Edmonton Skyline
Credit: Darren Kirby - http://www.flickr.com/photos/badcomputer/4308019944/

If you look around Edmonton these days, one particular trend in housing will make itself apparent: the proliferation of condominiums (commonly called "condos"). These homes are typically preferred by homeowners who don't have large families, such as young professionals or retirees, because they generally have only 1 or 2 bedrooms - although larger units are available if one looks hard enough. The popularity of this housing option is obvious enough in a rapidly-growing city like Edmonton, which in recent decades has attracted ambitious young workers from all across Canada. It also has an environmental appeal in that it allows more people to live in a smaller amount of space, thus helping to prevent the urban sprawl that has consumed the countryside surrounding many other cities in the world. Even in financial terms, condos appeal to many people due to their low cost when compared with detached homes or townhouses, so as a starter home or a retirement home, they are a perfect fit.

According to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), housing starts in Edmonton in July were at 1,034 units (in contrast to 949 units last year), with 479  of them being single detached homes (in contrast to 610 last July). These figures support the impression that one gets, simply by virtue of living in Edmonton, that condos are on the rise (no pun intended) throughout the city. So how will this trend affect Edmontonians, and what does it mean for Edmonton's real estate market?

Increased Density

As gasoline prices have risen steadily over the past decade and environmental problems have become more publicized, there has developed a movement towards more ecologically-balanced or "green" lifestyles. One of the main features of these lifestyles is more dense living in urban environments, so that less land is taken up and residents are more likely to live within walking distance of their jobs, the grocery store, the park, and other regular destinations. It's no wonder, then, that condo living has become more popular than ever in recent years, as people strive to save both money and the environment by downsizing their housing expectations. One of the things we can expect over the coming years in Edmonton, as condos become more common, is not only greater density in downtown Edmonton, but the emergence of small "downtown" condo areas in each neighbourhood of the city. A similar version of this property layout can currently be seen in Vancouver, where the physical barriers of the Pacific ocean, the U.S. border, and the Coast Mountains have compelled residents to move to condos in far greater numbers than in most North American cities.

Lower Housing Costs... But Not Everywhere

Since each condo unit takes less labour and construction materials to build than each detached house, and since condos typically have less resale value than detached houses in the same neighbourhood, it pretty much goes without saying that as condos become more plentiful in Edmonton, housing should become more affordable. There is a caveat to this situation, however, and it involves the words that any real estate agent or store owner knows all too well: location, location, location! An abundance of condos near Whyte Ave. is unlikely to reduce the price of a farm on the outskirts of town (say, near Tofield), because each of those properties appeals to totally different kinds of buyers. Luxury homes in the suburbs are unlikely to decline in value for precisely the same reasons: someone looking to house a family with children is essentially operating in a whole other market from the person looking for a 1-bedroom condo. So while the emergence of new condo units will help make similar forms of housing more affordable in urban and suburban areas, these deals will not necessarily spread to the rest of the market.

Whatever kind of home it is you're looking for in Edmonton, there's no denying that the increasing popularity of condos is going to be a factor in what kind of property you buy, where it will be located, and how much it will cost you. But by playing your cards right, you could find yourself sitting in the penthouse of a brand new condo building with easy access to your place of work and your children's school.