They come for an education or for the lifestyle, and some come merely for the waterfront views.
Whatever their reason, home and condo buyers are heading east — looking for second homes, a place to retire, or an investment property with rental potential. And they’re finding those in Kingston and its surrounding areas.
“I think Kingston is an incredible place to live. The city’s putting a lot of money into the amenities,” says Greg Newman, vice-president of the Kingston Home Builders Association.
There are several trends feeding the area’s new home and condo market, he says. Waterfront sites are popular in and outside the city, especially with a retiree demographic. Younger buyers are looking for affordable product and fuelling the sales of townhouses and condominium projects — the latter of which have traditionally not been common in the area. “I think that condo format is providing opportunity for people to get into the new home market, as opposed to renting,” Mr. Newman says. “I think there’s also a changing preference for lower-maintenance housing formats.”
One of those condominium buildings is University Suites, a new project in “The Hub” district of Kingston, at Princess and University avenues. At the site, PRK Developments is introducing what it hopes will be a landmark building to the high-profile corner, with a 10-storey modern design by Teeple Architects.
“It’s very close to Queen’s University, so you’re going to see a lot of Masters students, professional students, wanting to live there,” says Bernard Luttmer, president of PRK. “You’re going to see staff and faculty interested in living there, as well as local residents.”
The developer — which is offering suites ranging from 400 to 1,000 square feet and priced from $188,900 — is also expecting to see investors come into the project, to take advantage of Kingston’s ever-growing rental needs. According to Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), vacancy rates remain low in the city. “Vacancy rates remained the tightest among new buildings in 2013, as new renters appreciated the new amenities that these buildings offer,” CMHC’s Spring 2014 Housing Market Outlook for Kingston stated.
With that in mind, PRK is offering, especially for investors, rent-ready suites with three-year leasebacks. “For investors who are interested in it, they can sign up for a leaseback and essentially receive a turnkey tenant, available to them to lease their unit,” Mr. Luttmer says.
But while University Suites may be expecting investors and younger end users, a different type of buyer is coming to The Loyalist Country Club Community. Located west of Kingston in the village of Bath, the low-rise project by Kaitlin Corp. backs on to an 18-hole golf course and features a 20,000-square-foot clubhouse, already up and running on the site. It offers a combination of townhouses and single-family homes, while an assisted-living condominium is also planned, allowing residents a chance to age in place as they get older. Construction at the site is well under way, with many homes already occupied in the community; current homes at the site range from 1,269 to 2,879 square feet and start at $262,490.
“Though there are exceptions, I would say we’re averaging a 60-plus buyer — either people retiring, who want to get out of the city, or people ready to move prior to that,” says Paul Hunter, new home sales advisor for the site. Many purchasers, he adds, are coming from as far as off as Ottawa, Toronto and Montreal. “People are investigating the different types of lifestyle opportunities.”
In addition to Loyalist’s own onsite recreational amenities — including a restaurant, fitness facilities, meeting rooms, a ballroom, billiards, an outdoor swimming pool and a hot tub — the community of Bath also offers what Mr. Hunter calls an “old-style charm” with a Lake Ontario location that’s appealing to boaters. At the same time, though, it’s close to Highway 401 and the medical facilities, cultural amenities and shopping opportunities of Kingston, giving buyers the option of partaking in a bigger city lifestyle nearby when they want it.
“A lot of people fall in love with it when they get here,” say Mr. Hunter. “The people here are very open, very friendly. When someone new moves in, they’ll knock on their door and introduce themselves.”
An older demographic of retirees is also making its way to the community of Gananoque, set amidst the Thousand Islands, and specifically to Riverstone Gananoque, by Brennan Custom Homes. The site is also attracting second-home buyers, with its five condominium buildings (three of them are refurbished existing buildings) close to the confluence of the St. Lawrence and Gananoque rivers. Units range from 900 to 3,000 square feet and start in the $400,000s.
The location halfway between Ottawa and Toronto is a plus for purchasers, says Joe Brennan, president of Brennan Custom Homes. As with Loyalist, buyers are coming from both directions. For them, the river lifestyle is a big draw. “You can [boat] across the river to Alexandria Bay or up the river to Kingston to go to the markets or the theatre,” Mr. Brennan says.
Riverstone Gananoque is will have fitness facilities and 48 boat slips. The kayaking and canoeing through the area offers the lifestyle a second-home buyer might look for. The coffee shops, dining and local parks, meanwhile, provide a slow-pace small town lifestyle that’s attractive to retirees as well. Kingston itself is only 25 minutes away by car.
“It’s pretty amazing,” Mr. Brennan says. “And it’s all just two hours from Toronto by train.”