Small Space. Big Challenge?

Condos can offer a very secure lifestyle and convenient locations, but almost all of them offer less square footage than single family homes. However, don’t despair! There are many ways to maximize useable living space in a condo.

The best way to think when furnishing a smaller space is “double duty.” Can your living room table double as storage space with drawers beneath? Not only will you have more storage, but nothing makes a space look smaller than clutter so keeping things out of sight will add to the feeling of spaciousness in your condo. Storage is almost always an issue in small spaces, but it doesn’t need to be. When trying to maximize storage space in your condo, do this: look up and look down. Could seasonal clothing be stored in containers that slide beneath your bed? Is there a spot high on the wall, where a storage cabinet could go? If you paint it the same colour as the wall, it would likely be unnoticeable.

Another way to optimize space is to buy items that fold up. A Murphy bed that folds up into the wall is a great guest bed option. A table that you can attach to the wall and fold down as needed (known as a peninsula table) makes a great place to have meals, but then you can put it away to optimize your kitchen space. If you’re tight for space in your living room, but you like to entertain, try opting for minimalist Scandinavian style furniture (yes, I mean IKEA).

The best way to avoid accumulating clutter is to regularly have a hard look at your possessions and ask yourself, do I really need this wok, or fondu set? You get the picture. If the answer is no, get rid of it! It can be very liberating. You will not only create more space, you will also create the illusion of space and airiness which will make your condo seem even bigger.

Lastly, you can create the illusion of space when you decorate. Choosing a light colour scheme for your condo will make a rooms appear larger. Also, using a similar colour theme in a room makes any room seem larger. An example would be a bathroom with the same colour of walls, shower curtain, towels, etc. This goes back to the clutter idea; the use of one colour everywhere eliminates the feeling of disorderliness.

Don’t let the fear of downsizing prevent you from making a move to a condo. Free yourself from unnecessary possessions and make some smart décor choices and you will never look back!

Bob Fraser is a sales representative with Remax Metro-City Realty Ltd., Brokerage, an experienced Ottawa real estate agent, and co-founder of the Ottawa Condo Guide, a resource for buyers and sellers of condominium properties in Ottawa. Our goal is to help educate buyers and sellers in the Ottawa real estate market, and provide professional advice when helping them buy and sell properties.

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Are pets allowed in condos?

A pet or not a pet?

A pet or not a pet?

Many of us consider pets as a part of our family, and this furry little creature that I encountered during a showing at a downtown Ottawa condo in New Edinburgh over the weekend inspired this topic. There are hundreds of different condo buildings in Ottawa, each with its own identity, owners, board of directors, management, and personality. With every condominium, comes a set of Rules and Bylaws. Here is the basic logic behind the majority of condominium rules and regulations on Pets. Pets are being recognized as a part of many people’s lives in Canadian culture, so condominium corporations must walk a fine line when deciding on Pet policies. For older buildings, they typically have a “cop-out”, they can blame the rules and regulations on their predecessors, but for newer buildings this is not always the case. To generalize the logic behind pet policies, it is simple: You should be allowed to do what you want with your home (including having a pet), as long as it does not impact your neighbours (who you share ownership in the building with). It sounds pretty simple doesn’t it? (Just kidding). There have been countless situations deduced from this logic including “no pets” policies, “no dogs” policies, “no pets that you can’t carry through the common areas” policies, and many policies which include one of my favourite lines from a condo status certificate “no owner shall maintain, keep or shelter any livestock, reptile or foul therein”. To sum this up, most newer condos are recognizing owners right to own and take care of a pet as a part of their family, and are allowing for pets such as cats and dogs as long as they are not a “nuisance” to neighbours. That all being said, make sure to have your real estate agent verify what they pet policies of a building are, and better yet, check it out for yourself. I encourage clients to speak directly to the property manager, building residents and board members to find out how pet friendly your building is. Here in Ottawa, I have seen extremes from “no pets” to very little to no enforcement on pet rules at all.

