Canada's Condominium Magazine

What floor is best for a condo: for living and for resale, what are the pros and cons of higher living?

Today, if you’re buying a home in Toronto, you are statistically likely to be considering a condominium — not only for affordability but for location and lifestyle. 91 percent of all June 2017 new home sales, according to Altus Group data, were condominium high-rise. [For a feature reporting on the new home condo sales increases, see this story in Condo.ca>>]

 

One of the reasons to choose high-rise condo living is “the view.” Higher floors tend to command higher prices and resale than lower floors (all other things being equal). Photo courtesy Via Bloor by Tridel>>

 

Condo’s are in — but what floor?

Since many condominium communities offer similar choices of suite layouts on each floor — with some lower floor and highest floor premium layout exceptions — the big choice tends to be “what floor.” This is, arguably, the most important decision, once you’ve chosen your actual community.

The floor impacts resale value, your own lifestyle and even the rent you can charge if you become a landlord (higher floors tend to command higher rent).

For this analysis, we’re assuming you’ve already chosen your community and that it’s in the location you want, from a quality builder/developer. In other words, all things being equal, what floor should you choose? Other factors, such as direction and sun exposure are important, too, but we’re simplifying our analysis to floor versus floor.

 

Lower floors in newer condominium communities can have larger luxury floor plans with larger terraces or even ground-floor gardens. Image courtesy of Bianca by Tridel>>

 

Vertical location matters

Assuming you have choices — in new condominiums, the unsold units, in resales, the available listings — the choice will be influenced by factors such as budget (higher floors traditional cost more) and lifestyle-location (this time, vertical location.)

For many of us, a condominium is all about the view, which is why higher floors tend to command higher prices. Yet, many prefer lower floors for very good reasons. Some of the factors you might not have considered. We’ve actually analysed this based on “ground floor” versus “lower fifteen floors” versus “upper floors” because ground floor is often high demand for different reasons — such as garden terraces — and have their own unique pros and cons.

 

The view’s the thing. All other factors being equal, higher floors command higher prices. They also tend to be easier to sell for higher amounts. Image courtesy of Via Bloor by Tridel>>

 

General Analysis

Before doing a more detailed pros/cons analysis, here are some general suggestions:

  • Higher floors general cost more but return higher resale values and rent
  • Initial return on investment for landlords or rental investors could be higher on lower floors (however capital re-capture on the sale might be lower)
  • Once you are up at the level with “good views” there may be a “diminishing return” pushing up even higher.

Ground floor (if available)

Note: Many larger downtown projects, do not have ground floors (which might be dedicated to storefronts or amenities. 

Pros

  • Depending on the community, may have a larger terrace or ground-level mini garden, possibly with real grass!
  • Depending on community, ground floor could have premium floorplan with extras space.
  • Cooler in the summer.
  • Accessibility, especially valuable for older homeowners and people with disabilities.
  • No elevator! No stairs! (Especially after the grocery shopping.)
  • No one lives below you (of course plenty live above you!). But you can probably not worry about the home-owner below you complaining about your tap classes.
  • Sometimes bigger units.
  • Closer to the car and the storage units.
  • Safety: in the cases of emergency, not only is the ground floor straight exit, the police, ambulance and fire services can access much more quickly.

 

Ground floor suites can have terraces or even gardens. In some communities, these are premium designs with extra space and features. Image courtesy of SQ 2 by Tridel>>

 

Cons

  • Security: Again, depending on the community, your windows and patio door are easier to reach for criminals, but often communities overcome this with fences, gates or perimeter walls.
  • Depending on the community, you most likely have less of a view.
  • Probably less daylight and sun. This could be considered an advantage if you don’t like excessive sun/green house effect and excessive heat in the summer.
  • Possibly less expensive, unless your community features larger ground floor suites or big ground-floor terraces.

Lower Floors (or mid to low-rise building)

Pros

  • More light and better views as compared to the ground floor.
  • Resale value: probably higher than ground floor, not as high as upper floors.
  • Security: as compared to ground floor, you can virtually leave windows open without fear of burglars (there are some climbers though!)
  • Not too high up in the event of power failure (easier and faster to exit by stairs)
  • Can walk up with groceries if you’re on a health-kick (it’s good for you!), or down for a quick jog (if you are mobile.)
  • Better accessibility (possibly) than higher floors for anyone with mobility issues. In emergencies, this is safer for people with these issues.
  • Lower cost (usually) than higher floors, slightly higher (as a rule) than the ground floor.
  • Less time on the elevator. The higher floors, at commute times, tend to get crowded by the time residents reach the garage.
  • Depending on the floor, and especially if you open windows or use your terrace, less traffic noise the higher you go.
  • Possibly less dust (in cities, if you open windows on the ground floor, you can bring in more dust and pollen.)
  • Perhaps more privacy than the ground floor (but usually ground floor apartments have walls or fences). The higher you are, the less likely you have prying eyes unless you’re facing another building directly.

 

Lower floors and mid-level floors can be luxurious. Some developers, such as Tridel, design in extra terrace space and luxury amenities for premium urban living. Image Bianca by Tridel>>

 

Cons

  • More time on the elevator and stairs the higher you go.
  • Once you get past a base threshold, the prices per floor tend to increase. In modern communities, this can average $1000 a floor.
  • Higher floors tend to be hotter in the summer due to greenhouse glass effect, although hey also catch really nice breezes.
  • The balcony will be smaller than a ground floor terrace (normally).
  • Emergencies: although modern condo communities are very safe with all the latest preventative measures, in the event of power failure or fire exit becomes more difficult, particularly for anyone with mobility issues.
  • You now have to give up your tap dancing practice (people below you).

Upper floors of high rise and penthouse

Pros

  • Mostly the same as the mid rise or low-rise (above).
  • Depending on the community, many designers enhance suite designs at the more coveted higher levels with extra space, bedrooms and luxuries (not all communities, of course!)
  • Value for resale increases, as a rule, with each floor up
  • Above the 15th floor, normally urban skyline’s are more dramatic, night views are stunning, and if you are in Toronto you have a chance of a lake view.
  • Probably less apparent pollution if you open your windows and you are near road arteries.
  • Bragging rights (especially penthouse)
  • Generally quieter the higher you go, since you have fewer floors above you, and you are more remote from traffic.

 

The view is often the number one factor in resales. Here, a nicely designed condo with a nice view looks inviting and spacious.

 

Cons

  • Many of the same cons as mid rise but with extra emphasis on:
  • Elevator time, stairs to climb
  • Emergency services: more or less must rely on Emergency Services in a real emergency.
  • Less likely to be a target of thieves (if they can somehow penetrate condo security, which is unlikely). Thieves tend to prefer lower floors due to: less time exposed on elevators or climbing stairs, less chance they’ll be caught on security camera, more chance they’ll be seen, more time in the building (longer to escape when alarm sounds) and so on.

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