The downtown Toronto area is home to just under 1,000 condos — by the time this list is posted there will probably be a few more. And as prices continue to rise, many of us are looking at the most affordable options out there. Here’s a list of our top ten.
Are you going to see the likes of The Shangri La Residences or The Ritz Carlton on this list? Absolutely not, but you won’t see any cardboard boxes or dilapidated low-rises here either. We’ve put together a list of buildings that are both reputable and affordable: with that in mind, here are the cheapest (but not cheap quality) condos in the downtown Toronto area based on the average cost per square foot.
As of this writing (January 2020), the average cost of a condo in the downtown area is $1084 per square foot. That translates to about $580,000 for your average 1 bedroom, $640,000 for your average 1 bedroom and den unit and nearly $800,000 for your average 2 bedroom.
Many of us are priced out of the market at those numbers. And as more would-be buyers are pushed into the rental market, we’re seeing rents reach record highs.
For those comfortable with the middle ground, and open to a reputable “no frills” condo living experience, the list below might be worth shortlisting.
I should point out that these weren’t the absolute cheapest condos in Toronto in terms of dollars: We weeded out the ones that for one reason or another should be avoided altogether (poor upkeep, dramatically higher than average maintenance fees, etc). Or in other words, any condo we wouldn't personally recommend to a client was removed from the list.
What most of these condos have in common is age. They tend to be built in the early 90’s, where the trend among developers was to build larger living spaces (e.g. 700 square foot 1 bedroom units — whereas today, developers are managing to squeeze 2 bedrooms and a den into a 700 square foot living space).
One perk many of these buildings share is that they include all utilities in the maintenance fees. This is another benefit to the buildings being older, as new condos must meter hydro separately by law (which has been the case for a bit over a decade now). However, a number of these buildings do have maintenance fees above average. When weighed against the savings on your mortgage though, the higher fees are well compensated for.
Another trend you’ll find in these buildings is that they tend to feature a blend of tastefully renovated units and very dated, or “original” units. If you're open to renovations and looking for a bargain, or you’ve binge-watched every HGTV reno show and you’re ready to try your hand at it, these are buildings worth considering.
And finally, we did disclose the average cost per square foot, but those figures will become dated soon enough. However, as the cost per square foot increases among these buildings, they will undoubtedly increase among all other Toronto condos.
The most important detail to note is that most of these are between 20% to 35% ‘below’ the average cost per square foot in the downtown core — and that gap will remain relatively consistent, even as prices change.
And without further adieu, the cheapest condos in the downtown Toronto area ranked from the highest to the lowest:
Average cost per square foot: $812
38 Elm Street is an older building on one of the most desirable little streets in the downtown core. Built in 1990 and with 433 units, it’s not the right condo for anyone looking for a new and glossy boutique building with a sense of exclusivity, however if you're looking for value, units are currently selling in the low $800’s per square foot at 38 Elm St, while most nearby Bay St condos are selling closer to $1,100.
One notable strike are the high maintenance fees, at $.90 cents per square foot (average downtown is about $.65 to $.70 cents). But there’s one notable distinction: unlike most condos, the maintenance fees include all utilities, making them more reasonable but still on the higher end.
Average cost per square foot: $702
500 Queens Quay West is one of my favourite condos in the Waterfront area. It was completed in 2000, houses only 187 units and is a medium-rise at only 11 storeys tall, giving it a more exclusive and community-oriented vibe.
The maintenance fees are also abnormally low at 500 Queens Quay, at only $.60 cents per square foot (hydro is paid separately). Low condo fees are always a positive reflection on both the building management and condo board.
If you're on a budget and interested in the Waterfront, put this building on your shortlist. However, expect to pay a much more average cost per square foot for renovated units facing the water.
Average cost per square foot: $751
225 Wellesley St East is a popular mid-rise condo — with a boastful name (or some might say tacky). Built in 2009, it houses 184 units and is only 12 storeys tall. Maintenance fees are just slightly on the higher end, at $.74 cents per square foot.
Depending who you ask, some would describe 225 Wellesley St East as being in the highly desirable Cabbagetown area, and others would say the less desirable St. Jamestown. This pocket is still a little rough around the edges, which is likely turning off some buyers — ironically, a number of luxury buildings have gone up in this neighbourhood in recent years. The condo is located at the south end of a number of densely clustered apartment buildings.
Otherwise, 225 Wellesley St East features all the amenities one could reasonably want in a condo and is a short walk to many desirable parts of the city.
Average cost per square foot: $708
95 Lombard St is a relatively nondescript medium-rise condo on Lombard — one of my favourite little streets in the downtown core, sandwiched between Richmond and Adelaide.
The building was completed in 1990, houses only 65 units and is 14 storeys tall. Turnover is very low, averaging about a sale every two months (or six per year).
