If you’re thinking of getting into the real estate market, whether it’s your first place or you’re looking to downsize, the idea of condo living will probably come up at some point. You might dismiss the idea as quickly as it came up, or you may find yourself intrigued by the condo lifestyle. Keep reading to see if a condo may be the right choice for you!
The typical condo building is a hub of urban activity- close to shopping, transportation, restaurants, and entertainment.
Moving into a building, especially one with many amenities, creates a small neighbourhood. It’s almost a given that you will have at least a few shared interests with the other residents who have chosen to live there, and you may enjoy making new friends nearby.
On site amenities
Absolutely one of the biggest draws to this lifestyle! You may have use of pools, hot tubs, fitness equipment, common spaces and party rooms for entertaining your personal guests, rooftop decks, barbecues, even fully furnished guest suites, depending on the building. You often benefit from concierge services and security as well.
Lower initial purchase price
For some first-time buyers, the purchase price of a condo is the single draw. It may allow you to begin building equity in real estate much sooner than if you had to save a larger down payment for a detached home. Of course, there are some luxury condominiums with hefty price tags, and those appeal to a different buyer.
For busy people, this is a very attractive feature of condo living. There is no grass to cut, no snow to shovel, no landscaping to worry about, no weekends devoted to maintenance. Condos have people for that! If you want to be a property owner, but you hate all the work that comes with traditional ownership, think condo living. Problem solved.
Excellent for travellers
If you love to travel, and especially if you take frequent or extended trips, the idea of being able to lock your door and know that your home will be safe while you’re away may be very appealing. There is no need to worry about mail piling up, or snow and ice accumulating on the front step to draw attention to the fact that you’re away. Neighbours are usually available close by to keep an eye on your unit, too. (See Built-In Community above!)
Built-in budgeting for upkeep
Every home will require updates and maintenance over time, and these can become expensive and burdensome if money has not been put aside in a repair fund. Condos solve this problem by collecting predictable monthly dues, and putting some of the money in a “reserve fund.” A well managed condo corporation anticipates future repair costs and saves an appropriate amount of money to pay for maintenance to roofs, windows, elevators, common areas, parking garages, etc. As long as you stay current with your fees, your portion of the repair costs should be covered.
*Many of these items refer to apartment condos. You may also choose to live in a townhouse condominium, which usually means lower fees with fewer amenities, and less central location.
** A benefit for some people, a liability for others!
Maintenance fees may reduce purchasing power with lenders
When you are qualifying for a mortgage, the lender will take into consideration how much you will have to pay in monthly fees when determining your approved amount. This may leave you with less to spend on your purchase.
Built in community**
If you are a very private person who treasures independence and likes to do things your own way, you may find the close quarters to be less of a comfort and more of an inconvenience. Depending on the building’s culture and demographic, this type of community living may feel intrusive to you.
Rules and restrictions
One of the biggest lifestyle differences between freehold and condo living is the set of rules that govern residents of a condo development. Everything from pets to colour choices for paint or draperies can be regulated, and the rules are written in stone. Condo boards can charge financial penalties and even take court action against an owner who refuses to comply with the building’s by-laws.
Parking and storage space may be limited
Street parking is often unavailable in urban locations. Parking is usually assigned based on the ownership of each unit, and it is rare to own more than one spot per unit. Multi-car households sometimes find this to be a challenge.
As with all apartment living, storage may also be limited, perhaps to a single locker unit in a designated space within the building.
Condo board and management have full control over funds
The flip side to the advantage of built-in budgeting is that the management of all funds is delegated to a staff. If the money is mismanaged, owners may have little recourse against the managers in charge, and the resale value of each unit could be negatively affected by the appearance of poor finances when owners wish to sell.
Special assessments may hurt resale value
In the case of major damages to a condo building that are not covered by insurance, or of large maintenance items whose cost exceeds the amount of money that is in the reserve fund, a special assessment may be imposed. Owners are required to pay their proportional share of the repair, either by a lump-sum payment, or a through a temporary increase to their condo fees until their share is paid up. Special assessments are shown in the condo’s status certificate, and potential buyers will be able to see them. Typically, if a buyer chooses to proceed with the sale, they will want the seller to pay for the special assessment as part of the deal.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of pros and cons, and your personal taste and preferences will dictate what type of condo – if any – is best for you.
We would be glad to help you explore options in the Greater Hamilton Area if you are considering a condo!