The disadvantages of condo living

condoMy wife and I have been thinking about buying a condominium. The plan is to buy it now, rent it out for the next few years and then when the kids are off to university, downsize. We won’t buy a pre-construction condo because of the risks involved, we’ll buy an established building in Waterloo, Kitchener or Cambridge.

We lived in a condo when we were first married, so we know the great things about condo living – like not having to do landscaping and shoveling, being able to take off for a week or two without worrying about the house sitting empty… but as we consider the advantages, we have to remember some of the disadvantages too:

Small space. If we buy a condo, it will have to be a big one (do they make four bedroom condos)? Having lived in a big house for the past ten years it will be hard for us to downsize. We’ll have to get rid of a lot of the stuff we have now (like our pool table and dining room table). We’ll have to buy new (smaller) furniture too. Will I have to get rid of my collection of Starbucks coffee mugs?

Storage space. We’ve always been fairly good about not keeping stuff we never use anymore. The rule in our house is – if it hasn’t been used in the past couple years, out it goes.

Parking. We have two cars. We need two parking spots. This will be an issue and an expense. Arranging parking for our visitors will be an inconvenience too.

Heights. Some people don’t really like them. Are you safe in the case of an emergency, like an earthquake or fire? Will you get hit by an airplane?

Elevators. When you live in a condo, you are in elevators everyday. Whether you’re going out jogging or loading in groceries, you’re going to have to wait for and then ride the elevator. You will likely have to share the elevator with a neighbor.

Conflict resolution. What if you get into a spat with one of your neighbors? The condo association might get involved, might rule against you and now you’re sharing the elevator with your enemy.

Privacy. You have to give it up. When you’re sitting out on your balcony in your pajama bottoms with a cup of coffee, so might your neighbor.

Condo association. What if everybody wants to build a barbecue area but you don’t because you’ll never use it? Too bad.

Pets. Pet owners who love them think everybody else should too. People who don’t, might be allergic or feel animals are fine so long as they are outside in the barn or hanging from a tree.

Hear this. Your neighbors might be on a totally different timetable than you. They might like to party till 2am. They might like to vacuum at 7am. They might like the one kind of music you hate.

Renters. What percentage of the building is owner occupied? Does the condo corporation have rules in place about the percentage of units that can be rented?

Bylaws. What other rules might you find restrictive?

Urban lifestyle. We’re giving up the peaceful serenity of our own backyard.

Resale value. Condos tend to rise and fall more than the general real estate market. When times are good, their prices rise faster and go higher than single-family dwellings. And when the market stalls, condo values drop quickly.

So, my wife and I are buying a condo. We already know which building. We know what we are giving up and we know what we are gaining. Condo living with all its disadvantages, still seems pretty sweet for us.

If you’re interested in buying a condo, give me a call. I’ll share with you what I’ve learned so far and help find the one right for you.

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