The pros and cons of condo ownership

Apartment Building

Many people nearing retirement decide to sell their family home and move to a condo. But if you have pets, love your garden or need guest room space for children and grandchildren living in a different city, it may not be the right decision for you.

In fact, one article that has stayed in my mind over the last few years is Why downsizing in retirement doesn’t always work by Dave Dineen, a blogger on BrighterLife.ca. Originally Dave and his wife sold the family home, bought a downtown Toronto condo and expanded the family cottage.

When they realized that the cost and upkeep of the cottage prevented them from extensive retirement travel and the condo was too small to be their “one and only” home, they decided to sell both and bought a bungalow in Stratford.

So look before you leap! Here are some pros and cons of condo ownership to consider and an evaluation checklist compiled by Canada Mortgage and Housing..

 

Pros of Condominium Ownership

  • Fewer maintenance and repair responsibilities.
  • Access to on-site amenities, such as a sauna or swimming pool, which you otherwise might not be able to afford.
  • Enhanced security features in some condominium units. You’ll also have peace of mind while you’re on vacation knowing that your neighbours are close by.
  • Monthly maintenance or condo fees are usually predictable.
  • You have a say in the running of the condominium corporation. As an owner, you have voting rights and can be elected to the board of directors.
  • A community that may have a wide range of social, entertainment and recreational activities sometimes geared to a specific lifestyle (seniors, for example).

 

Cons of Condominium Ownership

  • You may not be able to decide when maintenance and repairs get done.
  • You may have to pay for amenities that you might never or rarely use.
  • Less privacy in some condominium units and possibly more noise.
  • Possibility of special assessment charges for unexpected repairs.
  • Like most communities, a condominium attracts individuals with a variety of personalities. It can sometimes be a challenge to reach a consensus.
  • Less space in some condominium units.
  • Possible restrictions on things like noise levels, parking, pets, smoking and even the style and colour of things like doors and window coverings..

 

Evaluation Checklist: Is Condominium Ownership Right for me?

If you answer “yes” to most of the following, then buying a condo may be a smart move for you.

  • I like the fact that a condominium is an “instant community” and my neighbours won’t be far away.
  • I want to participate in the running of the community with other condominium owners.
  • I don’t want the hassle of shovelling snow, cutting grass and other outdoor chores.
  • I’ll use some of the condominium’s amenities.
  • I understand that I will pay monthly fees for maintenance and repair of the condominium and will budget accordingly.
  • I know there may be restrictions on the number of occupants in my unit, pets, noise, parking, etc.
  • I’ll read through the condominium’s documents before I buy so there’ll be no surprises.
  • I understand that a board of directors can make decisions on my behalf.
  • I’m an empty nester or single and would be satisfied with the space provided in a condominium apartment.
  • I’m reassured by the building’s security measures, such as entry buzzers and video surveillance cameras.

 

Condos come in many shapes and sizes including townhouses, apartments, loft apartments, high rises and low rise buildings. Before you buy a unit find out what the history of increasing condo fees has been, if the condo has an adequate reserve fund and if necessary infrastructure repairs are up to date. Buying a pre-construction condo has a whole other set of potential pitfalls.

Dob’t forget to carefully check out the condo rules and bylaws. And finally, recognize that your condo may not appreciate in value to the same extent as a single-family home. For example, my Mom bought a 2 bedroom condo in Thornhill for about $300,000 five years ago and similar units in the same, well-kept building are still selling for around the same price.

Also see: Is Condo Living Right for You? Zoomer, June 25th 2015

 

2 Comments

  1. I realize that living in a condo does offer some advantages
    especially of being able to just lock the door and go, if you
    like to travel frequently, but it’s not for me because:

    1. I have a motorcycle for summer day trips. I would
    never want to park it in an underground parking lot and
    want a private garage to store it in for greater security.

    2. There are a glut of condos on the market, I think
    freehold houses will hold their value better in a recession
    and appreciate more over time.

    3. Sure there is no upkeep involved as far as maintaining
    lawn and garden. But is it really an advantage to let
    someone else do this? I think that it is a good source of
    exercise to be mowing, trimming, sweeping and raking the lawns
    and shoveling the snow. If your snow load is too great and the
    driveway too long, buy a snow blower or get a snow plowing company
    to clear your driveway. Compare the cost of doing that
    in the winter, to paying a monthly maintenance fee at a condo.
    I can also sometimes wash my car on my driveway, something that is not
    allowed in a condo underground lot.

    4. I like to barbecue from spring to late fall. It is on my
    back deck and convenient to use. Most condo’s do not allow
    barbecues on balconies due to fire regulations and the thought of
    using the common area group barbecue on the building roof-top, if
    the condo did have one, is not appealing.

    5. In the event of an electrical power failure or a fire, I prefer
    to be much closer to ground level for ease of exit.

    6. I can choose my TV and internet service provider, rather than
    being forced to use the single offering in many condo’s. If I’m unhappy
    with the service I can switch to a different company, I’m not a captive customer.

    • Thanks for commenting.

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