As I celebrate 30 years as a realtor in the City of Toronto, I’ve been reflecting on my good fortune to have assisted hundreds of Buyers and Sellers navigate their own unique personal real estate journeys. This process is always in a state of flux depending on the market conditions at any given moment in time requiring constant adaptation. It can prove challenging, complicated, and stressful, yet also engaging, exciting, and rewarding, particularly because the outcome almost always signals a new chapter in life. And what’s more exciting and hopeful than fresh beginnings?
Harnessing my multi-disciplinary education on urban planning, urban design, and the psychology of housing and home, my career path has included spearheading the design, redevelopment, and sales & marketing of adaptive reuse conversions (more popularly known as ‘loft living’); shifting the lens of a real estate industry focused on the ‘Location Location Location’ mantra of the property market to one that holistically encourages people to frame their housing wishes, wants and needs according to their physical, mental, emotional and spiritual requirements; assisting residents and relocations, whether they be entering the market, climbing the property ladder, securing a Forever Home, building an income portfolio, funding their children’s financial futures, helping their parents downsize, or analyzing how to successfully and supportively age in place. And these are just a few!
During this time, I’ve witnessed many perspective-shifting transformations and discoveries, including the crash, recovery, and subsequent super-charged growth of Toronto’s real estate market, the evolution of different housing types (including the condominium that evolved from affordable market housing to become the city’s dominant shelter, catering to local and international Buyers willing to pay more per square foot than the dwindling supply of freehold dwellings), and the shifting models of Canadian households driven by changes in social mores.
I’d like to share one of those discoveries with you.
Once upon a property market…
I once served a couple with a young school-age daughter. Over the course of 10 years, they bought and sold several single-family dwellings as they climbed Toronto’s property ladder. One day they called to inform me they had decided to separate, which led to selling the single-family property they resided in at the time, and helping them purchase their own separate dwellings within a few blocks of one another near Trinity-Bellwoods Park (both of which had a room for their daughter).
Just over a year later, they decided to swap the two individual properties they’d purchased for a large Victorian in the South Annex near the University of Toronto that had been converted into two gracious apartments. They resided there happily – together but apart – for a couple of years, until – to my delight and theirs – it was followed by the acquisition of a large Edwardian semi in Dufferin Grove where they blended back to a single-family unit.
This is how I came to learn that the space plan of a dwelling can influence and shape the dynamics of a household. Moreover, different housing types, configurations, and even locations can be mitigating factors that have a strong impact on how an individual, couple, and family connect or drift, disengage or thrive. And the flow influence in that relationship – between housing and lifestyle – moves both ways.
This particular real estate truth is a significant factor in the ‘Living Apart Together’ (LAT) movement, which is becoming increasingly popular in North America – and even more so internationally.
LAT refers to couples who choose to live separately (long distance or close by) and remain in a committed relationship with each other. This movement had originally been predominantly seen with Boomers, often divorced or widowed, who were keen to maintain independence while reaping the benefits of being in a committed relationship.
However, this model is gaining traction with the younger cohorts now, who are placing greater emphasis on continuing education and achieving career goals than on marriage and child-rearing. Additionally, women are now more commonly achieving (and revelling in) financial independence and are reluctant to give up that independence for the sake of moving in together with their partner in the traditional sense.
This CTV news article “Together, But Apart: 1.5 Million Canadians Living Away From Their Partners” has interesting stats about the LAT movement in Canada. As the title touts, approximately 1.5 million Canadians between the ages of 25 and 64 live apart but are in committed relationships with one another. The trend is gaining in popularity too, rising from 6 to 9 percent of the population from 2007 to 2017.
Here’s an interesting tidbit: when asked why they were not living with their partner, 34 percent of respondents said that their LAT choice was intentional,. Another 15 percent said that they had never considered living together.
This is more prevalent with the younger cohort, with 20 percent of coupled Canadians between the ages of 25-34 citing LAT as their arrangement, compared with 5 percent of 35–54-year-olds. The LAT movement may have started out as an older generation ideal, but as lifestyles, expectations, and priorities change, so do the traditional shape of relationships. And by consequence, so does the housing that shelters and nurtures these relationships.
This article from the New York Times, “Staying Together by Living Apart (in a Duplex),” chronicles the story of a couple who purchased a duplex and each occupied one of the units. The arrangement provided them the freedom to decorate their own spaces, maintain independence, but let them be together frequently and easily.
This story from Refinery29, “LAT: The Relationship Status That More & More Millennials Are Signing Up For”, talks about how, although it was once more common among older generations, the LAT lifestyle is becoming more popular with millennials for a number of reasons – including the globalization of the workforce, more people pursuing their careers, and jobs requiring a particular geography (which may require living in another city, away from a partner). Sometimes LAT occurs as a temporary measure as part of a relationship progression, as in my story that began this blog.
And then there are couples who realize that they love and are committed to each other, but are not compatible to share a roof. Reasons range from eccentric personalities to different sleeping and living habits. Sometimes an introvert or phobic person can be madly in love, yet require their own space to maintain psychological equilibrium.
