Finance: Condo Is The New Starter Home
Home prices in the GTA have been consistently rising.
Currently the cost of a single detached home in Toronto, for example, is more than $1.8 million, a price tag far out of reach for many families.
With home prices up significantly many couples with kids are now looking towards condominium living as a more convenient and economical option. No doubt condo living has perks that many families recognized years ago, but rising home prices have encouraged others, who may not have seen it as an option, to think beyond the typical detached home as a place to raise kids.
According to the latest data from Statistics Canada one out of eight Canadian dwellings were condos. More than 42 per cent of them were occupied by couples, many with children.
Family friendly condos are available across the country at every price point. Many feature dedicated play rooms, kid friendly swimming pools and easy access to childcare. Raising kids is expensive, and the added bonus of the cost effectiveness of communal living is attractive to many couples with kids. Here are some things to consider when making condo living a choice for your family.
A condo is not going to have the same elbow room as a detached home. It may also not have direct access to greenspace, like a backyard. But smaller space means a lot less to furnish and that is a money saver. Pick a condo that has easy access to parks and libraries to keep kids occupied and outside. When searching for your new home ask if the condo has any dedicated places for kids to play. This can make your small space feel much bigger once you move in.
Lower utility costs
One of the biggest money savers is your utility costs, which will be much lower than if you lived in a detached home. Hydro, water and gas will all be less. Condominium living comes with a monthly maintenance fee that should be figured into your overall budget. This often covers the cost of maintaining the communal areas, paying for concierge service and upkeep of the parking lot. This is no different than maintenance costs on a home that owners would pay out of pocket.
One of the most overlooked aspects of condominium living for families is the sense of community. Living in close quarters means you meet your neighbours regularly, in the hallway, in the lobby, in the communal fitness and entertainment areas. This can make it easy for parents to arrange play dates with other parents, find out what family friendly events are happening and even arrange your own family focused parties. There is an intrinsic benefit in knowing there are people just like you in such close proximity.
Condo living can give families a sense of security that a single detached home may not. Most condos have a security system that you need to ring before you can get it. Many have a security guard or concierge around the clock. These features means no one who doesn’t live in the building or is their guest can get access inside. This in and of itself can create a sense of security, not only for your kids but also for you. Also, when you take a long family holiday, as many do over the Christmas break, you know there is always someone keeping a watchful eye on your home.
Living in a condominium can be a huge money saver for families. It’s not for everyone. But with more builders focusing on larger units with kid friendly spaces, it is becoming a possible option for many families with kids.
RUBINA AHMED-HAQ is a journalist and personal finance expert. She is HPG’s Finance Editor. She regularly appears on CBC Radio and TV. She is a contributor on CTV Your Morning and Global Toronto. She has a BA from York University, received her post graduate journalism diploma from Humber College and has completed the CSC.
Follow her on Twitter @alwayssavemoney.