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October 27, 2011

Fixer Upper

Condo lifestyle checks all the right boxes for do-it-yourselfer

Jim Zang

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Some people buy a condo for the maintenance-free lifestyles, some because they’re downsizing. Others see it as a sound financial move.

For 60-something-year-old Arnold Ponting, the move to a condo has put check marks in all the right boxes. No more lawn mowing, snow shoveling, or fence painting. Check. More right-sized living space for a single person. Check. Ability to take golf trips. Check. Pocketed money after selling former home and buying condo. Another big check (no pun intended).

But, for this contract heavy duty mechanic, as he nears full-time retirement, it’s not all about the money. Living in a condo also gives him the flexibility, freedom and peace-of-mind to enjoy his new found free time. Either at home, out on the west coast visiting his grandkids, or golfing in warmer climes.

Living in his single-family home in Bridlewood just wasn’t working for Arnold anymore. He didn’t often have kids around, and didn’t have a pet, other than fish, so what did he need a yard for? He only has one vehicle, so why the two car garage? And the pool table, well, it just didn’t get used anymore.

He liked the area though, so started his search in the neighbourhoods close to his home, and found what he was looking for just across the street in Evergreen at the Trico-built Evergreen Gardens townhomes. Arnold’s end unit features three bedrooms and two-and-a-half baths with 1,238 square-feet on two levels. It has a single garage and driveway and the basement level is undeveloped. Condo fees are “around $200” a month.

Although it was built as recently as 2006, Arnold’s unit was “well lived in” and “needed some work” when he moved in last February. He ended up paying a little over $263,000 — leaving him a tidy profit from his home sale — and has since put close to another $25,000 worth of renovations into it, including appliances and water softener. “And that’s almost five grand right there,” says Arnold. “I haven’t put the new dishwasher in yet. I’m just waiting for it to go on sale. I’m great at buying things on sale. I’ve still got a little bit of decorating to do, some pictures to hang.” He’s also saved a lot of money by doing nearly all the work himself. 

Arnold loves the open concept of the main floor. “I didn’t really give up much in size,” he says. “Only about 300 square-feet.” The dining area, kitchen and living room are one big area, which is perfect for Arnold’s many friendly get togethers. And Arnold’s got it pretty much the way he wants it now.

Starting on the main floor, when you walk in the front door, he’s replaced the living room carpet and kitchen linoleum with maple hardwood and heated ceramic tile. He painted all the walls and put up a tile backsplash. 

An avid cook, he’s confident the time spent in his kitchen during renovations will pay off in the time he spends in it in the coming years. In addition to the new stainless steel appliances, he’s completely replaced all of the cabinets with maple and the countertops with granite (the granite being the one thing Arnold couldn’t do himself). He’s got three dark wood bar stools at the eating counter and another four places set at the dining table.

Steps away in the living space a huge dark leather wrap-around sofa  fits the room perfectly. A 37-inch flat screen TV is mounted on the wall.

A hallway of heated ceramic tile leads past the door to the basement steps as well as a handy pantry/storage unit on the way to the rear entry. Personally, Arnold uses the back entry for every day use as it’s where he’s usually parked. 

“I didn’t think you’d notice it so much,” says Arnold of the heated floors. “These are the nicest thing ever.” As for the storage shelves, they’re from Ikea. “You have to get inventive when you give up kitchen space,” says Arnold.

Upstairs the master bedroom has plenty enough room for Arnold’s bedroom set, as well as a nice big window and walk-in closet. A three-piece bathroom was transformed into a four-piece ensuite with the addition of the sliding glass shower doors Arnold installed.

There’s two more decent sized bedrooms upstairs, one of which is the guest room and one of which Arnold is using as his office and hobby room. With big windows on two sides of the room, it’s easy to see how Arnold, the heavy duty mechanic, finds inspiration for his drawing, painting, and music.

The upstairs bathroom, he says, is “for company”. He doesn’t turn the heat on in the floor unless someone is over. Across the hall from the bathroom, a closet opens onto a side-by-side washer-dryer. Arnold likes that the laundry is upstairs, where the bedrooms are.

Not only does he like the layout, but Arnold positively raves about his location. “The only noise I hear around here is kids playing. And that’s not bad. It’s a nice, quiet neighbourhood.” He even likes the way his condo is facing. “with the condo facing east to west, if you open the windows, you get nice air flow.”

But, as much as he loves his new condo, what he loves just as much is the freedom to leave it. If he wants to take a winter golf trip, Arnold can, in his own words, “shut the water off, lock the door and go.”

Next up for Arnold, rip up the stairway and upstairs carpet and replace it. “It’s not in bad shape,” he says, “I just hate the colour.”

And then, maybe, just maybe, organize the basement storage area. 

“I should be done by Christmas,” he says, “so I can relax.”

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