Those who are familiar with the movement will likely agree with the author of “Pros And Cons Of Living Apart Together While Married”, who posits that the pros and cons of the LAT arrangement are many and varied. For example, they offer an anecdote about a couple who maintained separate residences for a while in the LAT spirit, and then eventually decided to move in together (keeping the second property for a rental investment).
If you’re curious to gain a better understanding of what LAT is, why it is, and how it originated, here’s another worthwhile article that provides some great background and analysis of the movement: “Why More Couples Are Choosing To Live Apart”.
Housing has always been an intriguing reflection of not only the tastes and trends of a time period, but also of the social ecosystem. By the same token, the popularity of certain housing types, and the modulation of others, can be shaped by our social mores – including evolving iterations of familial living as well as romantic and domestic partnerships. In this case, LAT families thrive by embracing clever and creative approaches to housing; those homes in turn become supportive of the family unit, strengthening family dynamics and facilitating day-to-day living.
Searching For LAT-Friendly Housing
Obviously, there are some specific criteria to make houses amenable to LAT-friendly living. If you are looking at a single-family dwell, having multiple units under one roof is ideal, because of separate entrances and a physical division of space. Having a home with this type of arrangement (or one that is easily convertible) would not only suit your needs today, you could always consider renting out unoccupied units in the future, should your living arrangement change.
Another idea is to have homes located nearby each other in the same neighbourhood. In a city like Toronto, where housing stock is pretty scarce, this can be more challenging, but with patience and a strategy in place, it remains an option.
If you are a condo dweller, purchasing units within the same building can offer convenience for time together and independence for time apart.
When you have children as a LAT couple, different considerations take priority, like having locations as close together as possible (ideally under the same roof) to make daily life as easy and integrated as possible (think: childcare, family time, etc.)
It should be said that truly great homes accommodate the lifestyles of those who inhabit them, and not the other way around. As Canadians and the property market both mutate over time, we can see how different forms of shelter have varying capacities to enrich and support our lifestyles in ways that we may not have previously considered!
You may find these posts of interest:
I feel fortunate to be doing what I love and in the service of others, guiding Buyers and Sellers through one of life’s most stressful changes. In today’s real estate market, this not only requires comprehensive knowledge & understanding of local market conditions, and the ability to assist clients – empathetically yet pragmatically – to refine their shelter goals and objectives, but also the capacity to navigate nuanced negotiations that can only come from the accumulated experience of successfully securing hundreds of property transactions.
What Are The Current Conditions For Your Property Type?
There are many mitigating factors that influence our perception of what a dwelling may be worth based on the market dynamics and conditions oscillating at any given time.
Right now these include, but are not limited to, the flow of global capital, real and stress test interest rates, and the effects of quantitative easing as it fuels our asset-based economy; our current and anticipated government policies that foster and tax homeownership, foreign buyer and local investment or speculation; the opportunities and constraints of the property type itself based on its location, size, condition, zoning and highest and best use within the current supply and demand framework; the expectations of the Seller based on necessity, motivation, and personal attachment; in addition to the desire of the informed prospective Buyer pool shaped by the limitations of their income, down payment, and potential future earnings or inheritance.
Plus, we’re also operating with a bit of a wild card in the form of a global pandemic with emerging variants that, both unexpected and unanticipated, present a heightened level of unpredictability to our real estate market.
If you’re considering buying or selling, and you’d like the opinion and guidance of a great real estate team, please contact us at Urbaneer@sympatico.ca!
Are you on the hunt for a LAT-friendly home? Although this is NOW SOLD, check out our Stately Edwardian Duplex With Lower Level Suite, Steps To High Park, which offered an incredible location profile, and a variety of options for those seeking a LAT lifestyle.
We adore this classic, all brick, 2-storey detached Edwardian residence possesses the charisma of hard-to-find vintage properties, but has been thoughtfully modernized to accommodate today’s busy urban lifestyle. This handsomely restored and renovated home, which sold for $2,242,500 (with no commission to the co-operating broker), represented a stellar real estate opportunity, particularly because of its capacity to effortlessly support many different models of family living!
**Title image for this blog is courtesy of Philly Magazine, (with thanks!) who hold all rights to this image.
Are you in the real estate market seeking a dwelling that can accommodate your specific needs? Or perhaps you are you considering selling a property that is unique or unconventional? With decades of experience specializing in the sales and marketing of Innovative Spaces, including restored and renovated character dwellings, low maintenance living, and multi-unit dwellings for cohousing, multi-generational households, and investment portfolios, we offer credibility, care, and sterling service in the buying and selling of Toronto real estate.
My team and I are here to help!
With decades of experience navigating the ever-changing Toronto real estate market, a commitment to promote the sale of properties like yours with interesting and relevant information, and the ability to guide Buyers with credible insights and well-informed guidance, we are here to help without pressure or hassle.
Thanks for reading!
-The Urbaneer Team
Steven Fudge, Sales Representative
& The Innovative Urbaneer Team
Bosley Real Estate Ltd., Brokerage – (416) 322-8000
– we’re here to earn your trust, then your business –
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*Love Canadian Housing? Check out Steve’s University Student Mentorship site called Houseporn.ca which focuses on architecture, landscape, design, products and real estate in Canada.