Townhome treasures

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Larco’s three-storey Mulberry is bright, airy and offers a generous main living area on the second floor.

It’s a popularity contest with no clear winner. But that’s OK; it shows Ottawa consumers are a diverse bunch who like choice in our housing.

To find out which floor plans were the most popular last year, more than 30 builders were polled to offer up their top sellers. Of the 27 who responded, there was a mix of housing, split almost evenly between condos, townhomes and single-family homes, a result that mirrors the new home sales numbers gathered by industry analyst Ron Desjardins.

Those three housing types each had about 30 per cent of the market in 2012, says Desjardins, vice-president of PMA Brethour, although he notes that the equal split is a little unusual — traditionally townhomes will scoop up about eight per cent more of the market than single-family homes. But now that builders are offering such diversity in singles, particularly with a range of lot sizes starting as narrow as 30 feet, he says it’s not that much of a jump to move up from a large townhome to a small single.

Condos are making great strides. Not that long ago it was a stretch for them to grab five per cent of the market, they’re now sitting at a 29-per-cent share.

Over the next three weeks we take a look at the builders’ top sellers. First up, townhomes.

These perennial favourites today have affordability, market influences and floor plans with the comforts of a single-family home all working in their favour.

They once may have been “just a simple box with a single-car garage” when they first popped up in the mid-1990s, Desjardins says, but “they’ve matured and have become a product of choice for a lot of people.”

Of the 4,027 new homes sold last year, 1,318 were townhomes, or 33 per cent of sales. That’s down from 1,857 sold the year before. But then all new home sales were lower last year compared to 2011.

There were 177 condo townhomes (i.e. not freehold) sold, representing four per cent of the market. That was down from 259 sales the previous year.

Desjardins expects townhome sales will rise slightly in 2013 and condo towns will remain flat.

Top sellers:

Minto, The Hampton

For a big builder like Minto, which has so many communities and housing types to choose from, narrowing it down to one overall popular model is difficult. Two of its single-family home models for instance — the Griffin and Gainsborough — were both strong sellers, but if she had to offer up just one model as its top seller, vice-president of marketing and sales Catherine Shea would choose the Hampton townhome.

“Where the market was last year, it was kind of a bit of the smaller product that was selling. We definitely had a mixed bag (of sales) because we’re all over the city. It’s really difficult to pinpoint one, but the reality is, townhomes outsold singles.”

The Hampton is a three-bedroom with a finished basement. At more than 1,800 square feet, Shea says it’s “a nice-sized unit at an affordable price.” Starting at XXXXX, it represented about XX per cent of Minto’s townhome sales.

Available in multiple communities, it’s the former Manhattan model, which has always been a top seller for the builder.

“It really has all the features of a single-family home.”

Mattamy, The Appleby

It was also a tough choice for Mattamy to narrow down as well, says Michael Winiarz, director of sales and marketing for the Ottawa division. Several of the builder’s 36-foot-wide-lot, single-family homes sold well, but no one floor plan stood out, prompting him to choose the Appleby townhome as the overall top seller. Snagging 42 per cent of sales in its category, this two-bedroom, 1,100-square-foot plan shows “continued success”.

“The main thing that makes it such a popular model is the affordability. The layout is very popular and the fact that it is freehold has been very appealing.”

Priced from $232,990, it’s offered in both Fairwinds in Kanata and Half Moon Bay in Barrhaven.

Richcraft, The Stillwater

Richcraft marketing manager Shawn Bellman says having the feel of a single-family home adds to the appeal of its Stillwater townhome.

“The Stillwater is attractive to both the first-time home buyer and empty nesters who are looking to downsize without giving up any comforts of single-family living,” he says.

At 1,735 square feet (2,243 with the finished basement, which comes standard), there’s ample elbow room in this three-bedroom model, which won an award at last year’s Housing Design Awards. The master bedroom features a four-piece ensuite and walk-in closet and there’s still room on the second floor for laundry and a loft.

Richcraft sold 34 of the homes in 2012. The model is available at its developments in Kanata Lakes, Riverside South, Strandherd Meadows and TrailsEdge.

Claridge, The Wimbledon

Like many big builders, Claridge also had trouble narrowing down its top choice for 2012, but ultimately vice-president Shawn Malhotra chose the Wimbledon.

A versatile floor plan that can be an interior or end unit, Malhotra cites its “beautiful large foyer” where the focal point is the view to the fireplace in the great room.

