BY MARILYN WILSON, THE OTTAWA CITIZEN March 3, 2016The ABCs can be a useful rubric for condo buyers who want to be sure of their purchase before taking the plunge. Last time I looked at A to E. Today I’ll tackle F through I.
I recently covered the topic of condo mortgages. The most important thing to know is that condo fees will affect your mortgage potential. That’s why it’s easier to shop for a condo after you have been pre-approved for a range of prices and condo fees.
To assess your condo’s overall fun quotient, consider what your lifestyle will be like. This takes in a range of things: What are the amenities and how will you use them? Do you want an indoor/outdoor lifestyle and, if so, are you allowed to hook up a barbecue or hot tub on your balcony or terrace?
Really think about the aspects of your lifestyle that you like best and what you hope to improve by moving into a condo. One of the most common perks condo buyers aspire to is a lock-and-go mentality where travel becomes easier. No more paying for snow shovelling while you’re wintering in the Galapagos. And say goodbye to pool cleaning costs.
If you’re buying in a new building and construction is nearly complete, you may know what groups meet and how often. Perhaps there’s a gardening group or book club. If not, maybe you want to start one. These kinds of activities can be a great way of meeting people, as can joining your condo board.
Another thing to keep in mind is what social amenities are in the building. Party rooms with kitchens and terraces, rooftop lounges with barbecues, doggie runs — these are the spaces you might look for if you plan to entertain a lot. Though you might intend to host exclusively within your unit, moving the party to a common area can be a great alternative.
Some condos have suites you can reserve while you have guests in town. Others have concierges who only let in known residents. Whatever the rules, be sure to abide by them. If you have a concierge and your sister is visiting for the next two weeks, it might save you a headache to introduce them early on.
There are two times to think of height when condo shopping. The first is how tall of a building you want to inhabit. Do you love lofty views and crave a more anonymous condo existence? Perhaps a highrise is for you. Would you prefer something smaller with a few choice neighbours and lots of say over the condo board? If so, maybe you’re a low- or mid-rise personality.
Many people consider a condo an excellent retirement option. This makes sense, as condos often offer one-floor living and are lower maintenance than bungalows, which may have land to care for and roofs to repair. But do not forget that what goes up must come down. And as you age, you might find it challenging to descend 17 floors on foot in an emergency. If you (or your pet) have health concerns, you might consider a low-rise building or a lower-level unit.
Ceiling height is another vertical to consider. The higher the condo ceiling the greater the sense of airy, spacious living, even in a condo with less square footage. If you buy on the top floor before the condo is built, you might see if you can get an extra foot of height.
Who is the interior designer working with the developer? Is it someone you’ve heard of, and do you like his or her work? Should you consider bringing your own designer on board?
Though some might think this a redundancy, customizing your condo with a designer can be a fantastic way of making the space your own. After all, the developer’s designer is planning units based on assumptions of how the vast majority of prospective buyers live. In reality, everyone has different needs and preferences.
If you use a designer, consider getting help with window covering choices, bathroom and kitchen details (flooring, countertops and cabinet hardware) and lighting. Or just use a designer to help you furnish the unit. Condo customization can be wonderful, but be careful not to put too much money into your condo if you plan to sell sometime soon.
Speaking of not investing too much in upgrades: are you buying the condo for income or as the end user? The answer should affect your willingness to customize. If you plan to rent the unit, don’t forget to check the condo rules before buying. Perhaps the condo board is not looking to have many rental units.
Those who hope to sell shortly after buying should be wary of investing too much in customized cabinetry, doors, and other elements. The return on investment for these kinds of details is not necessarily high, as they are taste-specific upgrades that the next owner might want to undo.
Next time:kids, lockers, parking and more
Marilyn Wilson has been selling real estate for more than 25 years and owns Marilyn Wilson Dream Properties Inc. Christie’s International Real Estate. Reach her through dreamproperties.com
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