Is Condo Living Right For You?

Friday, August 04, 2017

Is Condo Living Right For You smCondos are once again becoming a big part of the Ottawa real estate market. In June 2017 alone, 408 condo units were sold, a whopping 23.3% increase over 2016.

Added to the 332 units sold in July 2017, and the Ottawa Real Estate Board is happy to report that the condo market is coming out of the slump it saw a few years ago. It’s just one more sign that 2017 is a great year for Ottawa real estate.

With so many condo developments spread out over Ottawa’s many neighbourhoods hitting the market, you have a lot of options. But first you have to decide if a condo is the right option for your living style.

Reasons A Condo Will Work For You

There are several ways to tell if condo living is right for you. Tamara Williams, a former condo owner, spoke with us about her experience living in a condo, and what you should look for when deciding whether the lifestyle is for you.

1. The Price Is Right

Costs are your biggest consideration when it comes to purchasing real estate. Your love of the property and the price have to align just right to make it work.

Condos, like any other real estate purchase, are an investment. Once you figure out how much you are willing to invest, you’ll get a better idea of what is available to you. For Tamara, her townhouse condo was too good to pass up. “It was affordable, and I was trying to become a homeowner on a single income.”

The most active condo price point in 2017 is between $150,000 and $249,999, which is cheaper than the active price point for a detached residence. This is perfect for the majority of condo buyers, who are first time homeowners, singles, or people looking to downsize.

Depending on where you’re looking to buy, condos can end up being more expensive. In addition to the condo fees, which can range from the low $200 to $600 and more a month, the property price could quickly become higher than you’re willing to pay.

It’s important to get as much information as you can about everything from upfront costs to condo fee histories before you sign the dotted line. This will give you a clearer picture about how much living in a condo will cost.

2. You’re a Social Person

Condos are a much more social environment. While you do own your property, you are in close proximity to other condo owners who you will at some point interact with through the condo board, as neighbours, or when using the shared amenities. This isn’t always the case.

“Mine wasn’t very social. I tried to be friendly, and met some people. Everyone mostly stayed in their bubble,” says Tamara.

While your condo complex may not be overly social, it is important to remember there will always be some sort of interaction because of the closeness to the other units, particularly if you share walls or are near the elevators.

For some people, living in a social environment is a great perk. They like being neighbourly, and enjoy social interactions at any point in the day. If you like being social, a condo may be the right choice for you. It is important to remember that there are different kinds of social.

For example, if you’re looking for a quiet environment, a condo unit right next to a group of young adults may not be the preferred option. Tamara advises taking the time to find out.

“Talk to the tenants, and talk to the owners. Find out if they are live-in owners or investors looking to rent out their property. Ask what it’s like living there,” she says. Having this information will help determine whether this environment is right for you.

3. You’re Looking to Make An Investment

Condos are purchased by people looking to make an investment. Whether it is for themselves, or as a property that they then lease out, it should always be looked at as an investment.

For Tamara, it was a chance for her to enter into homeownership and the real estate market. “I was concerned about value. I didn’t know when, or if I would sell, but I wanted to make sure it would appreciate.”

When Tamara did sell her condo, the value had stayed the same. This is something to keep in mind when investing. Condo prices are often dependent on the neighbourhood. In Tamara’s case, the neighbourhood was not in demand. This does happen. In fact, many condo owners end up seeing a decrease in value.

There are some ways to figure out when a condo is a good investment. Besides looking at the state of the condo and the location, which we’ll talk more about, you also want to make sure that the condo fees are appropriate to the complex and the services they cover.

Look at the histories of other real estate purchases within the condo market in the areas you’re looking. And most importantly, talk to an expert at Paul Rushforth Real Estate - they live and breathe the Ottawa real estate market, and will be able to give you the best indicator of when and what condos are a good investment.

Tamara’s Tip: “One of the things it’s important to check is the condo board’s reserve fund and past reports on building condition. If the reserve fund is a healthy size, this means that unexpected repairs or costs will be taken care of at minimal cost to the condo owners. If the reserve fund leaves a lot to the imagination, you may end up forking over thousands of dollars if something comes up.”

4. You Want Most of the Upkeep Done For You

One of the biggest perks for people contemplating condo living is that regular maintenance and general upkeep of the complex is taken care of. So you can leave the mower, the rake, and the snow shovel behind!

Upkeep is funded through your condo fees, which every condo owner pays. Tamara was fortunate with her condo fees - they were in the low end, and didn’t rise dramatically over the 12 years she lived there.

However, Tamara’s experience was not all sunshine and daisies. “In the winter, if I had to go to work early, I would still end up shovelling my car out.”

There were also some problems with landlords not managing their rentals properly. “Owners weren’t doing upkeep,” Tamara explains. “This made me concerned about value. The decisions and appearances of other condos affects yours.”

These are all things that are handled by the condo board. If you want something done, they’re the ones to go to. This is an important thing to keep in mind when considering condo living; you’ll be working with people who may differ in opinion.

“While I think it is important to have a condo board for this purpose, I disagreed with a lot of their priorities. I wanted to make improvements that would boost property values, while they wanted to keep fees as low as possible.”

Tamara’s Tip: “Look into how condo fees are spent. I felt my fees were reasonable and well spent. I made sure of this by being on the condo board.” 

5. You Want Amenities You Otherwise Couldn’t Get

If you’ve been pricing out pool installations and hot tub maintenance to go along with your home purchase, you may have to look no further than a condo complex.

Living in a condo gives you access to a lot of amenities that you would otherwise have to pay for all by yourself.

Tamara’s condo came with a pool, but she never used it. Instead, she went to the nearby public pool which was bigger and had more swimming options, like lanes. However, the pool was used frequently by other tenants and was well cared for.

If you are looking for specific things from your condo living experience, make sure that wherever you look has the options you want.

6. You Want A Good Location

We can’t say it enough: location, location, location! It is one of the most important factors to consider when buying real estate. Often it is hard to get the home you want in the location you want.

Condo living can be great for people looking for that perfect location, but not willing or unable to pay more for a detached home.

Remember: Geographical location is only part of the equation. Wherever you are looking to live, make sure that the condo unit is well-placed. For example, stay away from units that are right next to the parking lot, as that will increase your noise level and reduce the appeal of your view.

For Tamara, It Was Worth It

We asked Tamara if living in a condo was worth it. Her answer?

“Absolutely! Some parts were disappointing, but overall it was a great experience, and it got me into the real estate market. When I was ready to buy a house, I had some equity and financing options I wouldn’t have had if I hadn’t gone condo.”

Engage A Professional Realtor To Find The Perfect Place

Whether you decide that condo living is right for you, or you decide you want a different style of home, the best way to make any buying decision is to hire a realtor to help.

Our team of professionals can help you find properties, give you expert advice, and execute the purchase so that you get the home you’ve always wanted. And if it ends up not being a dream come true? We’ll take care of it.

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