The One That Got Away

I could be talking about the girl that got away, or maybe the chance of a lifetime.  Perhaps it’s the job or maybe even the really big fish that I had on my line but I tried to reel it in too fast and it got away.

But this is a real estate blog, so alas, I’m talking about the perfect condo which I let slide.

I wonder if I’ll live to regret my decision…

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I’d like to detail the thought process and the evaluation of my personal finances that weighed heavily on my decision of whether or not to trade up and buy a larger, better, and pricier condo.

But before I do that, you’ll have to understand who I am and where I’m coming from so that you can see the thought process through my own eyes.

I live in the American Gardens building on West 81st Street on the 11th floor.  My name is Patrick Bateman.  I am 27 years old.

Wait, that’s not right.  And that’s kind of creepy too if you get the film reference…

I live in the St. Lawrence Market neighborhood at 230 King Street on the 2nd floor.  My name is David Fleming.  I am 29 years old.

I spent my early-20’s living at “home” even though it wasn’t really home.  It was my childhood home, but my parents had moved out years earlier when they split, and the house remained, uninhabited.  So in a deal with my father, I was permitted to live in a gargantuan house so long as I paid all the expenses.  My siblings and I moved in and out of the house as we bounced around from university co-op jobs, to cities across Canada for job opportunities, to rental apartments, etc.

The house was far too much for one, two, or three people to look after, and I found myself taking on the brunt of the work.  I always maintained that when I moved out, I wanted the smallest place that I could comfortably live in.

My condo at 230 King Street is 585 square feet, and it is perfect.

I have only one counter to wipe down, and one bathroom to clean.

There is only a few hundred square feet of hardwood flooring to sweep, and a little bit of carpet to vacuum.

Coming from “the big house,” I wanted as little maintenance as possible, and I found it in this quaint 1-bedroom condo at King’s Court.

My large outdoor terrace is what makes all the difference, however, as the 440 square feet of private space is my own tranquil solace; my personal retreat from the rigours of life inside a shoe box.

A picture paints a thousand words…

My terrace is what makes my condo worth living in.

I have two cedar-planter boxes that are fourteen feet long and filled with a colorful array of plants and shrubs, and the six-foot-tall lattice provides some privacy from my neighbors as it fills in with clematis and vines in the summer.

I have thirteen six-foot cedar trees that line my 22 x 20 foot space, and of course I have a BBQ that gets used every night in the summer and a few times per week in the winter.

The only reason I would EVER consider buying another condo and moving would be if I found a bigger unit with a bigger terrace.

And the one caveat – it would have to be in the St. Lawrence Market neighborhood because I don’t want to leave the area.  I’ve seen some nice condos with large terraces in King West, but that’s too far for my liking.  I have to be a stone’s throw from the DVP and Bayview Extension as I rather enjoy my nine-minute commute to work in the morning.  I love the neighbourhood, and I don’t plan on leaving until I’m married with four children and my wife threatens to divorce me if we don’t leave our small 1-bedroom condo…

As luck would have it, a unit came onto the market last month at the building right next door: Mozo Lofts.

I’m not a huge fan of this building since I don’t really understand the appeal to the “soft loft” style, but buyers seem to disagree with me since this is as hot a building as you can find!

A unit on the 10th floor came onto the market for $599,000 – which is out of my price range, but I began to consider it.

The unit was 977 square feet inside, and wait for it – 1300 square feet outside on the terrace!

THIRTEEN HUNDRED SQUARE FEET

I have a “huge” 440 square foot terrace that makes people’s jaws drop when they see it.  I consider myself blessed.

But imagine having a terrace that is three times the size?

The terrace faces south and looks directly at the lake, and I’m positive I could fit both a golf net and a hockey net.

The condo itself is a 2-bedroom, 2-bathroom unit with a very large kitchen and a very long bar/counter – which I love.  The bathrooms could stand to be renovated, but it’s the terrace that I’m after!

With zero plans to actually move in the near future, I started to give this a little serious thought…

What would it cost me to move?  More specifically, how would my monthly cost of living increase?

I would estimate that I could probably sell my condo for $330,000 – $340,000 right now.

With the combined 20% downpayment that I made on my condo three years ago, and the appreciation in value over what I paid for it, I could comfortably afford the 20% downpayment ($120,000) that I would need to make on this $599,000 purchase at Mozo.

My current monthly mortgage payment is $1208.55.

A mortgage of $480,000 on the Mozo unit would come out to about $2,227.36 per month.

So right off the hop, I’m looking at an extra $1,018.81 per month for my mortgage.

My current monthly maintenance fees are $353.44 and that includes ALL utilities.

The maintenance fees at Mozo are $422 per month and that only includes water.  I would expect to pay about $120 per month for my heat, hydro, and central air conditioning.

So add in another $188.56 per month for my maintenance/utilities.

