When looking for a new home, the priorities of Canada’s wealthy are often in line with the typical home buyer—but having more money also means their home shopping list is far longer, and the items to be checked off are considerably more luxurious.
It’s the difference between enjoying an expensive bottle of wine for your anniversary and enjoying the ride in your elevator down to your wine cellar.
According to some of Canada’s top luxury real estate agents, the wealthy are looking for value in their new home—properties that are in good locations, in close proximity to work and local schools. Like most people, they’re also hoping to not overspend, “getting the best bang for their buck,” as noted by Calgary luxury real estate agent Daren Gull.
Of course, that’s often where the similarities end. In the multimillion dollar real estate market, there’s a few other features sought after by wealthy home buyers that are beyond the reach of most Canadians.
“Elevators, wine cellars, libraries I think are very important” for wealthy homeowners, said Toronto real estate agent Jimmy Molloy.
“We’re seeing a lot of triple or quadruple garages, houses with superior audio-visual equipment, security systems, a lot of gated homes,” added Gull.
As for the type of multimillion dollar home purchase made, it’s largely dependent on the client themselves, said Molloy.
“You get some people that are using their home as a symbol that they have arrived,” he said, counting young and recently rich individuals, such as hockey players, among this group.
“Then you have people who are more established, and they’re looking at the reverse—they’re looking for privacy, a sanctuary.”
One commonality among Canada’s top real estate markets in Calgary, Vancouver, and Toronto, is the presence of a coveted area in the city that offers the hybrid luxury of seclusion as well as proximity to the downtown core.
Torontonians looking for the best of both worlds often settle in Rosedale and Forest Hill, said Molloy. The tree-lined streets with multimillion dollar homes in these areas provide big lots and privacy, while also being just minutes away from favourite restaurants or “a great Starbucks,” highly regarded private schools, and a short drive to work.
Those looking to buy in Calgary’s Springbank neighbourhood, many of whom are often oil and gas company executives, are presented with the same amenities, including a short commute to downtown, but with a few unique features.
Many people in Springbank are there for equestrian accommodations, said Gull.
“They have more land, so they have room for their horses,” he noted.
Springbank is also home to two of the city’s most sought-after private schools, Webber Academy and Strathcona-Tweedsmuir School, as well as the prestigious Glencoe golf and country club, which Gull purported to have a five-year waiting list for new members.
The Point Grey, University, and Shaughnessy areas offer the mix of luxury and downtown proximity many wealthy homeowners are looking for in Vancouver, according to real estate agent Elizabeth McQueen.
“A lot of these homes will have indoor pools, magnificent types of bath spas, marble flooring…the top end of things,” she said.
The exception to the downtown/seclusion hybrid is the West Vancouver area, as noted by Malcolm Hasman, the city’s top-selling real estate agent.
A neighbourhood of 37,000 people nestled between ocean waters and a mountain view, West Vancouver boasts some of the city’s best private schools, quick access to parks and ski locations.
“It is without any doubt, the safest community in greater Vancouver,” said Hasman.
Vancouver’s luxury market in recent years has been largely driven by new Canadian residents arriving from Hong Kong and China. Hasman said about 70 per cent of his sales these days are to people from those parts of the world.
“There’s a large group of buyers that are what we call second-generation wealth from other parts of the world… and they’ve just got enormous wealth,” said Hasman.
“I drive through Shaughnessy and Point Grey and parts of West Vancouver and all I see are new Lamborghinis, Ferraris and Bentleys with “N” plates on the back,” he added, in reference to the sign that all new drivers in B.C. have to display in their cars.
But for those who are primarily looking for a downtown experience (or to perhaps spend part of their week in the city), McQueen points out that condos have become an increasingly important part of the luxury market.
Both homes and condos can sell at high price points in Vancouver, said McQueen, but for different reasons. The city’s most expensive house, located on a big lot and offering 14,000 square feet of living space, sold for $28.9 million, she said. But the most expensive condo (the penthouse at the Fairmont, which covers 6000 square feet) sold at $28.8 million based on its location in the downtown core.
According to Molloy, Toronto’s most coveted condo location is at 155 Cumberland Street, in the heart of Yorkville. The collection of private condo apartments with twelve-foot ceilings are located on top of an office building, with a small, almost hidden entrance at street level.
“That’s the pinnacle of discretion,” said Molloy.
“You have this magnificent view of downtown Toronto… It’s like the whole skyline, from the CN Tower to the lake, right across the central business district, is basically at your doorstep when you look out the window. And no one knows the building exists.”
Perhaps what money really buys is the ability to be at the centre of it all, with the best luxuries possible—and nobody knows you’re there.