Ready to downsize or simply make a change? Here, six things that are key to deciding if a condo is the right choice for you.
The kids have grown up and moved out. The garden is becoming increasingly labour intensive and that snow removal – well, you'd much rather be reading the paper and having a second cup of coffee.
The word 'condo' suddenly sounds awfully appealing.
But there are important factors to think about. Considerations to ponder. Here are six things that award-winning, Toronto-based sales representative Brian Elder thinks are key to deciding if a condo is the right choice for you. "It's a huge decision," acknowledges Brian, who works for Royal LePage Real Estate Services Ltd. "You want to make sure you make that decision with eyes wide open."
1) Analyze the space you actually need – or want. "I only use about a third of my house, but the thought of no longer having it is kind of a scary thing," says Brian. "You should also get out and see what space is available within your price range. For some people, having a certain volume of space is reassuring and it can feel threatening when you no longer have it."
2) Think about the kind of community you want to be surrounded by. If you're thinking condo, be sure to look beyond the building itself and ask yourself what part of the town or city you want to live in. Is it important to be near art galleries and museums, or shops, for example? Do you want to be able to walk to most things or have to drive? Would you want a condo, like your house, to be in a residential area or in a more commercial district? Think carefully about what you'd want to have close at hand.
3) Who do you want your neighbours to be? "We all want to be surrounded by like-minded people, so it's important to be aware of the kinds of people who live in the building you're contemplating. Some condos are younger, vibrant, busy – which may not be a good fit for mature people wanting to downsize." Brian advises talking to the neighbours to see who's living there.
4) Realize that condos mean relinquishing control. "Even if you're on the board of directors, you're still only one person and you're making decisions on behalf of many people. You want to enter into a condo purchase understanding that you're giving up control over how your home is run, the way the hallways look, and how the corporation is run as a whole." Bottom line: there are rules that have to be followed and you need to be okay with them, even if you don't totally agree with them all. Those rules can cover everything from whether you can have pets to the kinds of window coverings you're allowed to use.
5) There are financial considerations. "If you're considering buying a condo it's always wise to make your offer conditional upon review of the status certificate and the condominium documents which allow you or your lawyer to see budgets and financial statements, insurance policies, management contracts, rules and regulations, bylaws and all that stuff." In other words, you want to be sure the company you're buying into is in good financial standing.
6) Old or new, it's up to you. There are advantages and disadvantages with both older and newer condos. "Newer buildings have growing pains," says Brian. "You're buying a floor plan but there are always variations in what a builder promises and what you get. There are usually deficiencies or mistakes that need to be rectified." In contrast, with an older building you know what you're getting and there's a financial track record you can review. "But things break down and they have to be paid for," he points out, "so you have to make sure there's a good reserve fund that will be able to cover those costs."
"Most people move to a condo because it's easier to maintain and it's an easier lifestyle," says Brian, "but there are advantages and disadvantages. It's a big decision that needs careful consideration and it's not something you decide on overnight."