Okay, here we go – time to vent, complain, and kvetch.
If you’re an 8-year reader of TRB, then you’ve probably seen most, if not all of these.
But if you’re a would-be condo owner, perhaps renting right now and looking to get into the market, then consider this a huge favour!
Condo living is fantastic, but there are always subtle annoyances that you experience as you get settled in the building; none of which could have ever been explained to you in advance. Until now, that is…
A first-time buyer asked me the other day, “What are some of the things I need to know about owning a condo?”
I immediately launched into bullet-points about mortgages, maintenance fees, ownership structure, et al. But the buyer stopped me in mid-sentence, and said, “No, I mean when I’m living in there – what do I need to prepare myself for?”
He’s been living at home with his parents for three years after finishing school, and he knows that condo-living is quite different from mom-and-dad-living, which comes with both pros and cons.
“Gimme the dirt,” he eventually said, and I realized he didn’t want a Realtor-inspired tutorial on maintenance fee math, but rather the nitty-gritty and “what to look out for.”
I realize that many of these topics have been covered on TRB before, but if you’re new to the blog, or if you’re a first-time condo buyer, or if you’ve just never lived in a condo before, here are my top ten “subtle annoyances,” most of which you can expect to experience yourselves…
10) Speaker In Your Bedroom
You’d better know this one in advance, because I sure didn’t…
Who knew there would be a speaker in the ceiling in my bedroom?!?!?!
I was in bed one night, asleep, possibly in REM sleep, when all of a sudden I heard somebody in my room!
I freaked out!
I jumped out of bed, got into a han-kokutsu-dachi stance, and prepared to battle.
Evidently, there was nobody in my room.
It turns out there was a goddam loud-speaker in the ceiling of my room, next to the smoke alarm, whereby the concierge, or fire marshal, could yell directly at me.
Did you know this the first time you moved into a condo? Because I was entirely unprepared.
It took me one more 4am false alarm before I got out the ladder, unscrewed the face-plate, and cut the wires to that speaker. Remember: don’t do as I do, do as I say.
9) Mail Return-to-Sender
Tell me I’m a nerd, and so are all my friends, and I won’t be upset. But a year after I had been in my first condo, and I was out for drinks with all my friends, we played a game of “who lived in your condo before you.”
It was amazing – all four of my buddies were able to recite the name of the previous occupant.
“Bob Michael Smith,” yelled one of my friends.
“John Forsythe,” said another.
You get mail for these people for years and years after they’ve moved out, and it’s basically a monthly reminder of who cooked in your kitchen and sat on your balcony before you.
For the first few months, we all write “RTS” on the envelopes, and put them back in the mailbox. But after a year, you see that the envelopes are no longer from banks or insurance companies, and instead they’re from car dealerships and charities. That’s when, although nobody wants to admit it, the envelopes end up in the garbage…
8) Parking Garage Standoffs
Do you play golf?
If you do, then you’ll get this analogy.
Every golf foursome, through the history of the sport, has always thought that the group ahead is playing slow, and the group behind is playing unnecessarily close to them. Nobody ever wants to admit that they are the problem group.
In underground parking garages, it works the same way.
Every car driver thinks the person ahead of them is doing something they shouldn’t be.
It’s the other driver that’s driving too close to you, or in the middle of the lane, or is pushing you too close to the concrete pillar.
So who is to blame in your case? I’m not sure. But I can guarantee you won’t be prepared for the twice-daily stand off with other people in the parking garage, whether it’s the car ahead of you that annoys you by waiting for the door to go all the way up to the top before proceeding, or the oncoming driver who insists on leaving eight feet on either side of the car while insisting you back into an empty space to let he or she pass…
7) Pets…..And Pet Owners
The very first time you decide to take the stairs down to the ground level from your new 3rd floor condo, you see it: a heaping, stinking pile of crap.
Who in the world would let their dog crap in the stairwell?
Um, well, many people, as it would seem.
Don’t ever underestimate the laziness and selfishness of mankind.
In the winter, many pet owners couldn’t be bothered to bundle-up, brave the cold, and take their pet outside to do their business. So instead, they take their pet into the stairwell, and hope that the cleaning staff finds the bomb in due time.
When you were shopping for a condo, did you ever expect this?
6) Hallway People
You move out of your mom and dad’s house so that you no longer have to deal with your mom sticking her head out the bedroom door and saying, “Keep your voice down!”
So it’s ironic that now you are the one who wants to stick your head out into the hallway of your condominium and ask whoever the hell is out there to kindly show some respect.
As soon as people leave their own unit, or as is the case many times – a friend’s unit, they seem to forget that all those doors lining the hallway are entrances to people’s homes. They seem to be quiet as they leave their friend’s place, but then their voices gradually rise as they move down the hall, until they’re in a full-fledged yell.
Alcohol only magnifies the situation, and many condos in the downtown core are home to a younger demographic, who seem to be very familiar with alcohol.
So throw a clueless, drunk, non-resident of the building into the hallway, and you’re going to get yelling.