Travis Gordon is a sales representative with Remax Metro-City Realty Ltd., Brokerage, an experienced Ottawa real estate agent, and co-founder of the Ottawa Condo Guide, a resource for buyers and sellers of condominium properties in Ottawa. Our goal is to help educate buyers and sellers in the Ottawa real estate market, and provide professional advice when helping them buy and sell properties, including Ottawa Condos and Homes.

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Buying a condo? Why wouldn’t you hire a Realtor?

There is no doubt that half of the fun of buying a condo is going out and looking at the different properties that are for sale. As you walk through a condo that is just listed on the market, it is easy to become tempted to make an offer right away. However, before you make an offer, there are a number of things that you need to think about. You will need to get a mortgage, unless you are paying cash. You will also need to find a condo that fits your needs in the short and long term.

If buying a condo is one of the most expensive investments you will make in your life, why is it that so many people do not engage the services of a knowledgeable realtor when they look for a condo? If the service is free, which it usually is, you should take advantage of it. There are many reasons why you should use a skilled Realtor that knows the condo market, but here are just a few.

You don’t want to overpay for your condo. Experienced real estate professionals have access to other condos of similar quality and description that have been sold in the neighbourhood recently. If your agent knows the market and knows how to interpret these statistics, they will be able to tell you if the condo you are interested in is correctly priced.

A good Realtor will give you objective advice as to what location and style of condo might be best for you. Do you want to live in a new Westboro condo, or an older but more established downtown condo? Maybe a high rise Byward Market condo? It’s easy to get caught up in the moment at an open house where there are numerous other buyers wandering around. Your agent will advise you to step back and look at the big picture before signing an offer too quickly.

Are you comfortable reading contracts? A resale condo purchase agreement can be 5 to 6 pages and purchase agreement for new condo can run 10 to 15 pages. Rather than try to navigate the contract yourself, you’re better served by having a professional Realtor, often along with your lawyer review it with you. They will make sure that you do not sign something that will put you in a bad situation.

When making a purchase as important as a condo, you want to do right the first time. You will want to arm yourself with as much knowledge as possible, and this includes having a real estate agent you can trust.

Bob Fraser is a sales representative with Remax Metro-City Realty Ltd., Brokerage, an experienced Ottawa real estate agent, and co-founder of the Ottawa Condo Guide, a resource for buyers and sellers of condominium properties in Ottawa. Our goal is to help educate buyers and sellers in the Ottawa real estate market, and provide professional advice when helping them buy and sell properties.

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Will downsizing to a condo save me money?

Retired Couple

Are you ready to downsize?

A great article from Househunting.ca called “Condo living one way for boomers to save money” brought up more on one of last weeks topics on downsizing.

Will downsizing from a House to a condo be a way to save money? – the answer could be yes OR no! If you are comparing living in a condo to owning a house, in which you do everything yourself, such as repairs, yard maintenance, home maintenance etc., then the answer is likely no. However, if the lifestyle you are looking for during your retirement, or your empty nesting years is one in which you’ll travel, or just one which you will need or want someone to take care of all of the maintenance and worries associated with a freehold home, than the answer could be YES!
We have many clients who are downsizing in and around their current Ottawa Neighbourhoods, whether it is Downtown, the Glebe, Old Nepean, Westboro, (the list goes on quite a bit longer than this), in order to achieve 2 main goals!
1 – to get into a home which is better suited to their current lifestyle, and
2 – to take some equity out of their current home, which they find they do not use half of the rooms in anymore, and either invest or enjoy it!
You can call it downsizing, or even better – rightsizing – actually getting into a home or a condo that fits your current lifestyle and needs! Did you can even purchase condominium units in fully serviced retirement homes – this is a great alternative which allows you to continue keep some of your equity in real estate even if you want all of the services of a seniors living centre with all of the bells, whistles, and services. There are certainly some great options being created to serve the boomers generation for years to come! If you would like more information on downsizing options in Ottawa, give us a call, that’s what we do!

