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The decision to buy a condo versus any other type of home is typically driven by personal preferences, budget, lifestyle, or a combination of these. If you’re considering a condo as you start out in the real estate market, as you downsize from a larger home, or to take advantage of the benefits of condo life, asking yourself these questions will help you determine if a condo is a fit for you.
1. Do I like living in bustling, urban spaces?
Condos are often located in urban areas, where there isn’t a lot of detached housing. If you enjoy living in the heart of a city, get energized by the bustle of urban life and like having shops, restaurants and venues steps from your door, a condo may be perfect for you. If, on the other hand, you shy away from congestion and don’t like city noise, it may be trickier to find a condo to fit the bill.
2. How do I feel about home maintenance?
One of the main benefits of condo living is that they are easy to maintain – shoveling snow, mowing the lawn, cleaning out the eavestroughs are jobs you’ll never have to tackle as a condo owner. For many, this is the main draw of buying a condo. Whether you travel or work away from home a lot, don’t have the patience for home maintenance or simply dislike the responsibility, a condo might be the right choice for you.
3. Am I OK with rules?
Condominium corporations are governed by the Condominium Act, 1998 that allows a condo corporation to make bylaws and rules that residents must adhere to. The rules are intended to protect the investment and the property of the owners and create an environment that all owners buy into.
While the rules are created with owners’ interests in mind, it’s important that you understand what they are before you purchase to ensure they fit with your lifestyle. For instance, some condo corporations have a restriction on pets, visitor access to shared facilities, short-term rentals and parking. Some also require specific window coverings and limit balcony usage (i.e., no barbecuing or hanging of laundry).
4. Would I use a gym / pool / party room?
Many condo buildings come with amenities, such as a gym, party room, pool, guest suites, concierge and parking. Generally speaking, the more the amenities, the higher the maintenance fees of the condo.
Maintenance fees are a monthly expense that all condo unit owners pay. It’s a shared pool of money that helps the building pay for expenses throughout the year, covering costs such as utilities (i.e., water and garbage collection), building insurance, maintenance of common areas (such as the front desk, hallways, landscaping) and the building’s reserve fund. These fees are in addition to your mortgage and should be carefully weighed as you evaluate your decision to buy a condo.
“Condo fees really have to be considered in the overall home buying budget,” says Nicole Daoust, RBC Mortgage Specialist. “If a buyer is getting a pre-approval and they’re looking at condos, we have to ensure that their pre-approval has allowed for this, because condo fees are factored into their capability to qualify.”
Bottom line: If you feel you will make good use of the building’s amenities, you may feel comfortable paying them. If not, you may want to find a building with lower fees and fewer facilities.
5. What kind of tradeoffs am I willing to make?
What are you looking for in a condo? Is your priority a large space, or a modern unit with the latest tech and décor? Do you need a balcony, or would you prefer a pool? It’s not always easy to get everything you want in a condo – typically, newer units are smaller but come with modern finishes, while older units may come with more square footage. Understanding your personal priorities can help you first determine if a condo is the right fit for you and what kind of building would be the perfect match.
6. Am I willing to do upfront research?
Buying a condo, like buying a house, requires some legwork on your part to ensure you’re getting a fair deal and won’t be faced with nasty surprises after closing. While it’s always a good idea to have your unit evaluated by a certified home inspector, it’s just as important to inspect the paperwork of the building you’re buying into and the condo board that runs it.
For starters, you’ll want to take the time to read your building’s declaration, which is essentially a condo’s charter or constitution. If you’re buying a brand-new condo, you’ll then want to read the disclosure statement provided by the developer and have it reviewed by a lawyer with experience in condo law (if you’re buying a resale condo, you’ll want to request the status certificate). These documents will tell you the condominium corporation’s management structure, common expenses, the current budget, any legal issues or proceedings, unit leases, insurance, upcoming repairs or maintenance as well as the size of its reserve fund, which is the money set aside to pay for capital expenses.
If you’re serious about a condo, it’s also worth speaking with some of your potential neighbours and meeting some members of the condo board. Once you move in, attending meetings and potentially joining the board can allow you to have a say in the way the building is managed.
7. How long do I plan to live in my condo?
Is your next home intended to be a forever home, starter home or transition home? Having an idea of how long you plan to live there can help you determine if the move is right for you as it will influence your perspective on the size, style and location of the condo, as well as your willingness to pay for the associated maintenance fees. Your priorities may change depending on your short-term and long-term plans.
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This article is intended as general information only and is not to be relied upon as constituting legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. Information presented is believed to be factual and up-to-date but we do not guarantee its accuracy and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the authors as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by Royal Bank of Canada or any of its affiliates.