building of glass, brick and stone on a triangular lot will have multiple levels, setbacks and dramatic angles.

The pie-shaped, 15-storey structure at Queen and Sudbury Sts., seen in this artist's rendering, will use glass, stone and white brick.
The pie-shaped, 15-storey structure at Queen and Sudbury Sts., seen in this artist’s rendering, will use glass, stone and white brick.

“We probably went through half a dozen schemes to come up with the design,” says Armaan Salek, president at Skale Developments. “As the building goes up, it steps back, pushes forward, steps back, pushes west, then comes back east. It’s like a boomerang effect. Once it’s built, you will see two different masses, like a sculpture pulling away from another sculpture. It twists and pulls back in.”

Salek says while his team wanted to respect the nature and context of the neighbourhood by incorporating brick into the façade, “we didn’t want to just blend in with all the other red brick buildings, so we are using white brick.”

Salek has lived on Queen West and rather than an entry- to mid-level project, wanted to offer a higher standard of design. “We figured there was a niche market here for creatives and professionals that are well-to-do financially, who want to live in a condo and be in this area, so we were confident taking that route.”

Anwar Mekhayech, of the project’s interior design firm The DesignAgency, used chiaroscuro — an artistic technique employing high levels of contrast between light and dark — as the decor inspiration. The result is minimalist, with highlights of warm materials and classic patterning.

“There is great attention to detail,” says Mekhayech. “It’s pristine, detailed, elevated design. We design a lot of hotels and wanted the lobby to feel like a hotel.”

The outdoor terrace on at 1181 Queen West, seen in this artist's rendering, is planned for the third floor.
The outdoor terrace on at 1181 Queen West, seen in this artist’s rendering, is planned for the third floor.  (Skale Developments)

Amenity space on the third floor includes a yoga studio, gym, screening room, co-working space, party room and a professional chef’s kitchen. The interplay of light and shadow will extend to the triangular outdoor amenity area, with black brick and white stone, teak decking, concrete details and wood panelling.

Inside the suites, Mekhayech says residents can expect to see the chiaroscuro theme continued, with natural stone and porcelain, white cabinetry and brass details, and classic oak floors in light or dark tones. The kitchen will feature a dark, army green accent colour, but “there are no pops of colour. It’s a blank canvas in a very elevated way for people to make their own,” says Mekhayech. “The layout of units is interesting and not typical. There are some boxes but some unique corner units have interesting shapes and layouts, and the private terraces get bigger and bigger as the building steps back.”

As well, 1181 Queen West will be built to Toronto Green Standards Tier 2 — beyond the mandatory Tier 1 requirements. The building will have stations for electric vehicle charging, bicycle parking for each unit, enhanced energy efficiency, water-saving fixtures and features. It will also have a green roof on the ninth floor, rather than on the top floor, so residents living above will be able to enjoy the view.

“I think this will turn into an iconic building and development on Queen West and that’s why I want to own a unit there,” says Kelly. “Queen West is a melting pot of really interesting individuals. This street speaks for itself and this development will speak for itself.”

Interiors will feature high-contrast decor warmed with natural elements, as seen in this artist's rendering, and offer unique views from the building's various levels and set-backs.
Interiors will feature high-contrast decor warmed with natural elements, as seen in this artist’s rendering, and offer unique views from the building’s various levels and set-backs.  (Skale Developments)

1181 QUEEN WEST CONDOS

Developer: Skale Developments

Architect: Quadrangle Architects. Interior designer: Design Agency

Size: 15 storeys, 118 suites

Layouts: One bedroom, one plus den, two bedrooms, two plus den, three bedrooms, two bedroom/two storey, three bedroom

Units: 610 sq. ft. to 1,719 sq. ft.

Prices: $559,900 to over $1.4 million

Tentative Occupancy: Spring 2021

Info: http://www.skale.ca/

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‘Don’t give up’: Ottawa Valley realtors share statistics, tips for homebuyers in ‘extreme’ sellers market

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The real estate market in the Ottawa Valley can be summed up this way: people from far and wide are in a buying frenzy, but there’s hardly anything to buy at the “store,” and the limited inventory is overpriced.

This “stampede” — as one realtor described it — will affect rural towns as residents grapple with finding affordable housing and agonize over their inability to purchase homes in their price range.

“We are seeing a lack of inventory in all price ranges,” said Laura Keller, a real estate agent from Carleton Place. HomeYou’ve been selected.Only $1.49/week for your first 4 months.Special offer just for you. Unlimited access.

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10 Tips For First-Time Home Buyers

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Buying a home for the first time is exciting and a commitment to the future. It’s often challenging, too, and the process requires a lot of steps, many of which can be tricky to navigate as a first-time home buyer.

What are some things you should keep in mind as a first-time home buyer?

First-Time Home Buyer Tips

Here are 10 tips to keep in mind as you begin your journey toward homeownership.

1. Have Your Finances in Order

It’s wise to begin saving as early as possible once you’ve made the decision to purchase a house. You’ll need to consider the down payment, closing costs (which often range from 2% to 5% of the down payment), as well as move-in expenses.

