Your client is a single mother who’s married to a job that demands quick turnaround, flexibility and tight deadlines. Or perhaps your client’s a soon-to-retire couple in their sixties, social activists who enjoy the prospect of living downtown near the causes, projects and people they support.
Or it could be a newly married couple, who is hoping to break into the housing market but want to maintain digs downtown near their jobs and friends.
What each of these examples has in common is that they would make perfect condo dwellers. But just because their profile seems to fit well with condo living doesn’t mean they have the personality for it.
So how do you go about determining if a condo is right for your client? You start by finding out if your client is right for a condo.“I’ve had many clients who hated condo living,” says Toronto Century 21 real estate sales rep Laurin Jeffrey. “But it’s what they can afford, which is not always what they want.”
Being close to restaurants, bars, museums, public transportation and your job are big pluses of condo living. And given that nearly 50 per cent of residences sold in Toronto last December were condos, it seems a lot of people agree. But Jeffrey believes those who buy condos are doing so mainly for economic reasons.
“They are often the first-time buyer who can’t afford anything else,” he says. “When your budget is under $300,000, a condo is your best bet. And even then, it’s getting hard to find a condo for that money.”
If privacy and independence are big issues your client might want to reconsider buying a condo, recommends Kelowna mortgage broker Julia Krause, who’s been a member of her townhouse’s strata (a multiple housing property in B.C. comprising condos or townhouses or a mix of both as is the case with Krause) council for 12 years. Condo living can be difficult for people who don’t like rules and who are accustomed to doing what they want when they want to. Residents, for example, can’t simply park where they feel like parking or plant shrubs where they think they’ll look attractive.“You need to have respect for your neighbours because you’re in closer proximity to them,” says Krause. “Privacy is sometimes an issue too.”
Krause recalls former neighbours who virtually lived outside. Whenever her husband, a cigarette smoker, ventured outside for a puff, he was confronted by the neighbours each and every time which started to annoy him. Fortunately, the neighbours moved. Because of the way the housing corporation is set up, there can be a level of small-mindedness among some of the homeowners. When an issue arises with a homeowner complaining of, for example, someone parking in the wrong spot, the housing council issues a letter to the target of the complaint informing them of the issue and requesting that they not repeat the wrongdoing.“The person who got complained about will sometimes go around looking for other rule breakers so there’s a degree of pettiness,” admits Krause. “We can never get condo owners to get on the strata (housing) council. They won’t do it. But they sure want to complain.”
Krause advises realtors not to assume they can rent out any old condo as many strata councils have limits as to the number of renters allowed in the multiple dwelling (Krause’s corporation allows a maximum of three). If an investor is interested in purchasing a condo with the intention of renting it out contact the condo council to determine what’s permitted.
Don’t assume that because you pay condo fees that pre-empts you from never having to lift a finger while living in your unit. Krause has received some strange calls such as residents complaining that their fridge has died or that someone left trash in the hallway.“A lot of people who buy these units are coming out of rentals and they think it’s just the same,” says Krause. Be sure to check the condo’s financial situation, she urges. Pay attention to contingency funds for emergencies and make sure the complex or building is insured for replacement value.“If you can, go to the condo without your realtor and hang around and ask people how do you like living here,” she says. In Vancouver, where the average detached home price in the city’s sought-after west-end is over $2 million, it’s clearly not a question of whether condo living is right for you, says Remax sales rep Sam Wyatt.
“It’s the norm here,” Wyatt says, adding that the average sale price of west Vancouver condos in December was over $640,000. “People either get used to it or they move out to the suburbs.”
For those of you who still aren’t sure if your client is right for living in a condo get them to take the following test provided by www.sphinxlegal.com:
1. My privacy is: ___ Not important to me. ___ Somewhat important to me. ___ So important I used to be a hermit.
2. My need to be in control of my living environment can best be described as: ___ NOT a control freak. ___ Need to be in control, at least to some degree. ___ As a matter of fact, someone DID die and make me king.
3. Amenities such as swimming pools and tennis courts are: ___ Very important to me. ___ Not that important to me. ___ I’m not the athletic type.
4. I would respond to the following statement, “I like mowing the lawn, landscaping, and gardening,” with: ___ Are you kidding? ___ I don’t mind it. ___ I love working outdoors.
5. The following describes my position on doing my annual maintenance chores exactly on time: ___ I thought gutters flushed themselves out. ___ I am on top of it, give or take six months. ___ I have a laminated schedule taped on the refrigerator.
6. Home resale value is important to me: ___ Because I may be moving within the next three years. ___ But I expect to be here for a while. ___ Even though I plan to live here forever.
7. Living in an urban environment is: ___ Vibrant, exciting, and convenient. ___ Something I can either take or leave. ___ Not for me—give me the country life.
8. Meeting and interacting with many different types of people is: ___ Very important to me. ___ Relatively important. ___ I hate people.
Total all your points, giving yourself 1 point for each first answer, 2 points for each second answer, and 3 points for each third answer. Evaluate your score as follows: 8 to 10 points: Future president of condominium association 11 to 20 points: A good candidate for CID life 21 to 24 points: Thanks for buying the book anyway