Live-work spaces, one of the hottest new housing trends in Toronto these days, might just also be one of the oldest.
Traditional live-work spaces – where a store or workshop was operated on the ground floor while the owner's family lived upstairs – are few and far between in Toronto's downtown core, most having been demolished to make way for the high-rises that now dominate the cityscape. But with the huge increase in condo living over the past few decades, demand for spaces that can both be lived in and serve as a place of work has increased substantially.
Home Office Setup by Marco Paköeningrat
"More and more people are looking at this type of alternative as it's becoming more and more expensive to run both a home and a place of work," says Toronto realtor Julie Kinnear. "And while some people still think it can be hard to find a good live-work space, there's a lot of great opportunities located in different pockets of Toronto."
Kinnear says the most popular live-work spaces in Toronto consist of loft conversions in old warehouses, as well as in specially designed and built condominium buildings sprinkled across some of the city's most sought after neighbourhoods. In the case of the older buildings, the old warehouses have been completely renovated, modernized and specifically zoned (like the newer condos) for use as both a place of work and a place to lay your head.
So, who's looking to buy such properties? According to Kinnear, the greatest demand for good quality live-work spaces in Toronto is amongst professionals in the creative industries, as well as young entrepreneurs. Unable (or unwilling) to pay the high-costs associated with purchasing or leasing office, workshop or studio space along with additional living space – and also not wanting to relocate to the suburbs – a combination of these two needs can make a great deal of sense.
There are other benefits, too, says Kinnear: "Live-work spaces not only provide a nice opportunity for people to live and work in the same place, but even enables them to eventually use it strictly as a home if they want to. Another alternative is to keep and rent it due to the high demand for such properties."
And as with any good real estate purchase, purchasing the right live-work space can also prove a good investment. Says Kinnear: "I think that adds a tremendous amount of value to the proposition. You can build up equity, and after all, real estate is still the most solid investment. And when you're running things yourself, you need very little bit of help you can get."
Where to buy?
When it comes time to choose the best location for your live-work space, Toronto offers a number of areas worth considering.
"Some of the trendiest areas of Toronto that contain buildings zoned specifically for live-work spaces include in and around the Garment Factory and I-Zone on Carlaw, around the Dundas and Queen Street area," says Kinnear.
Other sought after areas Kinnear identifies include around the Entertainment District, as well as High Park, Kensington, and parts of burgeoning King Street West with its many old warehouses and newer condo developments.
Investment and income potential
"The coolest ones are definitely the old warehouses," she says. "They've got hardwood floors, high ceilings and make for really cool work spaces in really neat old buildings. Anything that's in the old post and beam buildings are popular as they have so much character."
And the cost? According to Kinnear, a turnkey live-work loft conversion or condo can cost anywhere from as low as $450,000 to upwards of $600,000. For the money you'll get one or two bedrooms, a living area that doubles as the workspace, and kitchen, all of it covering anywhere from between 500 square feet all the way up to 1,200 square feet.
"But of course you can go a lot higher," says Kinnear. "In some buildings there are spectacular conversions that look as if they came right out of a design magazine."
Is the live-work lifestyle for you?
Before jumping in and making a purchasing decision regarding a live-work property, be sure to carefully consider not only the options in terms of available styles, but also whether the lifestyle really is for you. The following list of potential pros and cons will help:
- Cost savings due to having to purchase only one piece of real estate
- No commuting means saving time and money, and no having to go out in bad weather
- No more having to dine out (unless you want to)
- Tax benefits (check with your accountant or tax consultant for your particular entitlement)
- Work-life balance
- Distractions (are you disciplined enough to separate work from pleasure?)
- Know your knocking off time (if you're a workaholic, are you disciplined enough to know when to quite for the day?)
- Little or no room for expansion
Interior by artspaceprojects
What to look for in a live-work real estate purchase
Once you've made the decision that the live-work lifestyle is for you, the following considerations will help ensure you find the perfect fit:
- Is the neighbourhood safe for staff and visiting clients?
- Will staff and visitors have access to washrooms?
- Is it close to public transit connections, and does it have guest parking?
- Are courier and delivery services permitted and, if so, are their limits?
- Is signage allowed?
- Is the unit properly wired, with plenty of additional power outlets?
- Who are your neighbours, what kind of business do they operate, and how busy are they?
- Can you rent out the unit (or part of it)?
- Is there room to raise a family when the time comes?