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Give older condos a second look!

With home prices soaring and square footage shrinking, people living in big cities are starting to give older condo units a second look. Granted, it’s been about 30 years since the big condo boom of the 1980s, so many of those older high-rise buildings are starting to look a little dated. But don’t let that stop you!

The benefits of buying an older unit are significant – starting with the increased space. Many decades-old units feature larger bedrooms and a separate laundry area, something that’s hard to come by in an age when 300-square-foot micro-condos have become the new affordable housing alternative. I’m all for the idea of spending $20,000 to $30,000 to restore the interior of a 20-year-old unit, instead of buying a brand new suite. Not only will renovating an older space improve its resale value, but it’s also a much easier and less intimidating undertaking than remodeling a single-family home.

Think of it this way: instead of having to worry about foundation repairs or installing new plumbing, revamping a condo unit is purely aesthetic. You can channel your interior design skills by replacing unstylish stucco ceilings (also known as popcorn ceilings) with smooth ones, which will instantly modernize your space. Then, trade in old carpet for new hardwood flooring and update the kitchen area with clean-white cupboards instead of traditional wood, matched with high-quality granite countertops.

There’s also the option to spruce up your balcony with bold light fixtures and decorative patio furniture, like modern wicker chairs dressed up with bright outdoor pillows. Big on plants? Wall-mounted planters will add life to your walls, and make the outside space feel like your own personal retreat. Another tip: if the base colour of your balcony is dark, always aim for contrast. You can’t go wrong with a dark deck paired with crisp white furniture.

While making renovations to an older condo unit is much less daunting and more affordable than updating a detached house, there are still a few important things to consider. Older buildings have higher maintenance fees than newer ones, since they require more repairs in general. Be sure you’re aware of those costs and balance them against your budget before deciding to buy a unit with the intent of giving it a facelift.

It’s also smart to review the condo’s rules and regulations prior to sealing the deal, to ensure there aren’t any reno limitations (some buildings won’t let owners make changes to the common areas, like the main entrance and exterior facade). But unless you plan on tearing down walls, updating your space with basic cosmetic features like the ones mentioned above are generally always fair game.

So, before you scan new condo listings in hopes of finding your dream home, don’t discount the option of refurbishing an older unit – especially if you’re on the hunt for a suite with plenty of space. Once all the renovations are complete and the last piece of furniture is placed, the only overwhelming feeling you’ll have will be the sense of contentment that hits you every time you walk through your front door.

Ralph Fox is a real estate broker in Toronto Canada. Visit RalphFox.ca