Thursday, April 21, 2011

Why Condo Living May Suit First-Time Buyers

When you are ready to buy your first house, you might consider the option of condo living. While it’s true that living in a condo isn’t for everyone, there are definite advantages.

Here are a few things first-time homebuyers should consider when thinking about condo living:

Affordability
If you get nervous at the thought of a huge monthly mortgage payment, a condo usually offers a lower monthly  payment, freeing up more money for travel, saving for retirement, or living the type of lifestyle you want to live.
Top personal finance gurus like Gail Vaz-Oxlade warn that you should spend no more than 35 per cent of your net income on housing. This includes mortgage payments, property tax, utilities, insurance, and maintenance fees.

You might want to have a four-bedroom house in the suburbs with that white picket fence, but do you really need to have it right now? There’s nothing worse than being tied to a large mortgage payment that you cannot comfortably afford.

Space
Generally speaking, the more space you have, the more expensive it will be to maintain. Not only will it cost you more to furnish a larger space, but you will also have more expensive utility bills and a longer cleaning list!

Over the past month, I’ve looked at  between 20 and 25 condos and townhouses. And while in my original search criteria, I wanted at least 800 sq. ft. of living space, I realized that some  smaller layouts can feel much bigger than what they actually are. The same can be said about larger spaces feeling much smaller, simply because of the flow of the space. Make sure not to exclude properties that fall under your ideal space requirements on paper, because the layout of the home might end up working for you.

Security
Having neighbours close by makes it a lot easier to leave your home vacant while you go on vacation or on a business trip. This is especially true if you have mail that needs collecting, or pets that need feeding.

Most condominium buildings come with secure parking, a buzzer system for security – and sometimes – even a doorman! If you’re a single person living in a big city, this can be a huge selling feature.

Location
When location is one of the most important things to you, then you might have to settle for less space in order to get into the neighbourhood of your choice. If you want to live in the heart of a popular urban area, and in close proximity to everything that a big city has to offer, but cannot afford a detached house or townhouse, a condo might be the perfect option for you.

Minimal maintenance & upkeep
When you buy a house, you are responsible for all of the household maintenance. This includes everything from the yard upkeep, shoveling snow, roof repairs, maintaining the driveway, and everything else associated with your property. Not only will you have to dedicate your time to dealing with these problems, but it can also be very expensive.

On the other hand, when you live in a condo, you generally don’t have to deal with any exterior maintenance of the building. Instead, you will be required to pay monthly maintenance fees. These monthly fees will usually go towards hiring a professional or contractor to take care of the maintenance and repairs of the common areas of the building. In some buildings, this can also include heat, hot water, gas, and other amenities like a pool, recreation room, and gym. Remember that, even if you choose not to use the amenities provided in the building, you will still be expected to pay for the upkeep and maintenance of them.

Amenities
Many times condominium buildings offer a wide variety of amenities. This means that you could have access to amenities that you otherwise might not be able to afford on your own, such as a gym, tennis courts, swimming pool, and party room.

Community
For some people, having a sense of commonality is important. Buying into the right condominium community can be a big selling feature, as is buying into the right neighbourhood. Because you will all be living within close proximity to each other, this could be a great way to meet new people.

I never thought I’d consider purchasing a condo for my very first home. But as a single person living in an expensive city like Vancouver, I can definitely see the advantages of condo living, and now understand that it is an option I need to be considering as I continue my search for my first home.

Would you ever live in a condominium?

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