Essential pros and cons of buying a condo
Young couple standing at a condo window

To condo or not to condo, that is the question. In high-density urban metro areas like Vancouver and Toronto, condo ownership is rising. From coast to coast, a traditional detached home might not be the real estate goal for everyone. Condo living has its perks, but also its potential downsides.

No matter where you live in Canada, here are some key elements to consider if you’re thinking about buying a condo and why it could be the perfect home for you.

Major pros of owning a condo

There are some solid reasons why you might love living in and owning a condo:

●      Relatively affordable

While housing costs in certain metro areas have been on the rise, investing in a condo can be an advantageous way to invest in the real estate market and own your own home without the cost and competition of buying a whole detached house.

●      Awesome amenities 

Most newer condominiums cater to their owners' various needs and lifestyles, including fitness centres, remote working spaces, party and entertainment rooms, guest suites, green spaces, pools, dog parks, event rooms, and more. While the cost of buying a condo can be daunting, you might be able to save on some of your regular monthly expenses by taking advantage of the amenities you’ll receive for free in your condo. 

●      Superior security 

With many offering 24-hour concierge services, guards, camera systems and more, condos can be an excellent choice for folks who want some security built into the design of their building and property without having to pay for it themselves.

●      Simple maintenance 

If you own a house, extra expenses for costs, maintenance, and emergency repairs are automatically on you. While you will pay monthly condo maintenance costs, the responsibility for improvements and enhancements is shared across all units in the building. You’re not individually responsible for regular cleaning and other upkeep. It can be desirable for folks busy in their day-to-day lives or would rather have some of those everyday activities taken care of automatically.

●      Access to excellent neighbourhoods 

While traditional home costs are rising, condos allow you to live in an area you’ve always loved but might not have been able to afford. You can pick the perfect spot for your lifestyle based on access to public transportation, entertainment, restaurants, and more. On top of that, planning to be within walking distance to your fave locations could help you decide to ditch your vehicle and save thousands on the recurring costs of keeping it (and parking it).

●      Design and interior control 

If you’re used to renting, a condo puts you entirely in charge of your interior. While it doesn’t give you the complete exterior control that a house would, you own the inside of your condo, and any upgrades and improvement you make will not only add to your day-to-day enjoyment, but also to the long-term value of your condo. The space is entirely yours, and the walls, rooms, and layout are up to your and your design imagination - as long as you get all the necessary approvals and don’t impact the common or shared areas of your building.

Potential cons of owning a condo

Condos aren’t for everyone. Here are some important considerations to be aware of before you make the condominium move: 

●      Don’t forget the fees

Sure, we listed this as a pro in the list above, and it depends on what you’re willing to pay for. If you’d rather shovel your walkway and take care of your roof, then the idea of paying regular condo maintenance fees might not be for you. Suppose you’d rather be part of a collective and not worry about individual responsibility for anything outside your unit. In that case, a condo could be perfect for you.

●      Lowered cost control 

In a condo, you’re part of a collective. While the regular maintenance fees are part of your monthly condo cost, unexpected repairs or emergencies are paid for from the condo’s maintenance fund, as agreed on by the board or committee of the condo who vote to approve repairs and upgrades on behalf of all the owners. While there’s a strong chance you might agree with the decisions of your condo board because they’re also owners themselves, there’s a chance you might not.

On top of that, condo fees tend to increase over time as your building ages and its potential maintenance needs increase. Your maintenance fees will likely go up over time and are unlikely to go down.

●      Shared spaces are truly shared 

While you’ll have a say on the design and upkeep of the common spaces and amenities through your condo board, the shared spaces are exactly that — shared. That means that their management will be up to the decisions of the condo as a collective and not your individual choices. For some folks, this is a convenience and valuable trade-off that won’t bother them. If you expect total decision-making control the same way you’d with a detached house, then a condo might not be the right choice.

●      Condo fees don’t end with your mortgage 

Almost everyone’s goal when they begin a mortgage is to imagine the day when they’ll finish it — if they don’t sell first along the way. In a condo, it’s essential to remember that your monthly maintenance fees are a permanent feature whether you own outright or via a mortgage. They will never go away, and you will always be responsible for them as long as you’re an owner. 

●      Less privacy than you might like 

Condos, by their nature, are a collective. While you might have a balcony or outdoor space in your unit, the lobby, elevators and all amenities are shared. Communal and connected walls, ceilings and floors mean you could hear more noise drift than you might be used to in a detached home. If you have a particular need for privacy or silence, this is a crucial consideration before moving into a condo. On the upside, if you’re a super-extrovert and love meeting new people, living in a condo might be an ideal way to get to know your neighbours and make friends in your building. 

Key considerations to look into before buying 

●      Immediate area

Look at the area surrounding the building. Particularly in dense urban neighbourhoods, new buildings are constantly going up. The view you love today could be obstructed tomorrow, affecting your condo’s value. If transit and schooling are coming nearby, that could help your value increase.

●      Pets, parking and storage lockers 

Be sure to look into the extra — or potential lack of extras — that could significantly impact your lifestyle. If you’re a pet lover, ensure they’re allowed in the building. A parking space and storage locker are vital bonuses that can help increase your property value but that you might not necessarily need.

●      Monthly fees and what they cover 

Get a complete sense of what your monthly maintenance fees cover and how the condo’s board distributes them. Well-managed condo budgets should have a reserve fund to handle emergencies or planned long-term upgrades. Feel free to ask to see the minutes of past condo board meetings so you can get a sense of how decisions are made and how residents participate.

Don’t forget the condo insurance

One of the significant benefits of condo living is that you’re not financially responsible for holding insurance for everything outside your unit. The roof, structure, heating, water supply, waste disposal and more are insured and covered by the building and your monthly condo maintenance fees. 

You are responsible for ensuring all of your individual property inside your unit has insurance. It should ensure you have coverage for everything you own in case of a flood, fire or other disasters. On the upside, this type of condo insurance cost is usually much less than an entire free-standing home.

Jeremy Elder is a Toronto-based content marketer and copywriter with over a decade’s experience telling stories for some of the world’s biggest brands. He’s an expert at finding WiFi wherever you least expect it.

Jeremy Elder is a paid Sonnet spokesperson.
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