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There is a lot of discussion today about condo living and the trend toward smaller floor plans, but more important than size is the fit. Whether you can afford a 400-square-foot or 2,000-square-foot condo, if the fit isn’t right, the outcome can be less than desirable.
It is easy to be wowed by new developments with fancy European appliances and high-end building amenities, but as a buyer you need to stay focused on your minimum lifestyle requirements. This is even truer than when buying a single-family home because a condo will come with particular features – and restrictions.
Close living quarters place an emphasis on noise levels, location and light, all of which will most certainly have an impact on your lifestyle.
The amount of background noise will vary by neighbourhood. In the city centre alone, sound can differ within just a few blocks. Float planes and rush-hour traffic are typical noises heard in Coal Harbour, whereas just around the corner in Gastown, the congestion and noise of people talking will be constant throughout the day with tourists, and partygoers returning from the restaurants and bars late into the night.
Think about your day, sleep patterns and what will work for your lifestyle. Spend a day in the neighbourhood. Drive through early morning and late at night, on both a weekday and weekend night. Take a hard look at the amenities in the surrounding neighbourhood as they will provide keys to the level and type of noise one can expect. The benefits of proximity to the grocery store will most certainly come with early morning delivery trucks, and hospitals will come with helicopters and sirens.
Also consider the amenities and bylaws of the development. Young families attracted by condos with playgrounds and pools might have more tolerance for early morning noise, whereas a 55+ building might be more stringent with their noise bylaws.
One of the most important aspects of where you buy is the location, as this will have the biggest impact on your lifestyle. You might prefer to live centrally, walk everywhere, be close to work, near amenities and so on, and be prepared to sacrifice space for these benefits. Or you might prefer or need more space, a quieter neighbourhood, and be OK with being further from the action. It’s a careful balancing act.
It’s not just about location of the building. The location of your unit within the development is also important. Think about what you carry with you every day; groceries, kids, pets, work bags, a bike – your “everyday gear”. Proximity to parking, storage, the street and elevator will impact ease of accessibility – every time, every day.
Views can be great, but are not always practical. If you have a dog that needs to go out several times a day, waiting for an elevator on the 15th floor might not be as practical as a lower-level or a ground-floor unit with courtyard and street access.
Be sure to look at the neighbouring buildings and future plans for the area’s development. Views and daylight can be greatly impacted as additional sites are developed. It’s always a good idea to ask the developer and check with the municipality’s planning department.
Light and Orientation
The level of light and access to cross breezes a unit receives throughout the day will impact the air temperature. South-facing units with floor-to-ceiling windows are bright and sunny, making them generally more desirable, but can get very hot in the summer months.
If you prefer less heat, a cooler option may be a mountain-facing view on the north side. You might even save a few dollars on the purchase price as south-facing units typically cost more. If you are buying a unit with a balcony or deck, think about whether you want to sit in blazing sun or would actually prefer a shadier outdoor space.
It’s all about individual needs, preferences and lifestyles.
For additional information on buying a condo, and to source developers throughout Metro Vancouver, go to www.gvhba.org