Everything You Need to Know About Buying a Condo in Waterloo
Hello, and welcome to the WRX Property Group website and blog! As we’ve mentioned in the past, the condo market in Kitchener-Waterloo is abuzz with activity and opportunities. Today, we’re going to focus on condominiums in Waterloo. Let’s start out by taking a quick look at Waterloo itself.
Waterloo Is a Safe Investment, and a Great Place to Live
Waterloo’s economy is soaring; as a city, and as an overall region, Waterloo is making an incredibly smooth transition into the relatively new, tech-oriented economy. As technological developments continue to dominate the headlines, Waterloo, too, is gaining more and more international exposure (to say nothing of its premier status among Canadian cities, particularly in the tech world). Above and beyond Waterloo’s leading role in the Canadian tech industry (including its healthy startup climate and prominent international presence, such as the Google headquarters here) Waterloo’s economy is also insulated and driven by its two universities (Wilfrid Laurier University and the University of Waterloo), which number among the finest comprehensive universities in the nation, and a variety of other large employers, such as Sun Life Financial. Furthermore, Waterloo is aided by its close proximity to Toronto and other large Golden Horseshoe cities (augmented by strong municipal public transit, as well as intercity travel options like GO Train service and the Region of Waterloo Airport). All of these factors combine to make Waterloo a very attractive option to live, and/or invest in.
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Where to Find the Best Condos in Waterloo
As might be expected, many of the condos in Waterloo are in or around Uptown. Uptown Waterloo is indeed one of the finest parts of the region, and it has plenty to see and do year-round. Another area with a high concentration of condominiums lies just north and northwest of central Uptown: the University areas. Developers and investors are choosing Waterloo in large part because of these two flourishing areas, so it is not surprising that many new developments, and increasingly popular established developments, are on or quite close to Uptown and the two universities. Indeed, the area around King Street North, University Avenue West, and Columbia Street West is where you’ll find a significant percentage of Waterloo’s most compelling condominium developments. And most of these condominiums take the form of high-rises.
Waterloo’s universities, and the Uptown core, are not just incredibly important to Waterloo’s economy and identity, but they’re also incredibly popular. And high-rise condominiums are, quite simply, incredibly efficient. With more and more people interested in living close to Uptown and the universities, a greater quantity and variety of condos are springing up to meet the demand. Condominiums can come in a variety of forms, but the bulk of available condos in Waterloo – especially in Uptown and the university area – are, as stated, high-rises, though you can find others (like townhouse-style condos) in Kitchener-Waterloo. Note that some of the condo developments are aimed at students (particularly those between University Avenue and Columbia Avenue, west of King Street, which are mere minutes away from both campuses). Others are more geared toward young professionals, and others still are designed for more established adults. Of course, not everyone will want to be near Uptown or the universities. Additional areas to pay attention to include the western and northwestern parts of Waterloo (around the Beechwood and Laurelwood neighbourhoods, especially), and northeastern Waterloo (around the Eastbridge and Country Squire neighbourhoods, near Grey Silo Golf Club and RIM Park).
What’s Your Purpose for Buying a Condo?
There are two major categories of condo buyers: those who are looking to live in the condo, and those who are looking to buy it purely as an investment. Today we’ll be focussing on the ‘live-in’ buyers.
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Buying a Condo to Live in
One of the great things about condominiums – particularly in Kitchener-Waterloo and other big cities – is they enable large numbers of people to live in popular locations. So if you can’t get enough of Uptown Waterloo, or you’re affiliated with one of the universities and spend a lot of time there, condos make it more possible, and more affordable, to live in the location that’s best for you. Condos are often seen as more affordable than homes, too, and they’re perfect for people who want to prioritize location over size, people who don’t want to worry about the extra responsibilities that come with owning a home, and people who are just starting out as owners (rather than renters). Condos also provide built-in communities, for those who are interested, and many have attractive communal facilities like gardens, gyms, pools, and more (each of which, again, doesn’t necessitate extra care and attention, just enjoyment). Let’s move onto several important considerations for prospective condo-owner.
How long are you intending to stay? The condo market in Waterloo continues to flourish, and although condo fees can be on the higher end, the value of the condo itself is likely to increase noticeably over the years – meaning it’s a good investment in the long-run. Factoring in any incurred expenses in showing the condo and/or upgrading it prior to sale down the line, you stand best to make a profit on your investment by living in your condo for three or more years. With this in mind, it’s good to look for a unit that you can grow into, but that still falls well within your price range – note that condo fees can increase at higher rates than rent would from year to year, so try to give yourself some financial breathing room. The recurring prices above the cost of the condo itself (and your mortgage) typically include condo fees (membership dues); heating, electricity, and gas; property taxes; and insurance. Of course, these can vary significantly, so it’s important to ask the right questions in order to spare yourself from financial surprises down the line, and to find the best fit for you.
Next is to consider your priorities. What matters most to you – location, size, or price (price is typically tied to the former two variables, and a large condo in a competitive location is naturally going to cost more than a similar condo in a less competitive area). Furthermore, condos are likely to increase in value based on their proximity to prominent Waterloo locations, such as the LRT tracks and popular locales like Waterloo Park (and the universities). Finally, it’s very wise to look into the condominium’s management firm, and the condo board. It’s important to ascertain the condo board’s reputation, as they will be making decisions that have a significant bearing on your time in the condominium. You own your condo, meaning the space inside your specific unit, and in almost all cases there will also be commonly-owned areas. Things like maintenance of these common areas are within the purview of the condo board/association (this includes shared facilities like pools, and the condo’s exterior – essentially, everything outside of your specific unit). In addition to checking up on the condo board, you should have a look at the specific bylaws governing your prospective condo – this way you can determine things like who is responsible for repairs within your unit, and any policies specific to that condo. The more you know, the better.
If you’re interested in buying a condo in Waterloo as an investment, there are two major paths. The first is using your condo as a rental property. This can, of course, be quite lucrative over time, provided you’re willing to put in a bit of work. We will dive into this path in much greater depth in a couple days, but in short: the demand for condos in Waterloo is not going away. There are also numerous, new developments on the horizon, so if you’re looking to invest in a condominium in Waterloo, it’s a great time to get started. Again, we will be covering this in greater detail soon.
Waterloo is a fantastic city to live in, and more and more people are choosing to live in one of its many condominiums. So whether you’re moving to Waterloo from Toronto and eager to enjoy the perks of downtown living (or Uptown living, as it were) without Toronto prices; or you’re a student looking to live close to campus but in a space of your own; or you just value the advantages of condo-living, Waterloo has many great options for you. If you’d like to learn more, or if you’d like the professional Realtors at WRX Property Group to work with you to find the perfect place for you, please don’t hesitate to contact us. We love Waterloo, we’re excited about its growing condo market, and we’d be happy to help you however we can.
Written by Will Kummer