I’m A “Condo Person”

This just in: I’m a condo person.  And I think I always will be.

I’ll probably get a house someday, but not any time soon.

Living in a condo is all about the lifestyle, and I’m enjoying my life right now…

I’ve come a long way since my pre-real-estate days.

I’m about to write a blog post about how I never want to leave the condo lifestyle, yet I’ll admit that before I got into real estate, I could be heard asking, “Who the hell would ever live in a condo?”

I couldn’t understand.

The thought of paying maintenance fees was a joke, to a 22-year-old version of me.

I used to say, “It’s like paying rent on a property you own!”

Even when I looked at the numbers – subtracting potential gas, electric, and water bills from the fees, I didn’t understand why people paid what was left over.

Now, things are different.

I’ve can’t fathom life outside of a condominium no matter how hard I try.

I’ve seen some of my friends take that next step in life and trade in their condo for a house, but I’m just not ready.  I’ve been writing on my blog for two years now how I’m still searching for that “perfect” condo to move up to, and how I’m the pickiest buyer ever and no Realtor would ever work with me.  Thankfully, I am a Realtor, but I’m thinking about dumping myself as a client…

It’s not just that I’ve grown accustomed to the condo lifestyle, but rather I see the value in it.

Let me explain by providing an example that is completely unrelated…

I have a fridge next to my desk at work, where I keep case after case of bottled water in my attempts to slowly kill planet earth, among other things…

Last week, I found the most amazing thing at Sobey’s: two-packs of hard-boiled, peeled, Omega-3 eggs!  For $0.99!

I stocked up, and now it makes for a quick little protein-shot while I’m at my desk.

A colleague of mine said, “Wow, what a waste of money!  How about you boil your own eggs?”  I thought the value in Sobeys’ Omega-3’s was quite obvious, but I broke it down for her.

A 12-pack of eggs costs $2.99, and when you boil a dozen, you likely have two crack/burst/break on you, resulting in ten hard boiled eggs, at a cost of $0.30 each.

It takes you 10-15 minutes to boil the eggs, then you have to cool them in the fridge before peeling them.  I don’t know about you, but I’m about as good at peeling eggs as I am at threading needles, and it takes forever.  I always seem to find the one egg that has the shell stuck to it, and I have to pick it off in tiny little pieces.  My Dad and I peeled about thirty hard boiled eggs during our summit of Mount Kilimanjaro last summer, and I never want to do it again.  My Dad always seemed to have the knack for it, whereas I just gave up and ate the shell.  We were living in filth and hadn’t changed our clothes in days – what can a little egshell do to you!?!?!

So at the risk of going WAY off on a tangent now, let me say that for an additional $0.19 per egg to NOT have to boil, cool, peel, and transport each egg, I’m okay with the upcharge from Sobey’s.  My fridge at work is full of these quaint 2-packs, and will continue to be for some time.

So what’s the point?

Well, I think that condo living can be more expensive than owning a home, but the additional cost goes beyond convenience.  It’s not about pampering yourself or being spoiled – it’s about a lifestyle that helps you in other areas of your world.

I work at least six days per week, and I usually get home after 8PM.  I’m committed to this life, for now, and thus I think that condominium living is perfect for me.

Every morning, I take the elevator down to my parking spot, which remains free of rain, snow, and bird-crap.  I’ve never had my car freeze on me, nor have I had to wipe snow off it.

I’ve never worried about the roof of my home, because I don’t have a roof.  I don’t have to worry about the age of the shingles, the eavestroughs (cleaning and maintaining them), or about the pin-sized hole in the roof that is leaking, causing moisture to build up, and resulting in mold in the attic.  I don’t have an attic…

I’ve never once raked leaves since I”ve been in my condo, nor have I ever had to mow the lawn.

I don’t have to clear the walkway of snow, and I don’t have to worry about old ladies slipping on the sidewalk and suing me.

