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Is Condo Living Right for Me?

September 12, 2018
larlyn property management condo couple enjoying coffee on their balcony

Condo living includes a wide variety of unit types: low and high-rise buildings, freestanding houses, townhouses, triplexes and mixed-use buildings featuring condos above commercial units or offices. In a condo, you own the unit but share ownership in the land, building and common area. You share in the costs of these areas (condo fees) with members of your condo association. Decisions are made by a board of directors made up of members and/or a property management company such as Larlyn Property Management Inc.

Any form of home ownership has its benefits, risks and limitations (pros & cons), and condos are no exceptions.

Condo Lifestyle PROS

1. Maintenance Free: one of the largest benefits of owning a condo is freedom from tending a lawn, shoveling snow and making your own repairs to external structures such as roofs, siding, windows, driveways etc.

2. Shared Costs: When a condo property is well managed, all major repair and upgrade costs are funded through a portion of your condo fee from the reserve funds. This results in NO BIG financial surprises, allowing you to sleep soundly at night.

3. Lifestyle Amenities: The outside maintenance time you save, allows you to enjoy condo common area amenities or outside activities. Some condos cater to specific groups such as professionals, families and elderly. Amenities can range in luxury to include pools, recreation/games rooms, yoga studios, theatres, spas, gyms and golf courses with club houses.

4. Socialization: Social groups are often formed within a condo community which builds relationships through holiday events or block parties. Volunteer to become involved on your board and have a say in how your condo community interacts. This is one of the BEST aspects of living within a small community. Finding like-minded individuals with similar interests to bond and form friendships with can greatly increase your quality of life. This can be especially important to seniors or those who are expats moving into a new city.

5. Location: Condos can be in located in very expensive prime real estate areas within major cities such as Vancouver or Toronto. Living in these areas allows for easier access to work, dining, entertainment, public transport and social activities.

6. Security: Some condo buildings offer secure entrances and security guards. Others offer gated communities that monitor traffic into the community. This is a perfect solution for snowbirds, professionals traveling for work or taking vacations. You can leave your property knowing it is secure.

7. Price: Depending on location, condos can be less expensive than a house, especially in highly priced real estate areas of Toronto, Vancouver or vacation hot spots.

8. Inside Creativity: Freedom to get creative inside your condo unit. You can renovate and decorate inside to your condo to suite your tastes and increase its future resale value.

Condo Lifestyle CONS

1. Condo Fees: The cost of condo fees is for the life you own the property even once your mortgage is paid. Your monthly condo fees don’t disappear and can even increase over time to support cost of living, amenities and building repairs as the condo ages.

2. Resale Value: Condo fees and poor management can affect the resale value of your property. Condos also don’t tend to increase in value over time as quickly as owning a house.

3. Price: In some cases, condos can be more expensive than a house, especially if upsizing to more luxurious settings. Take a close look at all the amenities offered and ask yourself if you will be making good use of them. Your condo fees go towards their upkeep in cases such as pools, golf courses and gyms etc.

4. Rules & Bylaws: You have limited control over what happens outside your building. Some rules can include noise restrictions, no dogs, don’t allow for renters etc. Or perhaps you are not permitted to put that purple planter you love on your front porch. Be sure to read the existing rules and bylaws of the condo you are purchasing to ensure you can abide by the rules in place and take an active role on the board if you wish to have any influence over how future rules are decided.

5. Inside Units: You are also responsible for repairs inside your unit, replacing appliances and insuring your unit and belongings. Before you buy, you should have a clear understanding of what your responsibilities outside of condo fees.

6. Problem Sharing: You can’t pick your neighbours! Living in close proximity to others can cause conflict at times. Take into consideration your own personality and reflect on your own problem-solving skill set and ability to get along with others. If you have had conflict with every neighbor you have lived beside in the past, perhaps a condo isn’t for you.

7. Privacy: Living in a condo is similar to living within a small community, where everyone knows who you are. If you enjoy small town living and love to socialize this may appeal to you. If you prefer to remain anonymous however, your neighbours may have other ideas.

FIRST TIME CONDO BUYER TIPS

• HIRE THE EXPERTS: Ask questions of areal estate agent and lawyer who have expertise and experience with condos.

• CONDO ACT: Each province has its own Condo Act with regulations regarding condos, read up.

CONDO FEES: Understand and examine closely what isn’t and what is included in your condo fees.

• BYLAWS & REGULATIONS: Understand the current condo rules and how they will be enforced. Remember, they can work in your favour- noise bylaws after certain hours.

ACTIVE PARTICIPATION:  Join the board if you have an interest and desire a say in what happens within your condo community.

• OCCUPANCY:  Understand who is permitted to live within your condo, are there restrictions on renting if that is a future possibility or are you able to have children living in the complex.

MANAGEMENT: Some questions: Is the building well managed by a reputable property management company? Does it have a healthy reserve fund? What special assessments have been done in the past? What future work is planned?

•  AMENITIES: Ask yourself if you will use those amenities offered within the community- your condo fees go towards their upkeep.

• INSPECTIONS: Look beyond the home inspection of your unit to make yourself aware of any possible near future upgrades your condo may be responsible for.

• INSURANCE: The insurance included in your condo fees only covers common areas and the original building. It’s up to you to cover your belongings and what happens inside your unit — like water damage or accidents.

Check out our next blog: “10 Fall Condo Social Events” for some great ideas for socializing within your condo community.