You’ve decided: Yes, you want a condo.
Now, which condo?
Not all condos are created equal, and what’ll be the best! place! ever! for one person can easily be an insufferable set of limits for another. Here are some questions to consider, decisions to make, and quick tips to make sure that the condo you rent is the condo that’s right for you—before you put your name on that lease.
Any decision about a new home is tied up not just in who we are, but who we want to be: Of course we’ll use that exercise room every other day, if it’s just there for us; of course we’ll throw a dinner party a month in that common dining room on the top floor. But if you’re not the person who’s already throwing dinner parties or hitting the gym, it’s important to understand that moving to a new home isn’t going to make you that person. If your happy place is Netflix on a Sunday night, expect Netflix on a Sunday night to reassert itself after moving, no matter where you live.
This is not to say never have dreams. But when checking out rental properties that are priced with their amenities in mind, it’s good to draw up a list first of dealbreakers—things you absolutely need and know you’re going to use, because you already do those activities in your everyday life, today—and perks, which you might use to change your lifestyle, but might not use after all.
Having an amenity in close proximity, just down the hall or up the stairs, can be a great way to get through those days where eating ice cream and reading a book would be much easier than doing your cardio. But fundamentally, moving is not going to change you. Rent the unit that’s good for the you who exists now, not the you that you’d like to maybe be in two years’ time, and save both the money and guilt that can result from the change in scenery not changing your life.
Look for the amount of space you’re going to occupy
Likewise, it’s important to know how much space you need. Micro-condos are available for lower prices, and that can be exceptionally attractive, especially if your income requires keeping the monthly rent down or you’re saving up for something big. But it’s a very risky idea to white-knuckle it through a whole year’s lease in a place that’s smaller than you’d like and assume you’ll, well, just deal with it. It’s hard to move forward to the next stage of your life when your home makes you feel trapped and unhappy, and it doesn’t make you a great neighbour, tenant, co-worker, or friend.
Likewise, if you’re the kind of person who loves to be out of the house—and basically uses your home for a place to cook, crash, and stage your next adventure—there’s no sense in paying for that second bedroom just for a sense of appearances.
Consider anyone else who’s living in the house, too. If you’re renting with a partner, think about what kind of space you need if and when you argue: Will that open-concept condo, with no doors to close, force a situation where every argument means one of you has to literally leave your home to get some space?
In short: Be realistic about how you use space in your home, and what kind of space you need in your day-to-day living—and look at condo rentals that can work with your use of space.
Know your plans
Life happens. Life frequently bowls us over, which is one of the most wonderful and terrible things about it, simultaneously. But if you’ve got a sense of who you are and where you’re going, take that factor into consideration when shortlisting condo units for viewing.
Are you looking to start a family in the next year or two? You’ll probably want a second bedroom, and a neighbourhood that’s easy to navigate, transit- and amenity-wise, with an infant. Are you looking for a quiet nest for your retirement years? Check out accessibility features in the building, even if you’re in good health now, because it’s a terrible thing to have to pile moving on top of recovering from an injury or illness.
There’s a fine line between renting for the person you want to be (not always a great plan!) and planning ahead for the life circumstances you know are coming your way (a good idea!) and it’s not always easy to know what side of that line you’re on. But if there’s a definite life event coming your way, factor it in.
Ask about the intangibles
Living in a space is a multisensory experience, and it’s important to ask questions for all five senses to know if a space is right for you. Is there smoking in the building, and does smoke travel through the ducts between units? Is there loud noise anywhere nearby that will disrupt your sleep if you work non-standard shifts or hours? How good is the air conditioning, and if it’s a glass-walled unit, how does that wall of windows affect your unit’s internal temperature? Is the building having any construction or major maintenance work done, and what are the schedules for completion?
All of those factors will be part of your day-to-day living, and affect your comfort in—and enjoyment of—the space.
Best of luck!