I’ve yet to have my pipes freeze, my hot water tank break down, or my furnace malfunction.  My condo is a cool 69-degrees in the summer (remember – I’m trying to kill planet earth), and I’m always warm in the winter – even when I open the door for some fresh air and crank up the heat in the process.  It’s free! 🙂

I have a roommate; several, in fact.  They are all men, and they look after me.  These men work at the front desk downstairs, and they receive my many packages from UPS and Canada Post.  When I buy 60 Titelist PRO-V1 golf balls on www.knetgolf.com, my concierge accepts the package for me, and calls me to let me know that the season has started.

I have a butler – but he calls himself a “property manager.”  When I have a problem, I let him know, and he immediately fixes it.

When my neighbour turns her bedroom into a marijuana grow-op, I anonymously call the police, and they show up and bust her.  Okay, fine – it wasn’t me, but I kind of wish it was…

Every day is garbage day in my condo.

When I was living in a house, the raccoons always got into my garbage.  It wasn’t even worth the battle.  I may as well have just fed them like old men feed birds in the park.  They made an absolute mess, and I had to get up at 6:30AM on garbage day to take out the trash, rather than take it out the night before like when we were kids. 

During the summer of 2003, I caught 33 raccoons in my trap (all taken across the Leaside bridge in the trunk of my car, and humanely let out on the football field of East York Collegiate Institute).  But they just kept coming and coming until finally I admitted defeat.

There are no raccoons in my condo, but if they do get into the garbage downstairs, I don’t have to clean it up.

In fact, the garbage has nothing to do with me.

There is a giant hole in the wall called “the garbage chute” where I can throw away anything that I desire.  There are no “garbage tags” in my building, and no limitations from the City of Toronto on when/what/how I dispose of my disposables.

If I want something gone, it’s gone, and I have immediate gratification.  There’s no “every second Thursday” in this building.  The garbage chute is a ten foot walk, and it takes absolutely anything.

If something won’t ft in the garbage chute, there’s a room downstairs where I can store it until “bulk garbage day.”  I’m talking immediate gratification.

There is an on-site cleaning team in my building daily.  It’s not a make-work project – they genuinely feel the need to clean the railings in the underground parking garage at least three times per week.  I dare you to find a single flake of dirt.

If I rode horses (which I don’t), I’m sure I could come home with muddy boots and trek through the halls of my building, and by morning, the carpet would be as clean as a show-jumper’s jersey.

The only responsibility I have is to maintain the square footage inside my own condo unit, and based on my extreme obsessive-compulsive nature, I like to vacuum at least six times per week.

The thought of having to shovel snow, rake leaves, trap raccoons, open/close/maintain the pool, store and sort garbage, maintain the roof, heating/cooling/plumbing/electrical, mow grass, landscape, hand out candy on Halloween, have my house egged on Halloween, and then hand out posion-apples the following Halloween – all of this is just too much to handle during my current position in life.

I’m having trouble crossing “buy light bulbs” off my current to-do list.  The thought of owning and maintaining a home is daunting.

I love the thought of owning a home years down the road when I’m married with kids, and when my kids are old enough to do all the chores for me.

But at 31-years-old, during my “earning years” when I’m a slave to the suit-and-tie, I absolutely love the condo life, and what’s more is I need it.

I don’t mind paying a $0.19 per egg premium  if it means I don’t have to buy it, boil it, cool it, peel it, and transport it.

So paying a $250 – $300 per month premium to live in my condo with few responsibilities and all the convenience I can handle is worth every penny.

I probably won’t change my mind on this for……well,……at least a few years…

30 Comments

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  4. lui says:

    Decent as no crack house or frat house next door with a house that isnt held together by duct tape and hope…….

  5. Krupo says:

    lui, good luck finding anything for that price, unless you have a very flexible definition of the word “decent”

  6. lui says:

    If I can find a decent house in decent area of Toronto for less than $400,000 Im in…..Love the condo lifestyle but hate the possibility of being surrounded by all renters….at least if you buy a house that is not TTC friendly there is a very good chance of lack of renters in the area.

