By Kim Brown
Look up. Condo sales are on the rise. Condo construction is constant, especially in population-dense communities like Toronto and Vancouver.
There’s more to condo appeal than cost. Condos are convenient; they require less work. Residents don’t have to worry about shovelling snow or mowing the lawn. They can enjoy amenities such as a gym or party room, and they can often walk or take transit to work. Condo living has its perks, but anyone who has lived in one knows that condos come with their own unique challenges, too. Neighbours can be disruptive; condo managers can be impossible to get in touch with when issues arise and packages get lost all too often.
Some attentive developers and building managers have acknowledged that these frustrating issues exist and are using technology to help make condo living more enjoyable.
Communication between owners and building managers can be limited, and sometimes, non-existent. That can make residents feel isolated and left out. Poor communication often leads to a weak sense of community, a disregard for bylaws and rules and even a lower occupancy rate. Digital technology is being used to open the lines of communication and build more cohesive communities.
Resident portals and condo management software are two of the main communication tools condo buildings are using to engage owners. Building managers can share important documents with residents, let them know how to submit service requests or make online payments, and tell them who to contact if they have questions or issues. Some systems allow residents to book and pay for amenities online. No jumping through hoops required.
With a good communication system in place, residents will feel like they’re being heard, issues get resolved more quickly, and owners stay happier for longer.
A homeowner gets an email letting them know their package has arrived. They go to the front desk to ask for it. It’s not there. It has ended up at the post office a few blocks away. So much for convenience. The concierge is equally frustrated by the volume of envelopes and boxes being dropped off every day. As a result, automated parcel lockers have been introduced to keep deliveries organized and safe.
The process is relatively simple and it gives owners peace of mind. Parcel lockers work by sending an email to the recipient after a package has been deposited by the delivery person into one of the lockers. The recipient enters a PIN or scans a QR code and signs for the package on a screen. One of the lockers opens up and the package is released. Recipients have several days to pick up their parcel, but the property manager may charge a fee to the recipient if a package is not picked up within a certain amount of time. Unclaimed packages are mailed back to the sender.
Automated parcel lockers are a simple addition, but they add value and a sense of security.
Buyers understand that they are probably going to have less space when they purchase a condo, but units are shrinking as sale prices rise. One inventive company wants to help developers and owners make the most of the space that they have.
Ori, a shapeshifting, retractable furniture system, has been introduced in a select number of lucky condominiums. The Ori Studio Suite simulates the functionality of multiple rooms in a single, small, efficient space. The pocket closet is there when you need it, and contracts when you don’t. The Boston-based company is even working on a bed that floats to the ceiling to reveal a couch. The system can be controlled by touch, app or voice.
While Ori products are technically available in Canada, Canadian developers have been slow to adopt this space-saving technology. Sidewalk Labs, an American urban innovation firm and sister company of Google, recently invested in Ori. It has plans to build a tech-based district in Toronto that could include the movable furniture in its homes. However, Waterfront Toronto, a tri-government agency, may not move forward with the project.
Imagine being able to host a party in your one-bedroom unit or turn your workspace into your workout space. Hopefully, Canadian condo owners won’t have to dream about that for much longer.