- Stable payments
- Worry-free, low maintenance living
- Chance to live in different areas of town
- More affordable in some areas
- Low commitment
1. It Is Expensive
Probably more expensive than you think! First you have your closing costs, and then you need to start paying mortgage payments, maintenance fees, property taxes, hydro, and general maintenance of your space! There are also a lot of unexpected costs. For instance, because my condo was a relatively new build (I am the second owner) the property taxes hadn't been assessed yet. The seller's portion of expected taxes was taken off the sale price, so I didn't exactly get a wad of cash for them. And then when the back taxes were owed, I ended up paying owing about $500 a month for 6 months. That means 68% of my income was going to my mortgage, maintenance fees, taxes, and hydro. SIXTY EIGHT PERCENT! Once it was paid off, I ended up owing no taxes for a year because I overpaid (it is through my mortgage company and they only reassess every 6 months). Even still, I was spending around 50% of my income on just living costs. Insanity! Luckily I have a much higher income now, but it is still shocking that I survived that time without going into debt!
You may not think of this when buying a condo- but maintenance fees can go up! My condo fees went up around 25-29% two years in a row! That was an unexpected expense that I suddenly had to adjust for! It wasn't a huge impact in a small condo like mine, but in a larger unit it could be quite substantial.
Other costs? Closing costs when you buy and sell can be quite high! Plus if you don't put 20% down you need to pay money to the CMHC as "insurance" for being a higher risk mortgagee. That meant about $4000 added to my mortgage!
Lastly, you can't rule out maintenance costs of a home. My condo is still only 5 years old so it is in great shape, but you never know when something expensive will hit and you have to pay for the repair or replacement of that broken item!
2. You Might Not Make Money
Everyone talks about owning a house vs. renting as being the better choice financially. Renting is thought of as "throwing your money away". I find this ridiculous! If I add up the amount I spend per month on interest on the mortgage, maintenance fees, property taxes, and utilities it is roughly $1000!! I could get a decent place for $1000 a month, especially if I shared. That is money that I will not see a return on!
And I should add in here- for people that own homes versus condos- I do have maintenance fees, but my utilities and insurance (and probably property taxes) are much lower than a house. I think a house would actually be more expensive than my maintenance fees.
You then might argue that I can sell my place and make a profit. This is true- if I am lucky. But if you take into account that I have spent $12,000 a year NOT on the principal of my mortgage, that is $36,000 over 3 years. Lemme tell you, while I have been lucky enough to see growth in my condo's value, it is not $36,000. So I really don't think I am making money so much as breaking even on my investment. I actually have a spreadsheet on what I need would need to sell for (after closing costs!) to break even. If I had spent $1000 on rent and invested the difference (ie- my actual principal payments) I would probably have close to the same net worth as I have now. I did the math! The return on my principal payments vs. the increase in value of the condo is about a 6% return, before closing costs. My closing costs would eat up most of my return. Better than market rates right now, but it can be completely eroded in the market quite fast.
Plus, when you sell you can lose 5% of the value to just the realtors' fees. Yikes! Of course...that assumes the value of your home doesn't fall. Then YOU actually have to write a cheque to sell your place. There used to be a show on HGTV called My First Sale and I saw a lot of those people going into the red in an attempt to sell their homes because values had dropped to less than they owed/closing costs.
I realize that with renting you never get your money back- but you are also buying a roof over your head while you live there. I have term insurance that makes no money and I will never get a return on, but it serves a purpose. Keep it in perspective!
3. You Have to Commit
It is really hard to overhaul the home you buy- and even harder to move it to another location! They say to make your investment worth it (in terms of all the costs associated with it), you need to own the place for about 5 years. I was a little naive when I bought my condo. I thought I would live here for a couple of years and then meet Mr. Right and move into a bigger place and rent this one out. Little problem though- where do I expect to get my next down payment when I am putting a lot of extra savings into my mortgage? Luckily (?) Mr. Right has been elusive so I have been quite happy here for 3 years and maybe I will make it to 5!
All said, I do enjoy owning my own place. I just want to get the message out there that it is not the cash cow that everyone thinks it is! Renting a place is not throwing away your money because it has a lot of benefits and offers a lot of peace of mind! I can't even imagine what I would have done in those early years if I had lost my job or become incapable of working- I could NOT save a large enough emergency fund with the payments I was making.