  7. Chuck says:

    @Kyle

    And the calming buzz of the Gardiner Expressway 24/7. 🙂

  8. Kyle says:

    @ Mila

    There are actually houses in Parkdale, south of King, where you have an open view of the lake from the second and third storeys. as a bonus you also get an open view of the colourful neighbourhood street characters from the main floor.

  9. Mila says:

    Since its all about lifestyle, winning 5 million dollars would change your lifestyle. You will have an army of servants to look after your house, so maintaining a house would not be an issue. Ofcourse that would change things. But living we live in a real world under given conditions.

    Having said that, no matter how much money you have, you cannot buy a nice house close to downtown core with unobstructed views of lake because there is no such thing.

  10. Kyle says:

    OK, let’s get serious here, if you were to win 5 million dollars today, how many of you “condo people” would still be “condo people” tomorrow?

  11. George says:

    It isn’t fair to compare an 800 square foot condo to a 2000 square foot house because, if in the same location, the price of the house will be at least twice as much as the condo. If a bigger house costs the same as a smaller condo, then that house is not in as good a location. Condo ownership is all about convenience, and location is the key element of that.

  12. jeff316 says:

    Agreed with Joren. Although I’d never buy a condo I have to say the expenses for the house are staggering (chimney 3000$, foundation 2000$, electrical 4000$, plaster/paint 4000$, troughs 2000$ – this year alone! although we expected it, not a surprise) and sometimes and getting people to actually show up seems to require the intervention of some extra-terrestrial force that I haven’t learned how to effectively call on.

    Aside from not being able to influence whether your condo building is going to go the way of Cityplace, the other huge elephant in the room is the condo board.

    That’s a huge question mark – sure you can get on the board, but not having direct control over the fees, the management of the fund, and whether or not you’re going to get a ‘special assessment’ on year or not…yikes.

    I can let my house fall apart around me if I so choose (which I won’t). In a condo I gotta hope that everyone else thinks like me. As interests rates rise, putting pressure on investors to recoup costs, the pressure to keep condo fees low is gonna create some significant conflict.

  13. Vincent says:

    Well I just sold my house and am renting a condo right now closer to work (downtown) and am loving it. As a 28-yr old guy, it’s not about partying, working long hours (I only work 35 a week =P) or anything, it was about the yardwork (me no like) and the maintenance (having to keep a 1600+ sq ft house clean every week) and mowing the lawn, shoveling snow in the winter, driving to the Go Station and then worrying I have to shovel my way out, drive home and shovel some more was not my thing.

    But the biggest reason was to save on commuting time. Took me about 3 hrs a day to commute back and forth from driving to station, taking Go Train to walking to work from Union. Now I am 30min door to door and couldnt be happier. I don’t have to drive to the Community Centre to use the pool since there is one in my condo and the less space = less cleaning.

    Selling my home (for a nice profit) and down-sizing also forced me to live with less (selling my furniture) and it feels great. I have more $ in the bank and debt free.

    Anyways, having lived in both, it’s all lifestyle and for the foreseeable future, I don’t see myself going back to freehold homes anytime soon.

  14. Richard says:

    There is one potential downside to condo ownership: a condo board made up of idiots. This can cause a lot of headaches.

  15. Richard says:

    @Daniel

    Here’s my perspective as a former owner of two houses…

    Yes, I enjoyed having the extra space, inside the house and in the backyard.

    But I also had to clean the eavestroughs, mow the lawn, rake the leaves, shovel the snow, weed the garden, trim the trees, take out the trash, fight the raccoons (I sympathize, David), repair the fence, maintain the furnace, clean the deck, etc. NONE of this was pleasant. ALL of it was time-consuming.

    On top of all that, MPAC was constantly screwing with my property tax, jacking it up into the stratosphere. I really feel I was overtaxed relative to what my property was worth.

    When you consider what I was spending on house maintenance, compared to condo fees, it’s really a wash. The only upside, financially speaking, is that a house retains its value better over time. A 30-year-old condo is a tough sell…

  16. Richard says:

    @Clifford

    “Yea you have some housework to do…”

    Are you kidding me?!! “Some” housework to do?? I previously owned two houses, and they were a LOT of work to maintain. One was an old property (~80 yrs) and the other relatively new (~12 yrs). It was a real hassle.