You also need to understand the other costs of homeownership, such as mortgage insurance. property taxes, utilities, homeowner’s insurance, and more.

2. How Much Can You Afford?

Knowing how much you can realistically afford in a home is another important financial consideration. Look for the home of your dreams that fits your budget.

One way to avoid future financial stress is to set a price range for your home that fits your budget, and then staying within that range. Going through the preapproval process will help you understand what price range is realistic for your budget.

3. Make Sure Your Credit is Good

Another thing to keep in mind as a first-time home buyer is your credit score because it determines whether you qualify for a mortgage and affects the interest rate that lenders offer. 

You can check your credit score from the three credit bureaus – Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion.

This is another good reason for getting preapproved before you start your search. Learn more about the preapproval process and your credit score.

4. Choose The Right Real Estate Agent

A good real estate agent guides you through the process every step of the way. He or she will help you find a home that fits your needs, help you through the financial processes, and help ease any first-time buyer anxiety you may have.

Interview several agents and request references.

5. Research Mortgage Options

A variety of mortgages are available, including conventional mortgages – which are guaranteed by the government – FHA loans, USDA loans, and VA loans (for veterans).

You’ll also have options regarding the mortgage term. A 30-year fixed-rate mortgage is popular among many homebuyers and has an interest rate that doesn’t change over the course of the loan. A 15-year loan usually has a lower interest rate but monthly payments are larger.

6. Talk to Multiple Lenders

It’s worth your time to talk to several lenders and banks before you accept a mortgage offer. The more you shop around, the better deal you’re liable to get – and it may save you thousands of dollars.

7. Get Preapproved First

Getting a mortgage preapproval (in the form of a letter) before you begin hunting for homes is something else to put on your checklist. A lender’s preapproval letter states exactly how much loan money you can get.

Learn more about the preapproval process and how preapproval provides you with a significant competitive advantage in our article How Preapproval Gives You Home Buying Power.

8. Pick the Right House and Neighborhood

Make sure to weigh the pros and cons of the different types of homes based on your budget, lifestyle, etc. Would a condominium or townhome fit your needs better than a house? What type of neighborhood appeals to you?

9. List Your Needs and Must-Haves

The home you purchase should have as many of the features you prefer as possible. List your needs in order of priority; some things may be non-negotiable to you personally.

10. Hire an Inspector

Hiring an inspector is another crucial step in the home buying process. An inspector will tell you about existing or potential problems with the home, and also what’s in good order. You can learn more about home inspections and how to find a home inspector through the American Society of Home Inspectors website.

Buying a home for the first time is a challenge, but it’s one you can handle with the right planning and preparation.

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A Simplified Guide for Toronto First-Time Home Buyers

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Toronto is the largest city in Canada, the fourth largest city in North America, which makes it an exciting place to live in.

But as with other major cities, finding the perfect place to move to can get tricky. If you’re planning on buying a home for the first time in this city, it is indeed a big decision and there are things you should know in advance.

Don’t worry, this guide will help explain the basics of what you as a buyer should know when you decide to buy a home. It will make you feel like a true expert during the buying process.

Decide what type of home you are looking for

There is no right answer to what makes a good home. It all depends on your preferences and needs as the resident. It is, therefore, a good idea to determine as early as possible which features of a home are important to you. If you are buying a home and moving in with someone, it can be a good idea for both of you to make a list and compare.

Toronto is a city that offers different styles of living accommodations and its neighborhoods are quite versatile and diverse, same as the people living there who come from all parts of the world.

The most common forms of housing and real estate opportunities in this city include bungalows, two-storey houses, split-level homes, and the very popular Toronto condos. Due to the high property values, the city boasts of construction of many condominiums as they are a more cost-efficient choice and provide a plethora of benefits.

When you decide on the type of home you want to buy, it is good to do some research and learn the biggest differences between them.

What to think of when choosing homes in Toronto

There are certain things you need to consider when choosing your home in this city. 

Being close to the things you need to visit every day makes life a lot easier. Pay attention to the proximity to shops, preschools, schools, and your job. In addition, access to good public transportation is crucial. Being able to move around the city easily and the opportunity to commute is important to many.

Know that having a balcony can significantly increase the value of your home and improve your well-being. Being able to move easily in the area is something that many people underestimate, but can be very convenient, and this is why you should see if there are good cycles and walking paths. 

And finally, make sure that the house is well designed which is a quality that does not disappear with the age of the house or with renovations. 

Set your budget

Before you start the search for your new home, you must know how expensive of a home you can buy. It is preferable to know in what price range to look for. The budget is usually decided based on your mortgage and how large are the monthly costs you can handle.

A mortgage is always about a balance between risk and income for the bank. The higher the risk for the bank to lend to a particular home, the more expensive the mortgage will be. When it comes to the bank’s reasoning when applying for a loan, it is in principle always a question of whether you as a borrower will be able to repay the mortgage.

The bank also takes into account your financial history. If you are a person who has managed your finances well, the chance increases that you will get your mortgage approved. If, on the other hand, you have a bad reputation with banks, it is weighed in as an aggravating circumstance.

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