Should I Buy a Condo as an Investment?

by Vlad Kapitantchouk (VeeKay)

Should you get a condo as an investment? Ultimately, it depends on your strategy… for some investors, it works. However, we're generally talking about the typical investor that is looking to get into a long-term buy and hold. Newer investors often buy into condos as it is an easier entry point.

However, there are a few downsides compared to a freehold building:

1) EXPENSES

Condo fees eat away at your cashflow, and the fees only increase going forward. One of our investors has a condo that she has bought a few decades ago and recently paid off, but since it's an older building that requires plenty of maintenance, the fees are a little under $1000/month! Even though it's paid off, it will never provide high levels of cashflow as originally intended. You could argue that houses also need repairs out of your own pocket, which is true, but there are many things that many condo  corporations won't even repair in your home if it breaks, like AC. If you bought a duplex with good bones, for example, it's unlikely that you'll be spending $1000/month on repairs.

2) APPRECIATION

You can't force appreciation as easily as with a detached home. For example, you likely can't add additional units, add parking spots, take down walls, etc. Some condos even request that you ask for their permission. This affects both long term investors, and "flippers"

3) LAND

If you're in it for the long-term game, as in decades, condos possibly aren't gaining as much value in the long-run as owning a home with land (unless you buy in major cities like downtown Toronto back when it was at a much lower cost). Land is in limited supply, especially with the restrictions on where builders can build (ex. Oak Ridges Conservation Plan, which, don't get me wrong, is a something that we need).

EXAMPLE

An example: we have an investor that bought a condo to rent out over 5 years ago because it was a great price. It went up in price with the market, however, this whole time they were close to break-even because of the condo fees. On top of that, because of it is a less expensive condo, less principal was being paid down. If they got a more expensive townhouse, they wouldn't been too far off with the monthly mortgage payments (if taking into account condo fees), but they could charge more rent because it would be a nicer home and more principal would be paid down over the years.

RECOMMENDATION

So what do we recommend instead? Again, this is a for typical long-term investor. Try to start with a townhouse if you're looking for some with a lower price range. Better yet, start by house-hacking: either buy a duplex or single family home that you can convert it to a duplex, live in one unit while the other is being tenanted to pay for some or most of mortgage. After that, you can move on to the next property and have not one tenant paying, but 2. Can't do that with a condo. It will be more expensive in the short run, but you will be rewarded in the long run.

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