Most of the time, you simply wait for the yelling to stop, as the people leave. But sooner or later, you’re going to open the door, step outside, and shake your fist like a cartoon character…
5) Elevator Politics
You love the rules when they favour you, and you hate them when they don’t.
It bothers you how often one of three elevators is put on “service,” meaning you have to wait longer for one of the remaining two elevators,, but yet you can’t figure out why you can’t move on Sunday! What’s so special about Sunday anymore?
Of course, you might end up living in one of the few buildings where residents have to hire a security guard, at a cost of $90-$120, simply to use the moving elevator.
And then when one of the elevators breaks down, you get to watch property management update the notice on the elevator door each day, always promising to have it fixed “in the next couple of days.”
4) The Buzzer
How can something so simple, and so common, frustrate so many new condo owners?
First and foremost – you might want to check and see if your building can connect the buzzer to any phone, or just the home phone.
Wait…….what is a “home phone?” Well, it’s something people used to have in the 1980’s and 1990’s, that has no place in 2015 – especially in a condo.
Believe it or not, some condominiums can only set up the intercom to a “land line,” and thus you’re on the hook for both the cost, and the apparatus itself as it sits on your kitchen counter.
Another common issue are those stupid buildings where the names of residents are listed in random order, rather than alphabetical, with the expectation that the resident you are going to see has told you in advance what his or her buzzer code is. That’s one of my biggest pet peeves. It’s far, far worse than the buzzer systems that are so slow to scroll from one name to the next that it could take your guest five minutes to get from “Anderson” to “Davis.”
3) Property (over)Manager
In university, it was your “don” that lorded over you. Yeah, that 4th year student, who lived among 1st year students, and for some reason was put in a position of power.
After university, it was back to having mom and dad watch your every move back at home.
Just wait until you move into a building with an over-bearing, inner-demon-exercising property manager who rules with an iron fist.
Some buildings really, truly need active supervision and problem-solving, but then many don’t, and they still seem to get it from a property manager who can’t wait to use what he or she learned in the last “Property Manager Conference” at the Grand Ballroom in the Howard Johnson by the airport…
Property managers come and go, and this can worth both for and against you. Losing a great property manager is awful, but having a terrible one come along is even worse.
2) Cigarettes, Garbage, & Water on Your Balcony
One cigarette butt on your balcony is too many.
But imagine two? Or ten? Or FIFTY after you sweep up after a long winter?
I always try to picture “that guy” who smokes on his balcony and casually flicks the butt over the edge, like there’s a giant pit below, or at least a minion that collects those butts.
I figure he’s really gross, greasy, and his condo is filled with leather, and photos of himself on trips. He also has coffee table books on luxury cars, and at least a dozen types of cologne, all facing label-out on the bathroom ledge, even though the rest of his bathroom is disgusting. Oh, and if this is 2015 we’re talking about – he has a man-bun. You know man-buns. They’re worn equally by normal, nice guys who make them work, or dirty, swarthy dudes who just look even more gross.
As a first-time condo owner, I bet you didn’t know you’d be on the receiving end of a winter’s worth of cigarette butts, did you? Have fun sweeping them all up, as well as a few beer cans, and whatever else blew away in the Fall.
Another, albeit lesser offence on the balcony or terrace is that incessant water dripping down from your neighbour who is always hosing down the three plants she has on the very edge of her balcony. How much water can a plant take?
If you didn’t shower this morning, don’t worry. Just go stand outside, and you’ll be soaking wet in no time…
As I said above: never underestimate the laziness, pettiness, selfishness, and carelessness of another person.
As a first-time condo owner, you should be happy that you have direct access to a garbage chute. It’s way better than whatever you did in your rental building, or having to collect and store your garbage for two weeks while fighting off raccoons in mom and dad’s house.
But once you gain access to that coveted garbage chute, you start to see just how awful people can be.
People will fill that little garbage chute room to the brink of explosion when the chute is out of service, and while I’ll be the first one to complain that the chute is full, or out of order, I’m not going to leave a bag filled with my dog’s sh!t on the floor of that room for my neighbours to find.
People will also throw items down the chute which clearly don’t fit, ie. the infamous ironing-board incident that one of my clients photographed and sent to me. Seriously – who puts an ironing board down the chute?
A clogged chute can take days to fix, and it could be avoided by an elevator ride to the garbage room in P1, and about three minutes.
But then comes the frustration with constant “Out of Service” icons, and the chute never working on Sundays as “the guy who changes the bins” doesn’t work that day.
You wouldn’t think garbage would be such an issue in condos, but consider it’s something that every single person in the building deals with, every day, and it’s not surprising that it can cause so many problems.
Living the condo lifestyle is fantastic, don’t get me wrong.
Underground parking, elevators, concierge; no snow to shovel or leaves to rake, no leaky basement, no raccoons in the attic, and no repairs needed.
But there are a lot of subtle annoyances that we condo owners experience on a daily basis, and many first-time owners are caught off guard.
If I’ve missed anything – use the comments box below!