Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The right fit: Ottawa Condo rules and your lifestyle

If you’re like most of my condo-buying clients, your home search is centred around location, suite layout and building amenities. These are the physical aspects of your home, and they’re incredibly important. But there are also intangible aspects, such as rules and regulations, which may affect the way you actually live in your condo.

The vast majority of these rules are reasonable; however, they do vary from condo to condo. They can be found in the Condo Declaration, and it’s well worth your while to read them as part of your home-hunting research. (While rules can be added or eliminated by the condo board, owners are given a vote on important issues, and can demand meetings to review other changes.)

Depending on your lifestyle, you may be passionate or indifferent about any of the following issues, each of which is often regulated by condo rules:

Smoking. Smoke-free condominiums are a relatively new development, but they have indeed made their Ottawa debut. These condos ban smoking even in the privacy of your own suite, so that the highest air quality is maintained.

Rentals. Some Ottawa condominiums have restrictions on short-term rentals (that is, leases of less than a year). One condo complex recently made the news for disallowing renters who don’t constitute a family. While sometimes controversial, such rules are meant to ensure that all residents have a vested interest in maintaining a well-kept building with a pleasant atmosphere.

Pets. Some condos ban all types of pets, while others embrace them. Some place restrictions only on certain types of animals.

Barbeques. While Ottawa has no bylaws pertaining to natural gas-line barbeques on balconies, some condos do restrict them due to safety concerns.

Parking. Condos may restrict parking for commercial and/or oversized vehicles.

Plug-ins for electric cars. This issue caught my eye back in January, when an Ottawa condo made headlines for deciding that a resident with an electric car should pay for his own electricity, and for installation of a meter. At the other end of the spectrum, some “green” condos provide plug-in stations for this very purpose.

While rules and regulations may not be the stuff your condo dreams are made of, I’m happy to report that there are Ottawa condo rules to suit every demographic. Find the set that work for you, and – I promise – you’ll love your home that much more.

Marnie Bennett is a broker and the marketing director for Bennett Property Shop Realty, a full premium service real estate brokerage specializing in marketing and selling new and resale homes, condominiums and investment real estate. Marnie is the host of the weekly radio show the Real Estate Hour, a millionaire real estate investor and a wealth management coach.

Friday, August 15, 2014

After the family home: Great spaces for aging gracefully in Ottawa

You may be familiar with the term “aging in place”, which refers to the appealing idea of staying in one’s own home as one gets older, as opposed to entering a retirement home. While our futures don’t always unfold the way we'd planned, I do encourage my downsizing clients to consider homes that are the most likely to gracefully accommodate them in their elder years.

For instance, a flight of stairs may not present a problem to an able-bodied couple in their sixties. A decade later, they may be wishing they’d chosen differently. High-rise and low-rise condominiums with elevator service are by far the most popular housing choice among my clients who move to the city after retirement. Freedom from upkeep is a huge selling feature, while safety and recreational amenities also play key roles.

But there are certainly other options out there. Many of my baby boomer clients love to garden, play outside with grandchildren and entertain friends outdoors. They’re simply not prepared to sacrifice a private lot. Some communities offer condo ownership of semi- or fully detached bungalows, taking the burden of yard maintenance and snow removal from your shoulders. Alternately, freehold owners may hire yard help when it’s needed.

In addition to their lack of stairs and bright main floor laundry rooms, today’s bungalows can easily be built with features that make them more accessible to people with mobility issues. Most builders are happy to widen doors and hallways, substitute lever door handles and add sleek-looking handrails in bathtubs and showers.

You’ll also want to weigh the benefits of living in an adult lifestyle community versus a more diverse Ottawa neighbourhood. Some baby boomers thrive in a community of peers who share similar interests, finding their social lives completely reinvigorated. Others prefer to be surrounded by families of all ages, in neighbourhoods where Halloween brings dozens of miniature princesses and superheroes to the door.

For a small percentage of downsizers, an in-law suite is the answer. When grown children have a larger home, and are able to provide parents with the type of surroundings – and relationships – they desire, both parties can benefit financially and emotionally.

Whatever path you choose, take it from me: once you have a plan for the future, it’s easier to live in the moment.

Marnie Bennett is a broker and the marketing director for Bennett Property Shop Realty, a full premium service real estate brokerage specializing in marketing and selling new and resale homes, condominiums and investment real estate. Marnie is the host of the weekly radio show the Real Estate Hour, a millionaire real estate investor and a wealth management coach.

Friday, February 21, 2014

A Room of His Own: The Man Cave

More and more often, I’m meeting male clients who toss the term “man cave” around when listing the features they’re looking for in a home. For some, the man cave is meant to be a retreat from the hustle and bustle of family life – a place to crack open a beer and watch the game in peace. Others are more interested in a place to entertain their buddies, where Superbowl parties and poker games reign supreme

For reasons of space and noise containment, man caves tend to be located in the basement. New homes are ideal for this purpose, as today’s basements offer great head clearance; as well, there’s no better way to customize a space than from the ground up.

There are all sorts of gimmicky man caves featured in magazines, with d├ęcor chosen along a specific theme: golf, for instance, or vintage cars. That’s great, if it makes you happy. But I’d like to address a few of the features that will give your space real staying power:

  • If watching sports and movies is important to you, talk to your builder about installing an in-wall audio system and wiring the room for your wall-mounted television or projector.

  • Lighting should be plentiful. While an overhead light can be useful, you’ll likely get more use from pot lights on a dimmer switch, combined with floor and table lamps. Consider appropriate fixtures above a pool table or bar.

  • Wall colours are traditionally deep and warm; this is a place to be cozy and relaxed, not hyper-alert. Carpet underfoot should be plush, with a great underpad.

  • Consider how you’ll entertain. If asked, most builders will install a bar, or an in-wall fridge for beer or wine. The more work you can hand over to your builder, the sooner you can tilt back that recliner and soak up the manly vibe.

After watching countless couples negotiate their “must-have” list, I’ve come to believe that women have something to gain from the man cave. I’ve found that many women are happy to hand over this chunk of their home’s square footage because, having gotten what they want, the men are content to let their partners take charge of design decisions in the rest of the home. When a trade-off like this can actually ease marital tensions, everybody wins!

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