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The condo solution 

When starting out, a condominium can be an inexpensive and safe option for your first home.

A group of common owners wields more power than a single owner. If the roof needs repairing, all of the condo owners pay a small amount without breaking anyone’s budget. - ANGELA GZOWSKI
  • A group of common owners wields more power than a single owner. If the roof needs repairing, all of the condo owners pay a small amount without breaking anyone’s budget.
  • Angela Gzowski

First-time buyers looking to establish roots in Halifax are increasingly considering condos, says Andrew Perkins, a realtor specializing in the burgeoning condominium market.

“Young professionals are especially buying condos,” says Perkins, who says they used to be more for retirees---after the kids left, people would sell their house in the west end and move downtown.

“But now young people are excited about condos too, and for many of the same reasons. You show up, turn the key and that’s it. No hassles.”

Perkins himself has bought a condo in Theatre Lofts, which is being constructed on Gottingen Street and scheduled to be completed later this year.

“My neighbours will be lawyers, accountants. There are two actors, an IT guy,” he says. “They don’t have time to care for a house and a yard, they work downtown, can walk to work. It’s all very easy.”

While condo prices in the downtown core can be very high---units in the new Trillium project on South Park Street under construction start at $500,000 and go up to the astonishing expensive $4.2 million penthouse---condos in the residential ring surrounding downtown and off the peninsula are surprisingly affordable, starting as low as $140,000.

First-time home buyers are populating a swath stretching from Clayton Park, into the north end on the peninsula and, more and more, across the harbour to downtown Dartmouth.

“It’s a five-minute walk to the ferry, and then they’re at work downtown,” says Perkins of Dartmouthians.

There has been an explosion of new condo construction around lower Portland Street, and promoters say the King’s Wharf project will soon re-make Dartmouth’s scrappy image.

“Now’s a great time to buy in Dartmouth,” says Perkins. “It’s a good investment.”

Perkins is concentrating his business on the condo market, and so has created the website downtownhalifaxcondo.com, which tracks each and every condo building in the HRM. Visitors can find details about building construction, pictures of units and price information.

“I didn’t think I wanted a condo,” says Jennifer Bush, an opthamologist. “I was moving to town, and was looking for a house, but as I thought about it, a condo became more and more attractive.

“I didn’t want to worry about maintenance, and where I bought was very close to my work.” Another deciding factor for Bush was security. “I’m a single woman, and having a secure building was very important. I feel very safe here, and don’t worry about that all.”

Maintenance can be a concern for condo owners, admits Perkins, but it can be overstated.

“You own from the studs in,” he says. “The condo association is responsible even for the windows.”

Moreover, a group of common owners can wield more power collectively than a single owner. If the roof needs repairing, all of the owners pay a small amount without breaking anyone’s budget.

“You’re certainly going to have maintenance issues in a house,” says Bush. “But in a condo it’s not just you against the world. The condo association takes care of it. I haven’t had any problems at all with maintenance; it’s something I don’t have to worry about.”

Interest rates are at historic lows, and Halifax has been sheltered from the housing bubble that other Canadian cities are experiencing.

“Prices are very low in Halifax,” says Perkins. “We get a steady increase in prices, four or five percent annually---it’s an consistent increase, and it’s only going to stay on that course.”

Typically, says Perkins, young people buy a condo as a starter home and, like homeowners, stay in them for six to 10 years until a career or life change prompts them to sell and move on to another home.

The bottom line is condos are affordable and easy, and yet still provide financial security for people starting out in life.

“It’s fitting my life perfectly,” says Bush. “I love it.”

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Vol 26, No 28
December 6, 2018

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