The grande dame of downtown condominium complexes -- the Ashdown Warehouse -- has a little more glow in her cheeks these days.
Not only is the first Exchange District warehouse to be converted to condos -- it was converted in the late 1980s -- sporting a new front foyer and a new rooftop terrace, it's also seeing a hefty increase in selling prices this year, according to Bill Thiessen, a real estate agent and downtown condo specialist with Re/Max Professional Realty.
Thiessen said an upgraded one-bedroom unit that changed hands last year (the only one) sold for $289,000, and the three sold this year went for between $276,000 and $325,000. And the reason one of them sold for only $276,000 was because it hadn't been updated.
It was a similar story with two-bedroom units. The five that sold last year went for between $308,900 and $378,000, while the three this year sold for between $346,750 and $400,000.
In terms of average selling price per square foot, Thiessen said the overall increase was 16 per cent -- $248 versus $213.
"That's pretty dramatic," he said, noting it's well above the increase for the downtown and overall condo markets in Winnipeg.
The Winnipeg Realtors Association tracks average selling prices rather than average selling prices per square foot. The increase for the downtown condo market over the first five months this year is .05 per cent -- $249,919 from $248,642. And the increase for the city-wide condo market is seven per cent -- $228,035 versus $212,678, said Peter Squire, the WRA's residential-market analyst.
Another surprising aspect of this year's sales activity at the Ashdown is there were bidding wars for three of the units, Thiessen said, with one of the one-bedroom units selling for $57,000 above the listed price of $219,000.
"That was really weird. That's the kind of thing you see in River Heights, but it's not typical at the Ashdown."
Thiessen thinks there are several reasons the Ashdown has seen a bigger increase in selling prices this year. One is the influx of newly built condos in the downtown market in recent years. They tend to be higher-priced because of the high cost of new construction. Those higher prices tend to help drag up prices for existing condos as well.
He and Squire said the growing popularity of condos, including downtown condos, has also helped.
"Activity-wise, they (condo sales) are doing fantastic," Squire said. "They're up while homes (sales) are down because of that flight to affordability. And the Ashdown may have been a beneficiary of that."
He said it's also noteworthy that condos in Winnipeg are selling much faster this year -- in an average of 32 days versus an average of 55 days. In the case of the Ashdown, it's an average of 12 days versus 21 days in 2012, Thiessen noted.
He said the Ashdown also has heated indoor parking, which some of the new Exchange District condos don't have, and that's a big selling feature for many buyers.
He also noted that, like last year, some of the Ashdown units had recently updated kitchens and washrooms -- another plus with many buyers.
Thiessen believes the recent building upgrades also contributed to this year's higher selling prices. He said it had been more than 20 years since the foyer had been decorated, "so it was getting a little bit dated." The overhaul included the addition of a large Christian Worthington painting he and Worthington donated to the building's condo association, he said.
And prior to the rooftop deck being added this past summer, the building didn't have any outdoor common area for residents, Thiessen said. That had been a strike against it in the eyes of some buyers.
"And it's a beautiful view (from the rooftop). It looks out over the downtown, the (Red) river, The Forks, the new museum and The Promenade (bridge) -- all the good stuff."
Justin Friesen, who is on the Ashdown's board of directors and was a driving force behind the decision to add a rooftop terrace, said it's surprising and gratifying to see selling prices shoot up this year, and he also thinks the upgrades have something to do with it.
"I really believe that terrace is going to be a tremendous factor" in boosting the Ashdown's appeal, he said.
Friesen admitted it wasn't easy getting 80 per cent of the building's 100 residents to agree to spend $150,000 on the new terrace.
"But now that we have it, I think people are very pleased. They recognize the benefits of it... and understand it will increase the value of their condos."
Jeff Herdman, who moved to Winnipeg from Hamilton in 2012 and bought a two-bedroom condo in the Ashdown, confirmed the terrace was one of the reasons he and his fianc©e chose that over a newer, similar-size condo on Waterfront Drive.
"When we looked at the place, we were told that was in the works, so that was a big selling point, because there are no balconies."
They also liked the heritage features in the Ashdown condo, which includes high ceilings, big windows, exposed-brick walls and hand-hewn wooden beams.
"It felt big and spacious and had a historical feel to it. It felt more like a home than an apartment."
Another selling feature was the price -- $350,000 versus $399,900 for the Waterfront Drive unit.
"We were kind of dumbfounded the Ashdown was so much cheaper than some of the other places," Herdman said.
Know of any newsworthy or interesting trends or developments in the local office, retail or industrial real estate sectors? Let real estate reporter Murray McNeill know at the email address below, or at 204-697-7254.