In my more than 30 years as a Realtor in Ottawa, one of the biggest changes I’ve seen has been the boom in popularity of condominium projects over the past 15 years or more.

If you’ve driven or walked neighbourhoods such as Westboro, the ByWard Market or Centretown in recent years, you’ve probably seen new condo projects going up at a dizzying pace.

When clients approach me about helping them to buy a condo unit, I’m able to draw on decades of personal and professional experience and knowledge of the local condo market.

I’ve purchased and lived in Ottawa condo units, so I’ve experienced them first-hand. As a Realtor who works extensively in the city’s established central neighbourhoods, I bean helping clients buy and sell condo units back when they were still a very small part of the market.

Since those days, condo units have grown dramatically in popularity, particularly with first-time buyers.

For starters, average prices for condo units are considerably lower than for a traditional detached home.

In March of 2018, the average sale price of a condominium unit in our area was $275,592.  The average price for a residential-class (non-condo) property, by contrast, was $447,561.

Many condo buyers like the ease of the condo way of life, where things like snow removal and landscaping are covered by the monthly condominium fees they pay. Some condo buildings also have hotel-like amenities, such as roof terraces, party rooms, guest suites, swimming pools and gyms.

Condo units have been popular with many of my retirement-age clients who have raised families in traditional suburban houses and then decided to downsize to a condo unit in a central neighbourhood, where they enjoy being able to walk to central attractions like the National Arts Centre, National Gallery of Canada, the ByWard Market and the Rideau Centre.

If you think you might be interested in purchasing a condo, I’m happy to share my personal and professional knowledge, and to fill you in on some of the ins and outs to help you decide if condo living is right for you.

I can explain what makes condo ownership different from owning a traditional residential unit.

To clear up one misconception, many people think that the word condominium refers to a specific type of building or apartment. In fact, the term refers to the type of legal ownership involved. Condo units can be found in high-rises, townhouses, duplexes, triplexes and low-rise buildings.

With a condo, you own a specific “unit” and you share ownership of common elements, such as building lobbies, hallways, elevators and amenities, with other unit owners. Some condo units, known as freehold condominiums, include ownership of the land that your unit is on.

If all of this is new to you, and you’d like to read more to help you decide if a condo is right for you, one excellent source of information is the website of the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC).

When you click on the site’s “Buying a Home” tab on the main page, you’ll find a Condominium Buyer’s Guide.  The guide offers a detailed primer on the things you should know and watch for when considering condo ownership.

It takes you through how condos work, including the monthly condominium fees that pay for common elements and upkeep, the reserve fund that sets funds aside for longer-term repairs, and some of the rules you could face.

As these rules vary, the CMHC says it’s important that you review a condo’s current rules, bylaws and declarations before you make an offer on a unit.

Some first-time buyers are surprised to hear a condo board can pass rules about very specific things, like the maximum size of dogs that are allowed or the kind of vehicles allowed in your parking spot.  For example, you might not be allowed to park a boat or recreational vehicle.

The CMHC also takes you through the rights and responsibilities you have when you own a condo unit and become a member of the condo corporation, and how you can participate in decisions affecting the condo.

The guide includes pros and cons to help you decide if condo life is right for you. For example, while advantages include the ease of maintenance and amenities like a pool or gym, consider that you don’t always have a say when maintenance and repairs are done, you pay for amenities even if you don’t use them, and you can sometimes face additional one-time charges or sudden increases in your monthly condo fees to pay for unexpected repairs. However, keep in mind you can also face unexpected bills with a traditional detached house, when, for example, you suddenly learn that your roof needs to be replaced.

Condo units will also generally be smaller than a traditional detached house. Many empty-nesters find they need to pare down their belongings dramatically when moving to a condo unit, but on the positive side, many say they are happy with a less cluttered existence.

The CMHC guide also offers a list of frequently asked questions. It takes you through the buying process and offers a glossary of commonly used condo terms that are helpful to know for buyers.

Of course, if you are searching for a condo, I will be chatting with you to find out what kind of condo might be best suited to your needs. And when you reach the point of making an offer, you will have a lawyer on your side (we recommend one with specific experience in condo purchases), to help alert you to any concerns.

Condo living is not for everyone, and only you can decide if it would work for you. If you think your answer is a yes, I’d love to fill you in on the local market and give you additional information to help you decide. If a traditional detached residence with a lawn and garden is more your style, then of course I can help you with that search as well.

You can get in touch with me through my website, at nancybenson.com, where you can also view my current listings. You can give me a call at 613-747-4747.

CLICK HERE to read the CMHC’s guide to buying a condo.