Happy Friday, everyone! It has been such a crazy week getting a new project project going which I’ll be sharing in the very near future! For now, we’ll be discussing something that I deal with a lot: clients buying a condo.
Last week, we discussed whether going with a new build or buying a resale home makes the most sense for you in looking for your first home. This week, I want to take a bit of time to discuss buying a condo because I get questions about them ALL THE TIME.
Before we jump into these questions, I did want to share a little bit of news! Starting next Thursday, you’ll see another weekly blog from me called ‘Going Places’!
While ‘Let’s Talk’ is where I will share real estate advice and answer your questions, ‘Going Places’ will be a bit more personal discussing my career trajectory, how I got into real estate, and the constant challenge of balancing a busy career with being a mom to three awesome kids. It’s going to be fun, light-hearted and upbeat – just like me!
Not to end the fun there, I’ll be running a contest starting on Thursday with the first blog post for ‘Going Places’ where someone who has been burning the candle at both ends as a professional and a parent will win a $100 Uber Eats gift card, as well as a $50 Netflix gift card. Let me take care of dinner and a movie for you! Want to know how to win? Check out my Facebook page on Thursday for full details!
Now, back to our blog about buying condos!
Think back a couple of weeks ago to the 7 questions you should ask yourself in deciding what you’re looking for in your first home. The most important questions were the final 4 because they all related to your basic search parameters. Where do you want to be? What do you want to be near? What are your goals with the purchase? How do these factors affect one another?
I find that the answer many of my clients come to when asking these questions is condominiums. I know that there’s no shortage of media speculation on condos. Regardless, I still firmly believe that condos are great for both first-time buyers looking to make their first home. They’re also great for more experienced buyers either looking to downsize or invest.
So, what advice do I typically offer my clients buying a condo? Keep reading, and I’ll tell you!
1.The Floorplan is Key When Buying a Condo
I really can’t stress this enough. Don’t just look at the space with your eyes, ask to see a floorpan when buying a condo. Your brain will always distort the size of a space based on preference. Your preference is created by other factors which aren’t as quantifiable as space.
For instance, if Condo A is 650 square feet in a building and area you really like, and Condo B is 800 square feet in a building/area you’re less enthusiastic about, your brain will convince itself Condo A is more spacious.
So, here’s a great way to re-calibrate that: take measurements of larger furniture items like your couch, dining table, coffee table, bookcases, etc. Then, figure out the scale of the floorpan and draw in the footprints. You’ll be amazed how quickly it fills up.
You need to decide whether you want open concept, or if you prefer separate rooms as well. I typically recommend that clients buying a condo not compromise on their ideal floorpan style. It’s just such a fundamental preference. I always ask them ‘Can you see any point in the next decade where you’d value sticking to your preferred type of layout instead of saving money?
2.Space Costs Money…
If space is something you absolutely need, and you’re buying a condo, be prepared to pay extra for more space. Period. In condo developments since the early 2000s, developers have opted for smaller floorpans in new build projects, with the larger floorpan units fetching premium prices.
If you’ve decided space is essential, but don’t have a premium budget, you can always look into retrofit condo projects. These are larger mid-century apartment buildings which are converted from rental units to condos.
These buildings are often located in more established neighbourhoods and have better access to community amenities. Most importantly, they feature comparatively large floorpans in 1,2 & 3 bedroom layouts. You’ll also pay an up-charge in newer condo developments for a 2 bedroom unit, but you’ll end up with fewer overall square feet. Which brings me to my next point.
3….But It Can Make Money Too.
A lot of first-time buyers buying a condo have the mentality that they have to make a lot of compromises. While that might be true in the single family resale market, the reality is that condo builders build with the needs and wants of today’s buyers in mind.
I honestly believe that additional living space is a in investment which you’ll never regret. If you’re in a position where you have to choose between price and space, factor in the other variables.
For instance, picture this hypothetical. Condo A costs $X, but will take longer to get to work, doesn’t have a gym in the building, and is not close to a grocery store. Condo B costs $X + 12% higher buying cost, but is walkable to work, has a gym in the building and has a grocery store nearby. You have to factor in how much those costs add up to. In this case, let’s say a monthly metro pass is $165, a gym membership is $60, and you use $5 of gas to do your weekly shopping. That adds up to $230 a month, and $2,760 a year!
Assuming you stay in that condo for 5 years, that adds up to $13,800 in money you don’t have to spend because of the intangibles with Condo B. How does that number impact the difference in the two prices? Context is everything when factoring in a multi-year commitment like a home purchase. I always feel that the extra cost for an additional bedroom is worth it both in the time you’re there, and when you decide to sell.
Additional space never goes out of style. With the push towards working from home, a lot of my clients are interested in a second bedroom or den they can use as a separate workspace. That’s space which literally makes you money!
4.Space is Relative When You Have Good Design.
Sometimes additional space is just simply out of your price range, even when you do the long-term math. I always tell my clients that one of my favourite designers/decorators can help them forget about missing out on a few extra square feet. I firmly believe this.
The winds of change have been blowing towards smarter space use for years now. It’s not just Ikea who caters to this market niche. You’d be surprised at how many upscale furniture makers have realized how lucrative condo dwellers can be when looking for appealing and functional furniture pieces.
A great designer/decorator can help you get as much use out of your space as possible. And they do it according to your budget. A great decorator costs less than buying a condo with more space. Most importantly, they can help you love every square foot of your first condo!
The Bottom Line
There are so many factors which impact your decision on buying your first condo. In my experience, my clients who opt to spend a little more for additional space never regret it. Whether it’s the benefit of a home office, a guest room, a den, or a music room, or just a less cramped feeling, space is always worth the investment. Especially when it comes time to sell. If space isn’t in your budget, I know a number of outstanding decorators who are!