Travis Gordon is a sales representative with Remax Metro-City Realty Ltd., Brokerage, an experienced Ottawa real estate agent, and co-founder of the Ottawa Condo Guide, a resource for buyers and sellers of condominium properties in Ottawa. Our goal is to help educate buyers and sellers in the Ottawa real estate market, and provide professional advice when helping them buy and sell properties, including Ottawa Condos and Homes.

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What is a loft anyway, and do I want to live in one?

Generally speaking, lofts are apartments that are built from former industrial buildings. Lofts are a segment of the condo market that have enjoyed huge popularity recently. In many cities, loft apartments play a big role in municipal urban renewal initiatives that include renovation of industrial buildings into art galleries and studio space as well as promotion of a new part of the city as an “arts district.”

Originally popular with artists, they are now highly sought after by many condo buyers, usually in the 20`s to 30`s age bracket. Not surprisingly, demand for the loft lifestyle is such that builders have taken to creating ready made “lofts” built new from the ground up with more comforts and a less edgy look to them. These are known as “soft lofts”, as opposed to “hard lofts” which were originally factories or industrial space and retain that look and feel. Ironically, with Ottawa`s history of being a white collar centre of government, we don’t have a lot of former factories to convert so many lofts are converted office buildings or schools or newly constructed with the “loft look”.

Is loft living for you? It`s not for everyone. Typically lofts are a very open concept design where the master bedroom is separated from the main living space by a modular wall or light partition, so privacy is at a premium. Also, the high ceilinged, exposed ductwork look does not suit everyone’s taste. Traditionalists would be wise to consider a more conventional condo layout. The bottom line is that any condo investment, loft or otherwise, all of the pros and cons should be considered before signing on the dotted line.

Bob Fraser is a sales representative with Remax Metro-City Realty Ltd., Brokerage, an experienced Ottawa real estate agent, and co-founder of the Ottawa Condo Guide, a resource for buyers and sellers of condominium properties in Ottawa. Our goal is to help educate buyers and sellers in the Ottawa real estate market, and provide professional advice when helping them buy and sell properties.

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Downsizing is such a long and scary word!

Downsizing – such a long and scary word…
Many of our clients have been living in the same home for many years, and the thought of moving and making a major life change is not easy and often very intimidating. The key is starting somewhere – in order to complete a marathon, you need to take the first step off of the starting line. When considering whether or not to move into a smaller home or condo, here are some things you can do to get started, even while you’re still thinking about it!

1. Ask friends and family members who live in smaller homes or condos about their experience – don’t necessarily let them know what you’re planning, and try to get an unbiased opinion from them. (Often times, people will tell you more positives than negatives just to justify their own purchase decisions)

2. Start to sort belongings and purge! – when I say purge, you don’t necessarily need to throw it away, as there are other options (The best part about this, is that it can be done while you’re still in the “thinking about moving stage” Sort your stored belongings into groups – give away to charity, sell, keep, and throw away!
One of the best recommendations I have, is to invest in some recycled plastic clear storage bins, this way, you get rid of the old boxes, and you can see what is in the bins. You can get them on sale often for half price at big box hardware stores. Once you have re-organized your stored items, you can then just have the movers take these bins as they are.
When sorting, if you haven’t used it in years, and you don’t have deep sentimental value attached – get rid of it! (you don’t want to be featured on an episode of “Hoarders” do you?)

3. Think about where you want to be, and what type of place you want to be in. Talk to an expert to find out what options are available to you

4. Get a market evaluation done on your current home – in order to help you determine how much money you would like to spend on that small home in the country, or that downtown Ottawa Condo, it is very important to know your equity position in your current home, in order to do this, you need to know how much it is worth on the market

5. Don’t let others pressure you – ultimately, it is your life, and you need to make the decision – if you let another person pressure you into downsizing, you may be resentful of that person for the rest of your life (even if it was the right thing to do!)

