How to make a vacation or investment condo work for you

While condo units are often used as primary homes, they can also be investments or vacation spots. This recent article by Marilyn Wilson in the Ottawa Citizen explores the uses for the extra condo, by which I mean a unit that is not your primary residence, but rather one that has a secondary function.

The Custom Condo

Many people move from larger homes to condos as a way of changing their lifestyles. Perhaps they intend to downsize or simply want to forgo shovelling snow. They may even want to travel more often and keep a condo to make this an easier feat.

Buyers shopping in new developments may choose to purchase two units and combine them to expand their square footage. This is a possible custom upgrade when purchasing a condo in a future development — like opting for granite over linoleum, but on a larger scale.

If you are looking at the penthouse, you can also find out if the developer can increase the size vertically in addition to horizontally by increasing your ceiling height. Such are the advantages of purchasing a pre-construction condo.

The Part-Time Condo

A lot of people choose to move or travel more after their children have left the roost. It’s a given that condo living can make travelling easier, as you may have a concierge to check on your unit and retrieve your mail. You will also not have to clear a front path in absentia. For these reasons, condo living is especially useful if you intend to spend winters in a warmer climate. It enables you to keep a low maintenance space where you can leave your things out and ready for your return.

Of course, someone in this situation can also purchase a time share; however, this necessities storing things when out of town, adding expense and hassle.

Another option is to purchase a room in a condo hotel suite. This means owning a hotel room that you yourself can use, usually for a limited time throughout the year. These are not usually offered as primary residences, but have the added advantage of hotel amenities, such as room service.

Keeping a part-time condo can also be especially useful if you plan on returning to a destination again and again. In a sense, it becomes your “cottage” or second dwelling. For example, I have clients who recently moved abroad but are interested in keeping a condo in Ottawa. This is simply because they know they will return often to visit friends here. This is also a popular choice for people who have children or grandchildren in another city.

When determining if you should purchase a condo as a second residence, consider the costs of hotels and — if you plan to rent a car or bring your own — public parking.

The Investment Condo

Perhaps you are interested in downsizing at a later date or simply want an investment with a monthly payout (through rental income). If so, then the investment condo may be a wise decision for you.

If you intend to move to a certain city but have not spent a ton of time living there as a local, you might consider purchasing a second home there rather than going all out with a pricey and disruptive move. To make a decision this big, you may want to spend time living as a local before you plan your move. Day-to-day life in any city is different from visiting as a tourist. To make this more equitable in the short term, you can rent out the unit by week (as a vacation rental) or with a long-term lease. Naturally, you can also do this with a condo unit closer to home.

One of my friends knows she and her husband will ultimately retire to Toronto. They are from there and one of their children is now enrolled at the University of Toronto. As a result, they decided to forgo paying monthly rent for their son by instead purchasing their dream condo now and having him live there.

Their son is therefore living in a well-built condo in a safe neighbourhood, and his parents have a place to stay when they visit. For this family, purchasing their condo was a way of investing in their future.

Whether your condo is your primary residence or a second home, it can bring you into an easier, more convenient way of living or travelling. Map out the condo scene in Canada and beyond using these creative ways of incorporating the condo lifestyle into your life.

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