Consider a Condo

By: Lauren Kline

After one snow storm too many, Michael had had it. "I couldn't do it anymore. I was getting older and I wasn't going to wreck my back shoveling the walk again."

And it wasn't just the snow, he says: "I was tired of mowing the lawn, tired of fixing the roof. I didn't want to keep up my house anymore - I wanted more freedom."

Like many empty-nesters, Michael and his wife were ready for a change. They decided to look into buying a condo. "It was the best decision we ever made," says Michael. "We got into a great development with lots of amenities. The condo gives us the freedom to lock the door and leave it behind - we can spend more time traveling and visiting our grandkids."

Condos aren't just for retirees. Perhaps you travel for work, want fewer domestic responsibilities or are a small family who enjoys luxurious surroundings - a condo's smaller surface areas mean that refinishing is far more affordable than the traditional house. Because they are often located in urban centers, condos are ideal for those who enjoy city living and want to walk to work.

Condos are also a good choice if you are looking for more security. Condo fees often include security, which is a bonus for travelers who may be away from the property on a regular basis and those looking for peace-of-mind.

With a strata corporation your fix it costs are generally lower and definitely less stressful than traditional home-owning. When the roof leaks the strata deals with it - you just have to give your share of the cost. However, this means you also share the cost of the repairing leaks in the roof of other units, so be sure to do your homework before buying. Some strata corporations charge higher monthly fees in order to set aside reserves for emergencies and major repairs. This means you are less likely to have to pay special assessment costs. Inspect your unit and get as much information about the whole development and the strata company as you can before buying.

If you are buying in to a new development be aware that the monthly fees may increase when the units are up and running. The forecasted fees are estimates, but until the place is fully operational it may be impossible to know exactly how much it will cost. So if you are stretched to the limit at the forecasted fee it might not be the right development for you.

Find out what the restrictions are. They may include things like limits on pets, renovations, barbeques or clotheslines. Read the rules and regulations and be sure you can live with them before you sign anything.

Your realtor should be able to help focus your search and recommend projects that meet your parameters. Check out the atmosphere and the feel of the development - the right fit is essential to ensuring your happiness. With a little research you will find the development that's right for you.

As for Michael, well - there's no going back: "I wish we'd done this years ago," he laughs. "The neighbors are great, and our condo is twice as beautiful as our last place, at half the price. For us there's just no comparison."

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