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Condos not regularly occupied -- can we tell from bare balconies?

ponyboy

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#1
Just wondering if anyone thinks we can infer how many condos are not regularly occupied by looking at the balconies of buildings around town. For example, I took a few quick photos of buildings in the Charles st area, and many have nothing apparent on the balconies. Is is common for regularly occupied units to have little or nothing on the balcony in June?

Interested in your thoughts...


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cdr108

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#2
you probably can get a better idea at night and see which of the units are always dark at night.
 

jaco_says

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#4
you probably can get a better idea at night and see which of the units are always dark at night.
I am actually doing a study right now that does this. I do a timelapse over one week taking a photo very 5 minutes. That gets combined into a composite like this:

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Which I can then analyze to see which units are not in use. I am currently in a washout period to give people time to return from vacation and empty units time to find new tenants, then I will collect another set of photos for each building.
 

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tripwire

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#5
That's an interesting study. I know a few people that keeps their balcony bare all the time, and so I agree about the lights at night being a better indicator.

From ponyboy's pictures though, that is a lot of bare balconies.
 

Filip

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#7
If you are very high up in a building you probably do not want to keep anything on a balcony as the wind 'up there' can be VERY strong and …….
I actually wonder how bad winds can get on taller buildings.

I'm on the 8th floor (technically 10th off the ground due to the design of my building) and the winds off the lake (or especially from the west, which I partially feel) are brutal. I have lost welcome mats and bbq covers off my balcony before. Can't imagine if I was much higher up and exposed.
 

ponyboy

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#8
I am actually doing a study right now that does this. I do a timelapse over one week taking a photo very 5 minutes. That gets combined into a composite like this:

View attachment 147586

Which I can then analyze to see which units are not in use. I am currently in a washout period to give people time to return from vacation and empty units time to find new tenants, then I will collect another set of photos for each building.
I'd be interested in learning more about your approach! I'm a demographer, and have been interested in this problem for a few years now. It could be revealing and influential to establish better estimates of unoccupied units, and might steer public policy related to rental housing supply, speculative investing, and land banking in the city.

I've thought about looking at the lights, but I wonder if some unoccupied units have lights on timers, or keep a light on. Do you think many use timers, or do absent owners just leave units dark? If you could get readings of electricity or water use, even at the building level, you could estimate person-days of occupancy using average consumption rates. There was something reported in Betterdwelling last year about a study of utility usage. Time lapse counts of numbers of people/cars entering and exiting buildings might be useful, but that's getting intrusive.
 
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#9
Genuine query - why the obsession with empty condos? Vacancies are super low and rental rates are sky high. It's not like owners are having a tough time finding tenants.
 

cdr108

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#10
Genuine query - why the obsession with empty condos? Vacancies are super low and rental rates are sky high. It's not like owners are having a tough time finding tenants.

empty condos that are NOT in the rental market artificially decreases the super low vacancy rate and increases the rental rates. it's very common for Chinese buyers in China to leave units empty as they believe occupancy will negatively affect the value vs never lived in.

condo units sold to investors that use them specifically as Airbnb's contribute to the above also, yet they don't pay commercial property tax rates - only residential.
Airbnb's are more profitable for these owners than long-term rentals as they can get as much as $6,000/m for 1 bedroom unit vs $1,800/m without having to deal with LTA.

Hopefully the city of Toronto will crack down on those units as the proposed rules will only allow extra bedroom and not whole apartment.