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HomeFinder: Condo living a pleasure for newcomers

Gayle and Ken Paterson relax in their third-floor condo living room in the Songhees neighbourhood. They moved from Maple Ridge this year after buying their unit in 2012. - Don Descoteau/News staff
Gayle and Ken Paterson relax in their third-floor condo living room in the Songhees neighbourhood. They moved from Maple Ridge this year after buying their unit in 2012.
— image credit: Don Descoteau/News staff

Scan the condominium listings for Greater Victoria and you’ll find a vast range of properties, from a $30,000 independent living unit near Cook Street Village to a $4.4-million penthouse in downtown Victoria.

Most buyers slot in closer to the $200,000 to $350,000 range. But the scope of properties available, from basic accommodation to luxury suites, illustrates a wealth of choice.

Ken and Gayle Paterson weren’t shopping for a condo when they began looking for a place to retire and be closer to their grandchildren in Victoria.

With a goal of finding a bungalow with a yard, relatively close to Cook Street, for under $1 million, they checked out a number of houses in Oak Bay and Victoria. Then they stumbled across an 1,800-sq. ft., two-bedroom, two-bathroom condo in Victoria’s Songhees neighbourhood.

The stunning third-floor views grabbed Gayle instantly.

“This bay is priceless,” she said, looking at Victoria Harbour through their living room window. “And we love how close it is to everything.”

The active couple frequently walk the Westsong Walkway and plan to launch their kayaks nearby on good days.

They bought in 2012 and moved to Victoria a few months ago, after selling their five-bedroom, 6,000-sq. ft. home in Maple Ridge. It meant downsizing in the extreme. “There’s a lot of ways to get rid of things and we know them all,” Ken said.

The Patersons fall into one of a number of categories of condo buyers in Greater Victoria. Others can include first-timers breaking into the real estate market; people investing in rental property, either as a revenue source or a home for university-bound children; and sometimes those whose family dynamic has changed.

While prices are down in some areas and up slightly in others, condo prices remain generally stable across the region, meaning people in literally any situation can be accommodated, said Carol Crabb, past-president of the Victoria Real Estate Board.

“It’s actually pretty balanced across the board, both for condos and for houses,” she said, describing the state of the market for buyers and sellers.

The Patersons knew their unit, in a 20-year-old building, needed some upgrades. They plan to do deeper renos, but before buying, they could tell it was a well-maintained building, Ken said.

They also knew enough to check the minutes of the building’s strata council to determine how well-prepared residents were for future repairs and maintenance.

“It’s important to go through those couple of years of minutes and look at their financials,” Ken said. “I could see that the money is in the bank, and that impressed me.”

While new condo developments continue to spring up around Greater Victoria, Crabb said sales are consistent.

“Strangely enough, everything does get absorbed.”

While selling out a new development in advance is rare today, Crabb pointed out one exception to the rule.

The Janion heritage building, with micro-loft suites as small as 250-sq. ft., nearly sold out after the first day.

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BUYING TIP | Ask to see strata documents, including the building’s depreciation report

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SHE SAID, HE SAID

Q: What do you like about scaling down to a condo?

SHE SAID: We don’t have a garden or a big yard to look after. We’re a seven-minute drive to Esquimalt and a 20-minute walk to downtown.

HE SAID: Big-ticket repairs can be erratic with a house. In a condo it’s more consistent, you just pay monthly for maintenance.

•    •    •

Greater Victoria Market Update, as of Nov. 30:

CONDOMINIUM SALES IN NOVEMBER -- 99

BENCHMARK PRICE FOR A TYPICAL CONDOMINIUM -- $280,600

NUMBER OF HOMES LISTED IN ALL CATEGORIES -- 4,017

Do you have a house-hunting story you’d like to share with us? Email ddescoteau@vicnews.com

To advertise in HomeFinder, call John Graham at 250.480.3227 or email jgraham@blackpress.ca

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