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Introducing Canada’s smallest condos

I’ve blogged about it multiple times before, but I just love the idea of Vancouver micro condos. I think they’re affordable solutions for urban professionals, and after living in a 215 sq. ft. apartment in Germany with my boyfriend for 10 months, I would be fine living in one again – potentially long-term.

Related: Why I chose to live in a 215 sq. ft. apartment

Anyway yesterday I came across a new micro condo development in Surrey (a suburb of Vancouver) called Balance. The suites start at 297 sq. ft, with the largest at 653 sq. ft. All the units come with nine-foot ceilings, laminate floors, and large balconies.

The quote on the front page of the website: “With suites starting at $109,900, if you can afford the $6,000 down payment, and you make a salary of $17 per hour, we have a home for you.”

That’s incredibly affordable. $17/hour works out to about $35,000/year. And when you plug all the above numbers into a mortgage calculator (I used the one on the ING website) , you get this:

Screen Shot 2013-04-17 at 5.06.55 PM

$524.62 per month? That’s 20% of the gross salary of someone making around $35,000/year. And even when you add in property tax and monthly maintenance fees, it’s still going to be extremely affordable.

The fact that each unit has a large balcony is a big selling feature for me. Being able to step outside is a huge plus, and something I really, really wish we had in our Germany apartment. I also like how it’s only a 5-minute walk to the SkyTrain – making it perfect for a young professional who wants easy access to downtown, without having to pay downtown condo prices.

Related: Could you live in the world’s skinniest house?

However, even though it’s has convenient access to public transportation, I don’t like the idea of living in Surrey – and to me, that’s the only drawback of this development. I do have friends that live in Surrey and love it, but it’s just too far away from the things that I like to do (things that are not accessible by public transportation). Plus, I likely would never feel safe in Surrey.

Here are a few pictures of the condo building from the Tien Sher website:

If you were looking to buy in the Vancouver area, would you consider these micro condos?

Would you buy a condo that has rental restrictions?

When I was house hunting two years ago, a huge consideration for me was whether I should purchase a home in a building complex that allows rental units.

Condo buildings often have bylaws that might restrict whether you can rent out your residential unit. This can be seen as a good, or a bad thing. If you plan to live in your condo, you may want other owners to live in their units as well.  However, if you are buying a home as an investment to rent out, or if you think you might want to rent it out in the future, you will want to check the building’s rental restrictions and bylaws carefully before you make an offer.

I ended up choosing a townhouse in a complex that did not allow rentals (except under financial hardship, which is super complicated to prove) – and that seemed like a great decision. However, eight months later I found myself looking to move to Europe, and all of a sudden I was faced with the financial burden of not being allowed to rent out my unit while I lived abroad. Thankfully I was able to pay my mortgage and my rent while living in Germany, but for a lot of people, that wouldn’t have been an option.

Having any sort of rental restrictions on units in a building will always lesson the pool of potential buyers (like investors), but it doesn’t seem to negatively affect the price in which the unit will end up selling for. In fact, it’s the opposite. In a Downtown Vancouver Ownership, Occupancy, and Rentals study, the median value for owner-occupied units were valued over $30,000 to $40,000 more than non-owner occupied units.

My realtor explained to me that it’s because owners often purchase with their wants in mind, and are willing to pay more for units with a better layout, upgraded features, or a nicer view. Makes sense. Owners are more willing to invest money to renovate their units and make them nicer, because it helps them improve their overall quality of life – and that’s why owner-occupied units usually sell for more. Whereas investors who rent out units for profit are only concerned about their bottom line.

That being said, if you plan on living in the unit that you purchase, there’s a chance purchasing in a building that allows rental units might negatively affect the price of your owner-occupied unit when it comes time to sell. Since a rental will typically sell for less than an owner-occupied unit in the same building, the owner-occupied unit would then have to use the rental unit sale price as a comparable.

I liked the idea (and still do) of living in an owner-occupied community because I feel like owners have a stake in the building, and are more likely to take good care of the common space. Also (and maybe this is just my own personal experience living in rental units), I find that noise and cleanliness to be better when living in an owner-occupied building, and there’s a nice sense of community because people usually purchase property and plan on staying put for an extended period of time.

Would you buy (or have you ever bought) a condo that has rental restrictions?

Could you live in the world’s skinniest house?

If I told you that the world’s skinniest house is just 4 feet wide, would you believe me?

The Keret House – which is in Warsaw, Poland – is actually deemed too small to be a legal full-time home for anyone, so it’s being used as a temporary residence for travelling writers instead. The windowless house is built between two existing buildings, but it is a semi-transparent structure, and it seems to be quite well lit inside.

The house sits 10 feet off the ground, and measures just 4 feet wide, 33 feet deep, 30 feet tall. I’m all for small space living, but this might be a bit too extreme for me.

Right now we live in a 215 sq. ft. apartment in Germany, and I feel like that’s pretty small (however, it’s livable and works for us). My townhouse in Vancouver is under 700 sq. ft. And a while ago I blogged about Vancouver’s micro lofts (Canada’s tiniest rental suites) – which sound like a good housing solution for the downtown area … however the Keret House has a total floor space of just 44 sq. ft. … which seems crazy. But to be honest, the pictures don’t look that bad … and dare I say, it looks rather spacious for a 44 sq. ft. home? :)

I would definitely consider living there (as a single person – because that bed looks really small!) for a short period of time, but I doubt there’s any way I could do it permanently.

What do you think?

(Images: Bartek Warzecha for the Polish Modern Art Foundation and designer Jakub Szczęsny/Centrala, Arch Daily)

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