What is condominium living? If you look at sales
brochures for most condominium projects, you'll see phrases such
as "Enjoy the freedom of condominium living". The glossy
pictures that go with this campaign will show casually dressed
people laughing. No worries or problems. No need to mow the lawn
or be bothered by other chores. Go enjoy life. Your suite or
townhouse is your castle and that's all you need to know. This
is not the true reflection of condominium living. Yes, your unit
is your own, but remember, you're living with people above,
below, and/or to the side of you. In this multi-family
residential set-up, you're living close to people of different
age groups, cultural and economic backgrounds, who may be from
different parts of the world. A certain degree of tolerance,
neighbourliness, and mutual respect is needed. True, you're not
living with them, just near them. But you could be together for
years and years.
This is what
condominium living is all about. You are living in a community
within a community. Think of it this way: the strata corporation
(complex) is similar to a municipal government in the sense that
both are responsible for its citizens. The strata corporation
approves a budget each year to meet operating expenses (what
your maintenance fees will be calculated from), sets policies
for the better governance of its citizens, and elects members to
a strata council which meets regularly to make decisions (on
maintenance programs, financial issues, and matters such as
by-law violations) to ensure that the complex is maintained.
It is also the truest sense of democratic
government where citizens vote at Annual General Meetings and
Extra-ordinary General Meetings.
So the next question is "How is condominium
living different from living in a rental property? This is a
question that is hard to give an in-depth answer to. The joy of
ownership, building equity, and not paying rent to the dreaded
landlord are enough reasons for ownership and may form part of
the answer, but not the whole answer.
Go one step deeper on the meaning of "living".
What will the space do for you? Will it help to define what you
want for yourself? Does it give you a certain comfort level?
Does it allow you to grow with it? This is why not all
condominium complexes are right for all people. And for some
people, condominium ownership is just not right for them. If
renting serves your personal needs, and you can invest in
something you feel for comfortable in, then you should stay with
that. It is a personal thing.
Is this you...
Mary, a young urban professional who enjoys
apartment living and the fast-paced life decides that she wants
to stop "wasting rent" and buy a condominium. She looks around
the suburbs and in downtown for a suitable townhouse or condo.
After careful evaluation, she rejects the idea of a place in the
suburbs. She doesn't want the drive in and out of the city every
day, and the "loss of freedom" from "where the action is", and
taking public transportation is not for Mary. The downtown
search yields plenty of condos where she can put the minimum 5%
down and get a 500 square foot studio condo. It's smaller than
her 750 square foot one bedroom that she currently rents, but it
would be her own.
First, let's give Mary credit for thinking
things out and realizing that a suburban condominium does not
fit her lifestyle. A downtown condo is more for her But let's
also concentrate on some of the words she has used to describe
her lifestyle: "Stop wasting rent...loss of freedom... and go
where the action is." Is a condo even right for her. The
decision goes beyond having a down payment. What about the
freedom of just paying a monthly rent cheque. If you want to
move, you move. No mortgage payments, no maintenance fees, no
property taxes, and no swings in the real estate market to worry
about. You may be getting a better deal overall by renting than
However, if the desire for homeownership and
stability is what you want, then a condominium should certainly
be considered. Its yours, you build equity, and sooner or later
it will form a major part of your retirement nest egg. That
aspect of condominium ownership can't be knocked.