I’ve had one foot out the door of my condo for, oh, I’d say about two years now.
Combine my extreme obsessive compulsive disorder with my thoughts and opinions as a Realtor, and result is that I simply cannot find the “perfect” condo for myself.
The truth is: I’d love to be movin; on up!
So here I sit about to enter the fifth year in my condo, which I love dearly.
Five years is far above the average time that a condo-owner will spend in one unit in downtown Toronto, but I’ve planted some very deep roots in this condo – roots that have dug far deeper than they ever should have.
Perhaps I need a lesson in the basic “wants versus needs” that I always talk about as it relates to one’s principal residence, but simply put, I have outgrown my condo.
As I look around the living room, I see a bookshelf with so many books stacked on top of the unit itself that I’ve begun a small pile on the floor.
I started the floor-pile of DVD’s at some point last year, and have since bought a larger DVD shelf that is far too large for my space.
I’m constantly cleaning out my closet and giving clothing to Goodwill because of my limited wardrobe area, and I can’t tell you how many things (skiis, snowboard, golf clubs, hockey equipment, baseball gear, winter tires) I keep in seasonal storage in my mother’s basement.
Not only have I outgrown my space, but I can afford far more now as well.
Just because you can buy something doesn’t mean you should, but I’m almost certain that I’m at the point where I need a larger space.
So what’s the problem?
Well as I alluded to above, I’m very picky. Part of my speciality as a Realtor is that I’ll weed through 200 units to find 5 to show a client, and then I might only advise them to consider one of them, if any. I don’t act all “la-dee-da” like many agents and just try to jam clients into anything.
I guess when it comes to my own space, I’m even pickier.
I basically want MY condo, but larger.
I want to keep my 440 square foot terrace, and maybe add to it.
I have a 585 square foot, 1-bedroom condo, and ideally I would have well over 1200 square feet, with an even larger terrace.
Last year, I wrote about a unit I was considering at 383 Adelaide Street East – an authentic, hard loft with 2-storeys and about 1200 square feet. But the 400 square foot terrace was off the bedroom and not the living space (where it would be most useful) and the living space was too small to fit a 4-person couch, let alone the 10-person sectional couch that I desire if I’m truly going to “move on up.”
But even if I did find the right condo, which I’m growing doubtful that I ever will, the question of timing is wrecking havoc with my brain.
I’m going to be 31 years old very soon, and I’m wondering if it makes sense to purchase a $700,000 condo.
My Dad certainly doesn’t think so.
He thinks I should tough it out here for another couple of years and then look to purchase a house, since I will one day be married with kids.
Marriage and a family are #1 on my list of priorities in life, but I don’t see kids for at least 4-5 years.
So can I stay in this tiny condo for another few years? I certainly hope not.
More and more often, I’m being asked to take on a second role as a “life planner” for my clients.
Indirectly, they are asking me to help them figure out their place in this world.
For those that want to move up, they might ask, “House or condo?”
Then they might ask, “When should we move up?”
Well, it depends.
How old are you?
Are you married? Getting married?
Are you going to have kids?
Where do you work? Any chance of a transfer?
What can you afford?
What is your lifestyle like?
Where do you hang out?
Where do your friends live?
There’s so many things at play here, and often not knowing a client for more than a couple of weeks, I can’t decide if a 28-year-old couple, who are getting married in July, should sell their 1-bedroom condo and buy an $800,000 house in North Toronto even though they live and play downtown, or whether they should buy a larger $550,000 condo in their current neighbourhood.
I can barely plan my own life, let alone those of my clients…
So let’s make some assumptions here, and even though I have basically divulged everything about myself on this blog (did you know I was expelled from Junior Kindergarten in 1984?), I’ll keep you all on your toes with some half-truths…
Let’s assume that I own my condo in cash, and I have no mortgage.
For whatever reason, I would rather keep my money in my condo (and pay off a 4.99% mortgage with a very small penalty), then throw darts at the board known as the stock market, or take on even more real estate holdings.
I pay only $370 per month for maintenance fees, and about $175 per month in taxes. My utilities are included in my maintenance fees, so my all-in cost of living is only $545 per month. Not too shabby.
Now let’s say that my “dream unit” comes on the market just down the block or across the street. Unfortunately, I found my dream unit last week but it was at King & Niagara. For $819,000 (or likely $775,000…), the unit is 1500 square feet with a main floor terrace of 200 square feet and a second-storey terrace of 420 square feet. The best part is: it’s a one-bedroom. A 1500 square foot, 1-bedroom is a rarity indeed, and is exactly what a “guy like me” is looking for.
Pretend for a moment that this exact unit was for sale in the St. Lawrence Market area, to which my obsessive-compulsive nature has forever bound me.
So let’s assume that I bought this unit for $775,000 and put down $375,000.
My $400,000 mortgage, with a 35-year amortization (before March 18th) and a 3.69%, five-year-fixed rate would carry for $1,690.91 per month.
Maintenance fees on this unit are a reasonable $595 per month, but I’d have to pay my own heat and hydro, so add $100.
Property taxes are more than DOUBLE my current place – so ring it up at $375 per month.
Including my mortgage, taxes, maintenance, and utilities, I would be paying $2,760 per month.
Right now, I pay $545 on my mortgage-free, utilities-in condo.
So how does this look on paper?
It looks ridiculous! I’d be paying FIVE TIMES as much each month as I do now!
Or at least that’s how some people would look at it…
Call me corny if you want to, but let me ask you this: “Can you put a price on happiness?”
Maybe you can! Maybe that price is $2,760 per month!
How much happier would I be in my 1500 square foot condo with two terraces, one balcony, and a shower with eight jets? The mind can only wander…
I’m far, far from unhappy in my current condo. It’s just that I desire more, and I feel as I deserve more!
I don’t want to sound like a complete ass, or in any way shallow, pretentious, or ungrateful, but I feel as though I’m living beneath my means.
I have been nothing but smart with my money, and I’ve been living in a very small condo for a very long time.
Every day of the week, I show million-dollar condos to clients, and it serves as one giant tease.
I have a client at the moment who is in a similar situation as me, but even more intense! He is living in a bachelor condo which he owns in cash, and I’d say he’s got a good half-million dollars sitting in his mattress. He is living, far, FAR beneath his means! Who knows – he may even have a million bucks, liquid.
I truly admire him for sticking it out in his condo, and although prices have risen since he was looking at condos in 2008, he’s been incredibly smart and conservative with his net worth.
And on the other end of the spectrum, I’ve had clients purchase for $1,000,000 and more with 0-5% down. Imagine paying $10,000 per month in combined carrying costs?
So at what point do I pull the trigger? I suppose when the “perfect” condo comes along.
But do I pull the trigger? I’d have to think “yes.”
I’ll have a house and kids one day, but even if I spend $2,760 per month on my “new” condo and even if it costs me $50,000 in transaction costs and/or depreciation (assuming the worst), can’t I just chalk that $50,000 up to “life lived from 31 to 35 years old?”
I hope so.
And you can guarantee that if and when I do find the perfect place, I’ll detail the finding, the offering, the purchasing, the renovating, and the moving all on this very blog…