    “Less headaches”?? You can’t prove that in a million years!

    And what do you mean by “more freedom”? I just moved into a wonderful condo at West Harbour City and I feel a LOT more free, thanks to the concierge and property manager. I live alone and I no longer have to worry about parcel delivery. Without the responsibilities of maintaining my home (other than cleaning), I feel very free.

    It’s a huge breath of fresh air after having had to maintain two houses over 22 years.

  17. Joren says:

    Well given that we’re living in a house and looking at about $3,000 for roof repair, fighting to get trades people to return phone calls and provide quotes for work as promised, another grand to fix some piping that has reached the ripe old age of 7 years old, yet another 1.5 grand to paint outside and patching/painting drywall from water damage from a roof leak – a condo is looking pretty good right about now!

    Actually, the whole tradesperson issue is enough to make me run screaming to condo living in of itself. Business must be good – no one returns phone calls or follows up.

  18. John says:

    When you put it that way, paying a $250 – $300 per month sounds like a pretty darn good deal.

  19. Clifford says:

    I mean, condos are cool but better than a house? Really?

    I’d take a house over a condo any day. Yea you have some housework to do but you get more space, more freedom, less headaches, better value and in some cases extra income potential.

    1. David Fleming says:

      @ Clifford

      Condos are not “better” than houses.

      The lifestyle a condo offers a 31-year-old who works 80 hours a week is something that a house simply cannot rival.

  20. So Succexxy says:

    What was your address again? Unit number?

  21. Daniel says:

    I’m not convinced. I think you need to do a follow up with the perspective of a home owner just to make things fair.

  22. Mike says:

    ahh i see the error .. you start with the eggs in cold water and then turn the heat on, once it reaches a boil you turn it off and cover for 7 minutes.. perfect eggs..

    if you put eggs into boiling water they bounce all over and crack..

    there just saved you some cash.

    1. David Fleming says:

      @ Mike

      Oh I learned about boiling vs. cold water a long time ago.

      But I always seem to have 1-2 in a dozen that don’t come out right.

      Fine, maybe it’s the peeling of the eggs that irks me.

      Whatever. I’m eating one right now…

  23. Mila says:

    I just noticed those 2-pack peeled eggs at Sobey’s last weekend and wondered to myself – who on earth would buy them.

    I now know 🙂

    1. David Fleming says:

      @ Mila

      A lot of people at my office made fun of me for those eggs.

      They asked if I ever stopped to consider WHO peels the eggs. It’s likely a disgusting, dirty, hairy man in a factory who has his hands all over my hard boiled eggs.

      Or hopefully, it’s done by some sort of machine…

  24. Ryguy905 says:

    Right there with you David. Recently moved into 920 Sqft condo in Downtown Hamilton. I absolutly love it. No property upkeep, garbage is quickly disposed of, no mowing of grass, no hassles.

  25. LC says:

    After moving from a condo to a house, I can honestly say there is no going back for me. In fact, you couldn’t pay me to live in a condo. Yes, there’s a bit more work to do in a house, but it’s more than worth it.

  26. Cordelia Dias says:

    Great Article from a Waterloo Admirer.

  27. Ralph Cramdown says:

    I agree with your analysis of the lifestyle/expense trade-offs 100%.

    But the other thing to consider is that real estate values are land+structure. The land value usually goes up, and the structure value, less maintenance costs, always goes to zero. So the difference between buying a 1,000 ft² structure on a 2,500 ft² lot, and buying an 850 ft² structure on the equivalent of a 100 ft² lot is, over the long term, considerable.

    I’ve always wondered what’s going to happen to high rise condos when they near end of useful life. Will the owners continue to pay ever escalating maintenance fees? Could they all possibly agree to relocate and redevelop? Will a developer make a contingent offer to purchase all owners’ units and leave them to fight like bugs in a jar over who gets how much?

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