Travis Gordon is a sales representative with Remax Metro-City Realty Ltd., Brokerage, an experienced Ottawa real estate agent, and co-founder of the Ottawa Condo Guide, a resource for buyers and sellers of condominium properties in Ottawa. Our goal is to help educate buyers and sellers in the Ottawa real estate market, and provide professional advice when helping them buy and sell properties, including Ottawa Condos and Homes.

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Resale or New Condo? Part 2

In last week’s post we discussed the benefits of buying a resale condo vs buying brand new. This week we will look at the benefits of buying new. For purposes of this article I will assume that by new we mean pre-construction. When purchasing a pre-construction condo, you are essentially buying a concept and not a tangible item as the condo doesn’t physically exist yet. Instead of visiting your future unit, you visit the sales center where you purchase off of a floor plan, meaning you must visualize the space you are purchasing. The nice thing about buying pre-construction is that you are the first owner and everything is brand spanking new.

If you are looking to buy early and resell at a profit (I dislike the phrase “flip”), then pre-construction may be the way to go. When buying pre-construction, you buy at today’s market price. Most builders have one or more price increases as construction progresses so you may be looking at a nice profit when you actually complete the purchase and take possession. Be cautious when taking on a project like this though, market conditions determine the value of your unit on completion, and market value can also go down!
Another benefit of buying new is you get to choose your own finishes so the unit is decorated to your taste and not someone else’s. Beware of making custom changes to the original builder’s plan. There are costs for making changes and they can add up quickly. The Tarion Warranty covers most new construction in Ontario so as a buyer of a new condo, you receive the protection of the warranty program. However, a portion of the Tarion warranty provides coverage for 7 years which stays with the unit so some resale condos also come with this coverage.

In all cases, if you visit a builder’s sales centre, take a knowledgeable real estate agent with you as they can assist you in selecting a location in the building, provide valuable research about the builder and neighborhood and give advice on selecting finishes.

Bob Fraser is a sales representative with Remax Metro-City Realty Ltd., Brokerage, an experienced Ottawa real estate agent, and co-founder of the Ottawa Condo Guide, a resource for buyers and sellers of condominium properties in Ottawa. Our goal is to help educate buyers and sellers in the Ottawa real estate market, and provide professional advice when helping them buy and sell properties.

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buying a condo vs. a house in Ottawa

Starter condo vs. house
This article spurred some ideas regarding how to help a home buyer decide on a condo or a house.
This is a Toronto based article, where the market is much higher with a larger population to support it. In Ottawa when deciding on a condo vs. a house, here are some key considerations:
– What part of the city do you work in? (If it is in the downtown core, where land values are higher, than a house may be unaffordable)
– What difference would you find in the interior finishings of houses in the local area vs. condominium units?
– What is the average price of houses vs. condos in the area?
– Are there many more housing developments planned for the area, similar to what you are looking at?
A few personal considerations to think about:
– Would you give up living space for convenience?
– Do you enjoy fixing things, and gain a sense of accomplishment when you do something yourself?
– Do you travel often for work and/or personal reasons?
We have a fun little survey that you can do to determine whether you’re condo our house material on our site.

Deciding whether or not to purchase a condominium or a house (or freehold property), is not always an easy decision, talking to a professional is a very important step in the process, which can help you gain invaluable information, and often save you a lot of time and hassle trying to re-invent the wheel, and research topics like this on your own. Get feedback from friends and family as to how to go about a big decision like this.

Travis Gordon is a sales representative with Remax Metro-City Realty Ltd., Brokerage, an experienced Ottawa real estate agent, and co-founder of the Ottawa Condo Guide, a resource for buyers and sellers of condominium properties in Ottawa. Our goal is to help educate buyers and sellers in the Ottawa real estate market, and provide professional advice when helping them buy and sell properties, including Ottawa Condos and Homes.

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Resale or New Condo?

You’re in the market for a condo, but do you buy new or resale? Of course, as with anything, there are advantages and disadvantages. One of the best aspects of a resale condo is that is has history that you can research. You can talk to people who own condos in the development, as well as members of the condo board. You can ask questions about the reserve fund and what major expenses might be coming up and when.

