Monday, June 20, 2011

Condo conundrum

Dh is on a condo kick again.

On & off over the years, since we've realized we aren't going to have the standard 2.2 children (let alone one) to go with the house & white picket fence in suburbia -- and usually after a particularly arduous session of snow shovelling or lawn mowing -- dh has brought up the subject of condo living.

Not downtown in the city, mind you, where condos continue to sprout like mushrooms, cheek to jowl alongside of bars & restaurants, or right along the 16 lanes of the main highway. We had a staff event on the patio at Wayne Gretzky's bar & restaurant awhile back, & I could practically have reached out & touched the patio of the condo in the tower next door. Imagine having that noise right outside your door on a hot summer night (& since Thursday nights are the main party night downtown, a weeknight to boot).

There ARE condos out in the suburbs where we live -- not a lot, but some, and getting to be more & more. Some of the locations are less than desirable -- but we've found a few. Dh is particularly taken by a newish development located in a very nice community that's about a 20-minute drive from where we currently live, heading further away from the city. It's close to transit, shopping and, best of all, it's right on the waterfront. Many of the units have a lakefront view. He found some listings in the MLS & showed me.

I had to admit they looked very nice, AND the prices were, for the most part, reasonable for a fair-sized unit. I would never want to live in a 500-square foot box, but judging from the current listings, we could buy a 1,000 square foot, two-bedroom condo for not much more money than we could probably sell our house for, and pay monthly fees that aren't too terribly much more than we currently pay in utilities. Not to mention that we would no longer be dealing with the problem of yard upkeep, shovelling snow, plumbing repairs, asking a neighbour to pick up our mail for us when we go away, etc.

I love our little house -- but it is 27 years old & showing its age in several respects. (So, for that matter, are we.) We bought it 21 years ago, with the idea that we would move up to something bigger when our family expanded. Instead, we've remained a family of two, and we're still here.

We've done some major repairs & renovations over the past 10 years or so -- new furnace, new roof, replaced most of the windows, repaved the driveway. We know the list is only going to get longer the longer we stay. Dh, bless him, is not particularly handy, which means we either have to ask for help from BIL, or go through the hassle of hiring outside people. This, as we all know, can be time consuming, stressful and expensive.

We have a big backyard -- bought with kids in mind -- that never gets used. Dh & I have never really been outdoors people. Both of our mothers used to have to yell at us to turn off the TV, get our nose out of our book & go outside to play. (One of dh's cousins tells me her lingering image of dh from growing up was sitting in the corner at a family wedding, bored & reading a book.) But even if gardening is something I find hard to make time for, the grass still needs mowing and the weeds constantly need pulling.

But for all its stresses, there is something about home ownership that appeals. Let's face it: it's the American (& Canadian) dream, and by "home ownership," we generally don't tend to think of a condo: we think of a house with a nice yard in a nice neighbourhood with (hopefully) nice neighbours. And, more often than not, a family. Maybe when you're young & just starting out (we had a tiny one-bedroom apartment for the first five years of our marriage), or when you're older. (I like to think we're not THAT old, yet.)

For all its faults, I love my little house. I like the neighbourhood where we live. I like having a basement that can accommodate our overflow stuff (I don't think a condo storage locker will quite match it). I even like having a big backyard. For all that it sometimes reminds me of the little people who aren't playing out there, as planned, I like having some extra space around me. (Of course, I'm not the one who mows the lawn...!)
Condo or not? This is not a decision we are likely to make overnight, or anytime soon. Remember, we're the couple who took five years before we decided we were ready to buy a house, and another 4-5 after that before we decided we were finally ready to have kids.

Have you thought about downsizing your living space (particularly if you've decided to remain childless/free)?


  1. Wow. I could have written this. Except I'm the one who is keen on apartment living, preferably close to the city but with a view of the harbour. I think DH likes being able to get outside and potter in our bush-covered section on a hill. But like you I love our house. So we're torn. I think yet again you're going to prompt a post.

  2. I've been on a similar kick for a while with my husband. We have a massive house in a subdivision where every other house has between 2-4 kids. We are the only ones in the entire sub who do not have kids. Now that hubby has been working in Chicago for 19 months, it's even worse; it's just me in this big house. We are in the process of moving to Chicago (the burbs though, not downtown); we are looking at condos and at smaller houses. My dream eventually is to have a small house out in the country where I can have a dozen cats and dogs. That will have to wait for a while though because the Chicago move is most likely just temporary. Hopefully we'll come back to Michigan in a few years.

    All that to say I totally see where your hubby is coming from. Besides I think it would be nice for you to make some new memories in a place that doesn't have so many interrupted dreams, baggage, etc. Go for it!! I want to see pictures!

  3. We bought our "house for our planned family" two years ago and we have one room that stays closed and unused every single day of that two years ( exception was one or two days that all ofmy family decided to visit us at once).

    I was just discussing this with Dh the other it seems such a waste and reminds me of what we don't have.

    We are discussing our "next home" but that move will likely be a few years down the road because of the market.

    I can see a lot of upside with a condo but I feel the same way you do about living in an actual house. I think I would miss it.

  4. We have this debate. We bought our house not expecting kids - there would have been room for them, but we didn't buy it with them in mind (and the back yard is consumed with flowers) but yes, there are days that I wonder. . .

    Less about condo living and more about feeling like I need to stretch my legs. I don't mind the yardwork, but I wouldn't mind a larger garage that was heated or a basement that didn't leak. . .

  5. Thanks, everyone. : ) One thing I don't think I really brought out in this post is my dread, not only of packing up & moving after 21 years in the same house, but trying to fit everything into a smaller space (vs the larger space I had always envisioned). Our house is not huge, it's about 1,400 square feet, but it does have three bedrooms & a basement. Most condos that we could afford won't be much bigger than 1,000 or 1,200 square feet with two bedrooms. Even if it comes with a storage locker, that won't replace a basement completely.

    I'm a bit of a packrat & find it hard to let go of things... at the same time, my parents are also trying to downsize & are pressuring me to come get my "stuff" that's still at their house...! I may not have looked at it in 30 years (!), but there is a comfort level in knowing that it's there if I want or need it. Arrrgghhhh....

  6. When Sam died, I wanted a change so we sold the house and we were able to rent a 2-bdrm 1200 sq ft condo for the past 2.5 years. The big difference between house/condo living is - you got it - storage space. There is no garage and basement to put all you stuff. On the plus side, it does force you to downsize (something I'm okay with - I have minimalist tendencies) but if you don't, you may struggle with storage issues. The other issue is the size of the kitchen and storage. I find I have to move things on shelves just to get what I'm looking for and as for both of us in the kitchen - forget it. We just bought a house and are moving in a month - I can't wait. I will miss the underground heated garage (a plus in Canadian winters), walking to all the shopping & stores nearby and the neighbourhood. It is nice to have no maintenance but I miss a having a yard. My 2 cents!

    Good luck with your decision - sounds like the waterfront location would be ideal!

  7. We did! Three years ago we sold our 3 bedroom, 1 car garage, big back yard space and moved to an apartment and then a year after that we got our condo and LOVE IT!!!

    We LOVE IT. We have landscaping, we have a pool, we have a club house, we have a gym, we have a sauna, we have tanning--we even have gas grills sprinkled through out the plan.

    Really it is amazing--I was leary at first, but am EVER SO GLAD we did this. IF we have a child--we have room, if we don't WE HAVE ROOM!!! It's win win!!!

  8. Oh' wish you can share some pics of your house. I also want to see your new house. Thanks for sharing.