It features a contemporary breakfast bar in an open-concept living area that’s great for entertaining and includes a mud room, “which is rare in a townhome,” he says. A finished basement comes standard. Like Richcraft’s Stillwater, the Wimbledon offers an ensuite with separate tub and shower and a second-floor laundry, but it has a larger footprint, coming in at just under 2,300 square feet.

Malhotra says the Wimbledon represented about 30 per cent of Claridge’s townhome sales in 2012. Its available at several of the builder’s sites, including Kanata, Barrhaven, Findlay Creek and Navan. Starting price: $320,900 at Spring Valley Trails; slightly higher in other communities.

Longwood, The Arbour

Longwood chose an unusual approach with this one. Part of its adult-lifestyle bungalow developments in Barrhaven and Kanata, sales manager Darice Greene originally bought the design for herself in an earlier phase of the Neighbourhoods of Hunt Club.

“It was the right size and price. I wanted a bungalow with everything on one floor; no stairs to have to climb for laundry or baths. I didn’t need a larger home and I wanted the open-concept design for entertaining family and friends.”

When it came time to launch the next phase of development, they used her own home as the model.

“This was an unusual way of selling by appointment but it worked,” she says.

Of 10 homes sold last year in Hunt Club, six were Arbour designs. It’s a two-bedroom, open-concept bungalow town with cathedral ceiling and almost 1,200 square feet on the main floor with a starting price of $349,900.

“Purchasers who originally felt they wanted a larger square footage realized that … they did not require anything larger and downsizing to this model was easy living.”

Phoenix, The Birch

Townhomes were popular last year for Phoenix Homes, which offers them in four locations across the city.

“Of all sales, our towns performed the best,” says director of sales and marketing Marlene Borsboom, adding that of 172 homes sold last year, 63 were towns. One model stood out: the Birch, with about 25 per cent of the builder’s townhome sales.

In this case, location was key, Borsboom says, but it was also aided by a great price (starting at less than $250,000). The three-bedroom, three-storey home was perfect for singles starting out or young families.

“We sold our model home (in Barrhaven) as the sales site sold out.”

The design offered a family room on the main floor, with the main open-concept living area reserved for the roomier second floor. That pushed the bedrooms up to the third level in the 1,313-square-foot home.

Although the Birch is sold out, Phoenix has introduced a similar model at its Hillside Vista project in Orléans and renamed it the Sierra.

Valecraft, The Marseilles

Valecraft bills itself as Ottawa’s townhome specialists, so it’s not surprising its top seller last year was a townhome. (Valecraft also offers terrace homes, singles and bungalows in three communities.)

Of its 11 designs, director of sales and marketing Frank Nieuwkoop says the Marseilles plan was the most popular, thanks to its “great design.”

Representing 30 per cent of townhome sales, the three-bedroom home comes in at just over 2,000 square feet and a starting price of $312,400 at Trailwest in Kanata (it’s slightly higher in Bradley Estates). Features include an open-concept plan, sunken foyer and curved staircase, finished basement family room and second-floor laundry.

Larco, The Mulberry

Of the three projects Larco Homes had on the go last year, it was the townhome enclave of Accolade in Craig Henry that produced the top seller.

The Mulberry, accounting for 75 per cent of sales for the project, proved popular for many of its features. Like other three-storey designs, there’s room on the ground floor for a family room or den, in this case sunken, leaving plenty of space for the main living area in an open-concept layout on the second floor.

“The extra-tall windows and two sets of sliding doors make this floor bright and airy,” says sales representative Martha Holden. “The kitchen features an expansive amount of cabinet and counter space, more than you sometimes find in a single-family home.”

At just over 1,700 square feet, there’s a bonus mud room/laundry room just off the garage with backyard access and the option of turning the three-bedroom third floor into two master suites.

Talos, The Bliss

Small builder Talos had just one project last year, a development of 27 towns in Beacon Hill. As a result, its top seller had to be a townhome but, interestingly, its most popular design captured almost 75 per cent of sales.

The enclave of three-storey towns offered four plans: two two-bedroom units and two three-bedroom. Of the three-bedroom homes, only the Bliss also offered an ensuite bath, something spokeswoman Heidi Bohart says attracted more buyers.

“Most were thinking of resale down the road” and didn’t want to limit appeal, she says, even if they didn’t need all three bedrooms.

Starting from $344,900, the Bliss offers 1,865 square feet in an interior or end unit. It features a ground-floor family room and the main living area in an open-concept layout on the second floor.

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