The pros and cons of buying a condo in the city

Many farmers choose to move to a condo after they wind up their farming business.

It could be a smart move, or it just might turn into a train wreck.

It’s important to learn as much as you can about the pros and cons of condo living before you make the decision to downsize.

Key to that is making sure you have the right people in your corner.

“It’s always important to have a professional on your side who understands condos as thoroughly as possible,” says Nikki Burgess, a Winnipeg realtor who specializes in the needs of senior clients.

“Legislation regarding condos is different from that for houses, and you should familiarize yourself with it.”

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This information can be found on provincial websites or by typing “condo act” and the name of your province into a search engine.

There are pros and cons that must be considered.

  • Convenience is a major pro for condo purchases. Someone else will cut the grass, shovel the snow, clean common areas and maintain the outside of the building. Your monthly condo fees cover these services, while a portion of it goes into a reserve fund, which covers major repairs such as roof repair and window replacement.
  • You own rather than rent your space, and you share ownership of common areas such as recreation rooms and maybe a pool. Some condo buildings will even include a gym, theatre and party room.
  • Since you own the condo, you can paint the walls, upgrade the appliances and do renovations.
  • Condos can be more affordable than a house of similar size, depending on location. You might be able to pay a condo mortgage plus condo fees for the same amount or close to the same amount as rent on a comparable space.
  • Remember, it’s location, location, location. A downtown condo within easy walking distance of parks, shopping, entertainment and medical facilities can be convenient and save on car costs.
  • Security is also a factor. Some buildings offer a security entrance, and the presence of neighbours on either side can make you feel safe and less apt to worry when you travel.
  • The items that condo fees cover is not universal.
  • If you’re moving into a downtown building with lots of perks, expect to pay more than you would for a condo further from the city centre or a plainer house in the suburbs. At the same time, a condo may not appreciate in value as quickly as a house. Have a look at past real estate prices to see how the numbers compare. Talk to your realtor.
  • Condo fees pay for the perks, but they can also be a curse. Expect older buildings to need more repairs and maintenance, but regardless of the age of the building, condo fees will increase over time.
  • There are special assessments to worry about. Condo owners are required by law to pay up if major repairs are needed that the reserve fund can’t cover. Burgess offered the example of a condo building in Winnipeg that recently needed all of the windows replaced. “In some cases, it was upwards of $30,000 per unit to have the windows done,” she says.
  • This also applies to amenities such as water that are covered in the condo fees. You will be required to pay your equal share of the shortfall if your neighbours spend more than the amount that was budgeted. The same is true if someone damages a common area. You will also be paying legal fees if your association is involved in a lawsuit, such as suing a developer over building flaws.
  • Stores and businesses on the ground floor of a building can be convenient, but businesses usually use more water and electricity than a dwelling. Make sure you’re not subsidizing their utility costs.
  • As in any shared dwelling, there are rules and bylaws. No noise after a certain hour is one restriction you may not mind, but rules that prohibit you from having a pet or even having your grandchildren sleep over may be a little more difficult to live with.

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