How small can condos go? How about the size of a safety deposit box.
They won’t have balconies or bathrooms, but these new ownership units — believed to be a first in the world — should go a long way toward easing the overwhelming demand for a safe place of your own to store valuable documents, precious jewellery and even your final will and testament.
“We’re selling cubic inches, not square feet,” says Nigel Lawson, vice president for condo developer Parallax Investment Corp. which plans to start preselling the first privately-owned SafeBox Condominium Vaults this weekend.
The carefully-guarded boxes have to be registered as condos — even though they are a mere fraction of the size of Toronto’s incredibly shrinking residential apartments — because each one will be individually owned.
And, yes, the boxes will be subject to dreaded maintenance fees and property taxes.
They’ll even have parking, within a secure zone where you can load and unload your valuables out of sight of prying eyes.
Parallax hopes to have at least 4,500 of the tiny condos in its first facility, an industrial building on Steelcase Rd. W. in Markham that it hopes to open in July.
The building will be fitted with a 2,000-square-foot vault, 24/7 Chubb Edwards security and staff during business hours who will man a reception area that looks like a hotel lobby.
Small “gold” boxes (25 cm wide by 61 cm long by 8 cm deep) will sell for $3,600. Annual maintenance fees will be $109 plus about $64 in property taxes.
Bigger “platinum” boxes (25 cm wide by 61 cm long by 20 cm deep) are $5,500 plus $273 annually in maintenance fees and $97 in property taxes.
“Safety deposit boxes are a valuable commodity and in such high demand, some banks have a seven-year waiting list,” says Stephen Wong, a real estate agent who is marketing the boxes on behalf of Parallax.
“Expansion of the Toronto area’s population has coincided with the shrinking of banks opening new branches so young people basically cannot find safety deposit boxes, and their parents aren’t giving theirs up yet because they still need them.”
TD Bank has told customers they will be paying 40 per cent more to rent safety deposit boxes after April 1, acknowledging that “we see huge demand, across many demographics, that actually outstrips supply.”
The new fees — from $60 for a small box to $125 for a large — haven’t been raised in five years and “reflects the high value customers place on these highly secure storage spaces,” a bank official told The Star recently.
Wong has delivered 100,000 flyers in the North York and Markham area the last 10 days and has already had a lot of interest, including one buyer looking for 15 of the gold boxes.
“It’s a new concept so people just want to understand how they can get title to the box. Once they know it’s like any condominium they’ve ever bought, except this one is a bit smaller, they are 100 per cent comfortable,” said Wong.
The concept has proven to be especially popular among ethnic communities in suburban Toronto neighbourhoods who prefer the notion of owning, rather than renting, whether it be a home, office or store, says Wong.
Lawson hopes to build similar facilities in Mississauga or Brampton, Calgary, Montreal and Vancouver.
“Those who are buying seem to have confidence to invest because it’s real-estate related. I guess that’s because everybody has made money on condos the last few years,” says Wong.
But he stresses the concept is so new, it’s impossible to know what the future holds in terms of flipping the unit.
“I’ve told people, don’t expect this thing to make money in days or weeks or years. But give it some time and, just like any real estate, it’s bound to appreciate.”