Pros & Cons of Condo Ownership

Advantages & Disadvantages of Owning a Condo









Whether you are a first time homebuyer, thinking of downsizing, or purchasing an investment property, considering a condo may be on the table.

I used to work for a property management company, whose portfolio was consisted of mostly condominiums, so I have experience in how the corporation is run, that I will share with you in this post.

Other than your monthly expenses, being a condo owner vs owning a detached home, is a different lifestyle. When you reside in a detached home that is not part of a corporation, you don’t have as many restrictions. You have a certain sense of freedom with the way you decorate, how loud you play your music, where you store your belongings, the number of guests you have, where they park and their noise level, when and how you update your home, where you park, what features you would like to upgrade to, and how many furry friends you have in your humble abode.

Condo ownership is desirable for those that desire a hands off approach to home ownership. But you pay for it! In a Condominium Corporation, you pay a monthly fee, which is usually between $200-$1800 in the Hamilton/ Burlington area. It is based on the square footage of your unit, and other factors such as:

  • The age of the building (The newer the building, typically the less $)
  • How much land/ common ground there is
  • Property management company
  • Facilities on premises (pool, workout room, concierge etc.)

The advantages of having these extra monthly fees is that you can take a backseat and not worry about the following:

  • Exterior Maintenance such as replacement of roof, front door, windows, eavestrough, siding etc.
  • Building Insurance
  • Sometimes Water & Heat are also included
  • Your fees usually also include a locker and a parking spot
  • Maintenance of common roadways, filling any potholes, snow removal, common area lawn care

*Please note that each condo is different and the inclusions will be outlined in the condominium documents you receive with your status certificate

Of course, on top of your monthly condo fees, you will be responsible for:

  • Your mortgage costs (mortgage insurance if applicable)
  • Property Taxes
  • Home Insurance
  • Hydro costs
  • Cable/ Internet Costs

Before you move to a condo, you will also have to consider the restrictions or disadvantages that you will automatically be subjected to. Living in an apartment, or townhouse will be very different from each other, but below are some restrictions to consider.

Some, are obvious such as:

  • You are living close to your neighbours so,
    • You cannot be loud
    • You cannot have pungent smells emanating from your unit (ie smoke, cooking, other unpleasant odors)
  • You usually have one parking space included, and have to either purchase or rent another one, or take a chance on visitor or street parking
  • You are in a smaller area, so you will have to make the most of your space, especially if you enjoy:
    • Gardening (Solution: create a makeshift garden on your porch, if you have one)
    • Working on your car (You cannot ‘work on your car’, or even wash it in the parking lot or common areas, unless you live in a townhouse and have a driveway)
    • Having ‘backyard parties’
    • Own any extra vehicles like motor bike, snowmobile etc. (usually a bicycle can fit in your locker that is included)
  • In most condo corporations, you must have a uniform curtain colour and door colour consistent with your neighbours

Some other questions to ask, or find in your condo documents are:

  • Are there laundry facilities in the building, or am I responsible for them in my own unit?
  • Am I allowed pets?
  • What structural changes can I make to my unit? (If any are needed/wanted)

Every year, there is an Annual General Meeting to find out the financial and physical health of the condominium Corporation. You will have your chance to chime in on things you think would better the corporation, voice your opinion to the Property Management Company, and see what others think can be done to improve your community. You will receive the annual financial statements, news and updates to the community and what work is upcoming for the next year. You can also run to be on the Board of Directors, to be integrated into the management decisions of your corporation.

As you can now see, condo living is very much a lifestyle choice. You may have to make sacrifices if you are going into a condo apartment, rather than moving into a condo townhouse which obviously has more space. Condo’s are great for those with a busy lifestyle, or downsizers who have maintained a home their whole life and are ready to live with a hands off approach to home ownership. Condo owners are usually retirees, singles, busy young professionals, but usually not those with a growing family (unless in cities with high detached home prices).

Please consider the above factors and think about if a condo lifestyle is for you!

If you are thinking of investing in a condo unit or townhouse, here are the monthly expenses you will incur:

  • Mortgage Costs
  • Property Taxes
  • Condo Fees
  • Hydro costs
  • Interior Maintenance (leaky taps, broken cupboards, broken toilets etc)

As with any investment property, you must ‘run the numbers’ to determine if the monthly costs are worthwhile the overhead you make above your expenses.

A simple spreadsheet with your expenses – rent will determine if it is a viable investment.

Also take into consideration the appreciation of the condo unit, location, walk score and other factors in an investment. Visit my Invest tab for  more information.

If you have your heart set on a townhouse, an alternative option would be a Freehold Townhouse. It is not a Corporation and you are not required to pay a monthly condo fee. A monthly road fee under $100 a month is usually charged for road maintenance as well as clearing snow in the winter. Of course, you will be subject to pay for the renovations and maintenance of your own unit, and you can customize it however you like.

Another ownership type is a co-op, which is also a very different way of life, which includes an even more tight knit community then living in a ‘regular’ condo corporation setting. In Ontario, you are only able to purchase a mortgage for a co-op through DUCA, with 30% down payment or more, and you or your primary family member must live in the unit. See my article on What is a co-op here!

If you are interested in certain condo projects, please visit my page with upcoming condo projects, or existing condo’s in the Hamilton & Burlington area.


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