My yearly taxes at my condo are $1802.34, compared to the $2,936 for Mozo.

Call that an even $95.00 per month.

So what’s the running tally?

$1018.81 Mortgage
$188.56 Maintenance
$95.00 Taxes
$1,302.37

It’s going to cost me an extra $1,300 per month to live in my new, “dream home” rather than staying put.

Or look at it this way:

$3,000 per month in the new condo.
$1,700 per month in the current condo.

So what’s a measly $1,300 increase per month?

Who can’t afford that?

Well, I began to look a little closer at my personal finances, and it really adds up when you start to think about it…

$160 per month for my cell phone bill, $190 per month for my car insurance, $150 per month for my cable/internet, $50 per month for my gym membership…

Then you think about what you pay for “necessities” such as the $300 per month for groceries, and the $400 per month for “entertainment,” which you just can’t live without being a 29-year-old living in downtown Toronto.  That’s fine – I have some friends who believe in “bottle service” at nightclubs (aka morons) and probably run through $1,200 per month on bars, restaurants, and clubs…

How about $400 per month for “miscellaneous expenditures” such as clothing and my collection of those little souvenir spoons?

We could go on and on, but if I’m bored, you must be skipping ahead…

So what would I gain by paying the extra $1,300 per month to live in this larger condo (977 sqft vs 585 sqft) with the larger terrace (1300 sqft vs 440 sqft)?  Well, I would definitely be living in “the place to be” amongst my friends, and I’d be having company over to my terrace ever weekend from May to September.

But as a very obsessive-compulsive, Seinfeld-esque young man, I’d also have a lot more cleaning and organizing to do in my larger condo.  There would be a ton of upkeep on my patio; more plants and trees to buy and look after, and more patio to keep clean.

BUT….I would have a lot more space for my many leather-bound books and collection of Showgirls memorabilia…

The pros are obvious, and so are the cons.

For $1,300 I would reap the rewards of a larger, nicer condo, but I would have to spend a lot more time maintaining it – something that isn’t as big a deal for some people, but for a person who works 70 hours per week – it is.

I passed on the purchase of this condo, and I have to think that being averse to change had something to do with it.

I like my small, quaint condo, and I’m not sure if I’m ready to move up.

The thought of having to come up with an additional $1,300 after-tax dollars each month also weighed heavily on my mind, but maybe not as much as it should have.  I was more concerned with the “inconvenience” of having to move, and the fact that the new condo didn’t excite me as much as it should have in order to spend $600,000.

Time will certainly tell how I’ll feel about this decision.

I’m not sure there is another condo like this one in the St. Lawrence Market neighbourhood, and I’m wondering if I’m ready to move in one, two, or three years – will I look back and regret the one that got away?

10 Comments

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  1. BalliolSt says:

    Peace of Mind is priceless. !!! IF being simple is your way of life.. Hold on to it…. Until wife force to move to a house or a townhouse!!

  2. Lemon says:

    what about a candy machine next to the street figher arcade console? that would just scream “boy in man’s body”

  3. Sam says:

    Seems awfully tough to turn it down. I would probably think of other ways to make it work. Assuming you don’t mind living with someone else, why not get a roommate to fill in the extra bedroom? Doesn’t have to be a total stranger. Maybe a friend that may be interested. His rent may offset the entire additional cost per month.

    But of course, it all depends on how much you cheerish your privacy.

  4. Aguduser says:

    Well, you could have asked for our opinions before making the decision. 🙂

  5. David Fleming says:

    Dammit! You guys are making me regret my decision!

    I would have spent $3-4K on an arcade version of “Street Fighter” or maybe “Pacman” just to emphasize b-a-c-h-e-l-o-r p-a-d…

  6. Aguduser says:

    Well, you could have bought the condo with huge terrace, live in it for 6 months or a year, rent out your current place, see if you can afford that, if not, switch back to the old condo, rent out the new one, or sell it. You may not make profit for selling the condo after a year, but I don’t think you would make a big loss in this market either, and you’d have got the experience to live in it, thus no regrets!

  7. Chuck says:

    Larger home office and utilities = more write offs.

    That would make it slightly less of a hit, if you claim your home office.

    Peace of mind is priceless, and cash flow is always a good thing. I would stay if I were you. There’s something to be said for living within (or under) your means – those dollars can multiply down the road for you. You’ll need them if you ever have kids! 🙂

  8. Clide says:

    If you’re happy in you current place, use the additional money that you would have spent on the bigger condo to buy a second condo and rent it out. Build your asset base as soon as you can, an asset that doesn’t produce positive cash flow is not an asset.

  9. JG says:

    American Psycho. Great movie!

  10. Louisa Martin says:

    Yes, you will!!!!
    Just kidding, what do I know.
    But seeing as Toronto property was pretty bulletproof during the recent scare, and that equity markets seem to be powering ahead, I’d be inclined to leverage up/ trade up FWIW.

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