1. Not all condos are created equally. There are noisy buildings, badly constructed condos, buildings with a history of lawsuits and problems, condos where value is going down (at a time when prices are generally going up) and buildings where glass balconies are exploding. At the same time, there are underrated condos, buildings with surprisingly low condo fees, deals and opportunities you might not know about. If you’re thinking of buying a condo, make sure you’re working with an agent who has the inside scoop.
2. Maybe now is not the right time to buy for you. Deciding when to buy it hard, I know. In Toronto’s crazy market, it’s hard to save faster than prices are increasing and save faster than interest rates are going up. But don’t rush into the real estate game just because you’re feeling pressured-you want to have a good down payment, minimal consumer debt, stable employment and an idea of where you expect to be in 3-5 years. You don’t need to own a home – for some people, renting makes more sense.
3. Maybe you’re not right for a house. If you like shiny and new, then an old Toronto house probably won’t be your thing. Houses are a lot of work-shoveling driveways, mowing lawns, cleaning the gutters, gardening…If you’re the kind of person who can’t keep a cactus alive or change out the light bulbs, you might be better suited to condo or townhouse life. People raise families in condos all the time – owning a house isn’t a right of passage – it works for some people, and it doesn’t for others.
4. No matter how pretty and renovated that house is, something will eventually go wrong and you’ll have to fork out some unsexy money. Replacing your drains, furnace or roof isn’t fun, but it’s going to happen eventually (usually in the month you can least afford it). Even a perfect home inspection doesn’t guarantee there won’t be problems. Expect to pay 1-3% of the value of your home in maintenance every year. And no, owning a house isn’t generally cheaper than paying condo fees.
5. Don’t borrow as much money as the bank is willing to give you. Its not fun to live for your house-you want to have a life too. If you borrow the maximum amount that you qualify for, that comes at a price: travel, dinners at the latest hotspots or hobbies that don’t fit into your budget anymore. And when interest rates go up (when, not if), you’ll be glad you gave yourself some wiggle room.