A young woman sitting on a couch in her condo

Real Q&A: Buying My First Condo in Ottawa

In the Real Q&A series, John Castle shares answers to real questions about Ottawa real estate.

Questions

“As a huge milestone in my life, I’m just about ready to buy my first place. Took forever and I’m pretty excited. I work downtown and don’t want to live in the burbs. I was wondering a few things:

  1. What are the best condo builders in town?
  2. The Gotham building, know anything about it? I’ve heard stay away, and I’ve read it’s fine.
  3. Advice? Condo fees seem frustrating, but I understand they can actually improve the value of a unit over time.
  4. Are pre-builds a good idea? I’m not excited about leaving my money tied up for a year with some condo builder. Thanks for any advice you have.”

Answer

As far as high-rise condos go, Charles Fort’s reputation is second to none. Domicile and tamarack have strong reputations as well.

Lamb developments (the people behind Gotham) currently doesn’t have the best reputation as a builder, in Ottawa.  Success in general contracting depends a lot on your relationships with the local sub-trades and project managers. I don’t think Lamb had the benefit of those relationships when they started the project. That said, with more projects under their belt, who’s to say they won’t do better. The owner certainly isn’t shying away from remedying the problems with Gotham. If he’s similarly dedicated to doing things better next time around, the next build could be much different.

Condo fees are always going to be higher than advertised on a new build. Estimate twice the advertised fee after the first year. The management of condominium funds almost always leaves much to be desired. There is usually continual movement beyond that initial increase, which typically outpaces inflation. This can really dampen the affordability, and consequently, value, of your unit. If you care enough about that, and if you have the time, then get on your board right at the beginning. From my experience, a single prudent board member can make a world of difference.

Pre-builds are an interesting investment. They carry some extra financial risk, but the deals are good enough to motivate a lot of people to look past it. If you can afford the worst-case scenarios (multiple delays and the eventual loss of your deposit), then maybe they’re something to consider. That said, the worst cases are far from being typical cases.

 

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