BY MARILYN WILSON, THE OTTAWA CITIZEN September 17, 2015
With many similar-looking condos coming to market, it’s easy to think that the majority of condo buyers want the same thing. Walls of floor-to-ceiling glass windows, a view and certain amenities have come to be seen as must-haves, but buyers need to think about just what they want. Each buyer is, in reality, seeking something different.
Developers look to include amenities that fit into neighbourhood needs if they think they’ll be cost effective and entice buyers. And while developers aim for amenities that will give them an edge over the competition, buyers can use what has been advertised as a way of deciding on one building over another.
If you want lower condo fees or a less active building social life, consider buying in a building with less — or no — amenities, for instance. Keep in mind that when buying pre-construction, you will not know a fixed amount for condo fees. To keep the cost down, be wary of paying for unnecessary amenities. If you never swim, you wouldn’t buy a house with a pool; condo purchasing should be no different.
On the flip side, having a pool is a must for some. “If I’m not going to change my lifestyle positively, why would I move?” asks one client who insists on having one. Since many new condo buildings do not offer indoor pools, this narrows the options considerably.
Another buyer looked for a long time before choosing a two-storey condo. He and his wife wanted distinct zones in their condo so that each would have their own space. It’s something to keep in mind if you have been living in a large home and take having your own space for granted, so consider the size of the average condo.
Some rank more square footage as the most important condo quality, but then may think a space is too large. Looking at the space you purchase on a floor plan is tricky as the scale of the furnishings shown may be smaller than what you own. This is something most buyers do not fully appreciate. If you plan on buying new furnishings for your condo, this is not a problem. Many, however, come in with previously loved furniture. If that’s you, try your best to get a sense of the spatial limitations before move-in day.
What happens with age?
As condos age, so do their amenities. Most of our city’s best-known condo pools are in good shape, but some of the older ones have tile work in need of fixing. If you purchase for a particular amenity, make sure the condo will have the funds to keep up the maintenance. On older condos, do this by having your lawyer check that there’s an adequate reserve fund. There is no guarantee those funds will be used for any particular amenity, but knowing the building has funds can help in the long run.
One reader tells me her condo is going to phase out the tennis courts in their development. Although the current population is older, these condos are reselling to a younger generation and this owner feels the value of her condo will go down without the courts. Her condo board made the decision without the input of the other owners. This kind of thing happens and, though unfortunate, is unavoidable.
When opting for amenities, remember that less is more. If buying a condo resale, avoid costly and superfluous dated amenities that will cost you. Just buy what you need.
Marilyn Wilson has been selling real estate for more than 25 years and owns Marilyn Wilson Dream Properties Inc. Brokerage, an Exclusive Affiliate of Christie’s International Real Estate. She can be reached through dreamproperties.com.