Your Realtor will suggest including a condition in your purchase agreement making the deal contingent on your approval of the condo status certificate. You can go over the financial statements and read the condo bylaws. Note, you should also review the condo documents with your lawyer.

With an older unit, you can see what you’re buying. And the rooms tend to be larger. One of the trends in today’s Ottawa condo market is builders are making units less spacious. With the way condo prices are rising, one way for builders to keep them affordable is to make them smaller. Plus, builders want to squeeze as many units into a building as possible, to make more money. Don’t forget, builders are in the business of building profits.

Financially, resale condos have a couple of other benefits. There’s usually no HST on the purchase price, and deposits tend to be lower, as most condo builders ask for substantial deposit money up front.
But remember, buying a resale condo means that you do not get warranty protection from Tarion as it only applies to new construction. Depending on the age of the unit you are purchasing, there may still be some warranty left (some coverage extends to 7 years) and it stays with the unit.

So there is the case for buying resale. Next Thursday, we’ll talk about the benefits of buying new.

Bob Fraser is a sales representative with Remax Metro-City Realty Ltd., Brokerage, an experienced Ottawa real estate agent, and co-founder of the Ottawa Condo Guide, a resource for buyers and sellers of condominium properties in Ottawa. Our goal is to help educate buyers and sellers in the Ottawa real estate market, and provide professional advice when helping them buy and sell prorperties

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I don’t want to pay condo fees!!!

This story was published in the Ottawa Citizen back in November about extra costs incurred when buying a home and it brought back some memories for me about a comment that I get from about 50% of first time buyers that are looking to buy a home in central Ottawa. Upon a first meeting, when asked if they want to buy a freehold home, or a condominium, the initial reaction is often – I don’t want to be paying any condo fees!!! So, I thought I would provide some insight into what condo fees take care of.

With every condo corporation, their fee structure can vary, and what the condo fees cover can be as little as maintenance of common grounds, to full on including all utilities, so for this example, I use what many newer condo developments use.

I will use an example where a condo building with units all the same size, all had condo fees of $300.00 per month which included Caretaker, Building Insurance, and Property Management. Each owner is responsible for paying their share of the condo fees, which are often proportional to the square footage of their unit! For example purposes, let’s say all owners had $300/month condo fees.

An example breakdown could be – on a monthly basis, out of this $300.00:
Administration: $50 (paying the property management and administrative costs to run and organize the building)
Staff: $30 (for on site superintendants etc.)
Utilities: $120 (cost of utilities to run the common elements (hall lights, elevators, door openers ,heat)
Security, Fire, Insurance: $30 (insuring the building against damage)
Maintenance:$20 (would go toward cleaning, shovelling, gardening etc)
Reserve Fund Contribution$50.00 (would go toward putting money away in the reserve fund for future renovations and improvements to the building)

I always like to tell people, imagine that you, along with a number of other owners are running and maintaining your building (home), which you own jointly, so in the event that you owned a freehold property, you would need to incur many of these costs regardless, just calculated differently. For example, two of the obvious costs that are incurred in a condominium would likely be that – 1 you don’t usually have an elevator to maintain in your home, and 2 – most owners don’t pay a property manager to pay their bills and hire tradespeople.

Summary: In an ideally managed condominium building, that is well cared for by the board of directors and owners who hire a good property manager, I would hope that the economies of scale savings would offset some of the costs associated with running a building, and in theory, it should not cost much more on a monthly basis to pay condo fees, vs. paying for everything separate in a freehold home. If condo fees in a building are unusually high, try and find out why, there could be a multitude of reasons. Don’t forget, seek legal advice when looking at condominium documentation!

Travis Gordon is a sales representative with Remax Metro-City Realty Ltd., Brokerage, an experienced Ottawa real estate agent, and co-founder of the Ottawa Condo Guide, a resource for buyers and sellers of condominium properties in Ottawa. Our goal is to help educate buyers and sellers in the Ottawa real estate market, and provide professional advice when helping them buy and sell prorperties

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