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July 02, 2008

Speaking of - Top Ten reasons to live in a condo

Shelley Williamson

1. Expanding your social network. Especially if you are a male and single, living in a condo can be a great place to meet women, as stats show unhitched gals comprise a large portion of condo buyers. What’s more, a recent TD Canada Trust poll reported that in Calgary the average age of women purchasing their first home was 29, 82 per cent of them were single, and about half had a university degree. Sounds like some good prospects, fellas.

2. Security. No matter your age, marital status or gender, security is important to most of us, and if not an actual security system or front-door camera, the peace of mind of having plenty of neighbours close by makes living in this “eyes-on-the-street” setting a safe prospect. Another TD Canada Trust poll by Angus Reid Strategies in March found 98 per cent of Calgarians eyeing a condo buy deemed security important. Often secure parking garages (and a stall for each unit) is included with a condo’s price, so cars are kept safe and for a relatively low price—typically 15 to 17 per cent of overall maintenance fees.

3. Lack of maintenance. Paying monthly fees means you can literally lock and leave without work waiting for you when you return. So while friends with lawns are pulling out the measuring tape to ensure they have blades cut evenly this summer, condo dwellers only have to worry about getting their bags to the car as they drive off with no responsibilities for the weekend or an extended vacation.

4. Amenities. Often included are in-house perks, whether it’s a party room, guest suites to house overnight visitors, or a common fitness room that makes having a gym membership virtually obsolete. Since owners pay for these areas as part of their monthly contributions, they may as well take advantage.

5. Insurance. The cost of insuring your condo and its contents (likely amounting to little more than a couple hundred dollars per year) is a mere drop in the bucket compared to that of a single-family property. As a plus, the corporation will have its own coverage, paid for out of monthly contributions for the structure, liability (read: someone slips and falls and sues), and the common areas.

6. Location, location, location. They are often touted as the three key factors in real estate and some really good reasons for choosing condo living. You may be able to afford a condo offering slightly less square footage in an area you really aspire to live in, rather than a larger home with a longer commute. It’s a plus for those who like to walk to work or enjoy a few weekend pints without the worry about driving home to the ’burbs.

7. Availability and price. Condo options are hardly a problem in this buyer’s market, with numbers from Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) supporting this theory—in May, Calgary saw the highest number of multi-family starts (including row, semi-detached and apartment-style) for that month since 1977. The Calgary Real Estate Board also reports listings were up from the same month in 2007 (by 15.5 per cent), while prices saw a decrease over 2007 with the average Calgary condo price at around the $312,000 mark, versus last year’s $332,000.

8. Shared costs. While condo fees are a sore spot for some, monthly contributions paid by everyone in a complex or building go toward this “rainy day fund.” So when things like the roof, parking garage or elevators need fixing, one owner isn’t footing the entire bill. In a single-family home, unless you have planned and saved for it, you might find your home-owning self on the hook for a large amount of cash all at once if, say, your roof needs replacing.

9. Lower monthly bills. Especially in apartment-style condos, which are built with sharing in mind (walls, utility costs), condo fees often include some extras, such as water and sewer or heat, because many buildings are not built with individual water meters or furnaces for units. As they also tend to be smaller and share walls, costs to heat a condominium unit are generally less than for a detached home.

10. A clear conscience. Today’s condos are built far more energy efficiently, but many new developers are also building quite a case for living greener. While some are even including green roofs (complete with grass and foliage), such as Centron’s Oslo and Westcorp’s London at Heritage Station, features from geo-thermal heat to on-demand hot water heaters and finishing with low-VOC paints, low-E windows and pre-finished hardwood are becoming more mainstream. At the very least, living centrally gives owners the option to lessen their global footprints by leaving cars parked and walking to work and play. 

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