If you're looking for excellent value in the very low $700’s per square foot, in one of the most desirable pockets in the downtown core (a stones throw from the St. Lawrence Market), 95 Lombard St is worth shortlisting: if you’re not looking for that, you might be reading the wrong article.
However, the maintenance fees are $1.01 per square foot, which is definitely on the higher end. They do include all utilities though, making them more reasonable, but still notably higher than average. What you’d save on your mortgage would still offset the higher than average fees many times over.
Average cost per square foot: $761
Tridel must have pulled some strings with the city because the Horizon on Bay really should’ve been called the Horizon on Edward — just doesn’t have quite the same ring to it, does it? While the west side of the building fronts onto Bay St, the south side and lobby are very clearly fronting on Edward St — a quaint little street sandwiched between Bay and Yonge.
With 475 units, standing 26 storeys tall and built in 1987, 633 Bay St is not a condo many would pay any attention to or even notice, but the suite sizes are hard to ignore: Given the age of the building, the layouts are far more generous in size than is typical in newer buildings, and the building has been impeccably maintained.
Maintenance fees at the Horizon on Bay are also very reasonable, at $.71 cents per square foot, and unlike most condos, include all utilities. And good luck finding any other condo on Bay St with units selling in the mid $700’s per square foot.
One gripe I have with 633 Bay St is that it’s one of a small handful of condos that restrict pets altogether. Although rules change… hopefully, they’ll come to their senses.
Average cost per square foot: $749
Built in 1990, 25 Grenville houses 200 units over 26 storeys and is located just north of College St, between Yonge and Bay.
I almost didn’t include this condo on the list as the maintenance fees are a staggering $1.10 per square foot... almost $.50 cents above the average in the city. However, they do include hydro, which helps (although they’re still incredibly high), and 25 Grenville is located in a highly desirable pocket of the city, where the average neighbouring condo is selling at about $175 per square foot higher.
In the end, I included it because when you’re spending $175 per square foot less than average, you can deal with higher than average maintenance fees. They’re well compensated for.
Average cost per square foot: $724
33 University Ave is one of the highest demand condos on this list. Located at University and Wellington, the building is in one of the most desirable pockets of the city, where the cost of neighbouring condos is in the mid $900’s per square foot.
33 University Ave has low turnover (only 6 sales over the past year) and is a smaller high rise, with only 224 units over 28 storeys — that’s about half the number of units you’d find in a newer condo of a similar height. The condo was completed in 1990.
Condo fees are among the lowest on this list, with all utilities included at only $.66 cents per square foot.
The only caveat at 33 University Ave is that while the cost per square foot is very low, the unit sizes are quite large. So, while you’ll get a bargain in this building on a per square foot basis, units are still selling between about $650,000 up to just above a million. If that’s within your budget and you’re looking for a lot of space, this is a building worth shortlisting.
Average cost per square foot: $734
117 Gerrard St East isn’t going to win any beauty pageants or most creative name contests, however, this medium-rise has just 156 units and more than compensates with a cost per square foot in the mid/low $700's.
Built in 1989, it’s surprising to see that the building houses many smaller units, of approximately the same size as you’d find in newer buildings today.
The one (common) strike against 117 Gerrard St East are the high condo fees. They do include all utilities, but at $.90 cents per square foot, they’re still quite a bit higher than is average.
Average cost per square foot: $688
15 Maitland Place, like many condos on this list, isn’t a beauty but makes up for it with the value it offers. Completed in 1990, 15 Maitland Place is one of the first condos to be built in the LGBTQ neighbourhood.
With 409 units, turnover is quite frequent, with 19 units selling just over the past 12 months alone. And lately, units have been selling a bit above the list price on average, which isn’t much of a surprise as you can’t buy in the high $600’s anywhere else in this area (or the city).
Maintenance fees are higher than average at $.86 cents per square foot, but as is common in buildings of his age, they include all utilities, making them quite reasonable at 15 Maitland Place.
Average cost per square foot: $725
65 Scadding takes the first spot on this list as the cheapest condo in the downtown Toronto area. For a mid-rise built in 1988, 65 Scadding has aged well and beyond taking first place, is also one of the highest demand condos on this list. Sandwiched between the Distillery District and the St. Lawrence Market, the location couldn't be more desirable. Feel free to try and find anything else in the area for the low $700’s per square foot — spoiler alert, you won’t.
Like the majority of condos on this list, at 65 Scadding you’re going to find larger than average unit sizes and a blend of some beautifully renovated units, and others in their original (very dated) condition.
Turnover is a bit on the lower end for a building of this size, with only 14 units having sold over the past 12 months. With 249 units, about a sale per month is an impressive number and speaks to the general level of contentment among residents.
Maintenance fees are a very average $.69 cents per square foot, with hydro paid separately.
I hope you enjoyed this article! If you got this far, you might also enjoy our article on the most affordable lofts in Toronto. Check it out here.