LIVE WHERE YOU LOVE
BY CHRIS TIESSEN
A few months back, something extraordinary took place in our regional condominium market: Circa 1877 – a high-rise, 188-unit condo tower that is to be built directly on top of Uptown Waterloo’s former Brick Brewery – completely sold out in just its first two days on the market. 188 units. In two days. Moreover, over ninety percent of the buyers who purchased a condo over that first weekend were local to the region. Unbelievable stuff.
A major reason for this phenomenon: a unique collaboration in which the project’s local developer, HIP Developments, paired with local marketing agency Him & Her and local brokerage Condo Culture to design, market and sell the condominium development. This type of teamwork is becoming more common in Kitchener-Waterloo’s emergent condo market – and it’s the type that especially Condo Culture is emphasizing as an integral part of its business DNA.
‘We were pushing to exceed expectations,’ Condo Culture co-founder Jeff Gibson tells me about the Circa 1877 project. ‘But two days?’ He looks at me, eyebrows raised. ‘That surprised even some of us.’ Jeff and I are lounging in the regional brokerage’s swanky downtown Kitchener offices – located on the ground floor of the One Victoria condo tower. ‘Based on past market trends,’ Jeff adds, ‘Circa should have taken one to three years to sell out completely. And most would have expected the majority of buyers should have been investors from the GTA.’ He pauses before adding: ‘But we founded Condo Culture to shatter market trends. And brokerage models. And that’s what we’re doing.’
To be sure, Condo Culture is not your ordinary brokerage. A major differentiating factor: as the name suggests, it specializes solely in condos. ‘We eat, sleep and breathe condos,’ says co-founder Scott Cruickshank. ‘Indeed, since we founded Condo Culture in 2012 [in an Uptown Waterloo office space located next to Vincenzo’s, Bauer Kitchen and other hotspots] we wanted to be a one-stop shop for all things condo.’ He continues: ‘Back then, local small ‘c’ condo culture was in its infancy. Projects were in pre-construction. And the majority of brokerages selling those early projects were from Toronto. We wanted to help introduce local audiences to the benefits of condo living. So we did.’
Today Condo Culture operates out of three offices – its Uptown space, a downtown Hamilton location on Locke Street and its newest location at King and Victoria in downtown Kitchener. ‘Even our offices are designed to exemplify condo and loft life,’ Jeff says, gesturing his arms towards the space that surrounds us. And it’s true. The exposed brick-detailed walls. Marble bar. Open concept design. High ceilings. Comfy couches. All of these things comprise a slick nod toward branding, to be sure. And they offer a confirmation of Jeff’s observation that ‘realtor cubicles aren’t conducive to the collaborative culture we encourage at the brokerage.’
A culture that’s seen Condo Culture increasingly joining forces with developers like HIP and agencies like Him & Her to work hand in hand on condo projects – from the ground up. ‘Since 2009 we’ve been hearing and collecting information about what local condo buyers truly want, from unit layout to project amenities,’ Scott remarks. ‘Nowadays, instead of simply trying to match these buyers’ wish lists with current projects, we work closely with developers in the actual design of new condo projects – effectively reversing the supply chain.’
Case in point: the Circa 1877 project, in which Condo Culture collaborated with HIP on the building’s interior design and unit layouts. And other projects too – including the upcoming Garment Street Condominiums (by Momentum Partnership), Blackstone Condos (by Urban Legend Developments), Midtown Lofts (by Decade Homes), Caroline St. Private Residences (by VanMar Developments) and many others. Scott continues: ‘We have two full-time interior designers who work closely with local developers and who are current on the aesthetic trends that many condo buyers demand. Not to mention a team of graphic designers, software developers and condo sales specialists too.’
The model seems to be an effective one. Condo Culture has sold more condos across Kitchener-Waterloo than any other brokerage. New condos. Used condos. Soft lofts. Hard lofts. Penthouses. Townhomes. And off-market condos too. ‘We’re incredibly passionate about what we do and it’s this specialized focus that gives us a huge information edge in the market. We simply have more information and it allows us to advise clients buying and selling condos on a much different level,’ Jeff remarks matter of factly. ‘We even have realtors and friends from other brokerages calling us for advice.’ He continues: ‘We’re not just realtors. We’re obsessed with every aspect of condo life. It should really come as no surprise that we’re the leading local voice for condominiums. We’re lifestyle advocates, designers, marketers, community boosters and fellow urban dwellers.’
Adds Scott: ‘To be relevant in any business today you need to be a true expert. And when it comes to condos, we’re true experts..’