I’m creeping around a colleague’s condo — and I’m not ashamed to admit it. Not really.
She shared the View It listing on social media. She basically invited us to come in. So, despite not having any intention of renting the place, I’m carefully clicking through all 11 of her photos. I’m enchanted by her building’s rooftop pool, the art deco lobby, her California closets, the floor-to-ceiling windows — she has those vintage Edison-style light bulbs — and I’m starting to feel inadequate.
After a few years of living in my condo building, things are starting to lose their lustre. My place was built more than 10 years ago. It’s competing with a lot of new kids on the block.
Buyers and neighbourhood influencing condo amenities
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What buyers want from their new condo
There are five development proposals within a four-block radius in my neighbourhood. So many new projects have upped the ante on the amenities promised. I’ve seen listings for highrises that come with observatories for stargazing, indoor basketball courts, rock climbing gyms, infinity pools, pet spas and garden plots.
It’s hard not to get caught up in it all. You start to think, “I should have got the place with the putting green. I don’t golf, but maybe one day I will. John has a batting cage in his building. I’m just not keeping up.”
How did I get so greedy? A few years ago when I was looking to buy, a gym and a rooftop patio with a nice view were all it took to impress me. My building also came with a billiards room, movie theatre and a party room — none of which I’ve ever used.
But I’m not alone on this. The reality is, most people don’t use the common elements. The billiards room is dead empty every time I walk by. I’ve only ever seen about six other people at the gym and I’m down there fairly regularly. One look at our online reservation system for the movie theatre room confirms it’s not in hot demand.
So, why don’t condo dwellers make the most of their amenities?
One of my neighbours once tried to organize a movie night in there. I asked him why he stopped.
“No one really showed up.” He explained. “Only two people came down and that’s because I forced them. The room just felt too big with only three of us in there. We went back to my suite and watched Casablanca where it was cosy.” Trust condo dwellers to get uncomfortable with too much space.
Beyond that, no matter how glitzy the common elements are, they’re — well — common. You’re sharing them with hundreds of strangers. You’re meant to feel at home, but you still feel like you’re out in public. You can rent the party room and haul all your ingredients and your dishes down to the kitchen and cook a goose for 10 of your closest friends. Anyone walking by can see you through the glass doors. There will also be security guards keeping an eye on you. This feels especially awkward if you are prone to dance.
There are so many restaurants and bars right outside your front door, why stay in when you the city has so much to offer?
Realizing I’ve spent a good chunk of Friday night on Facebook, I force myself to stop combing through my friend’s condo pictures and open up the latest letter from my building’s management office. It’s about the annual hike in condo fees — fees that are determined by a number of different factors: the age of the building, the number of people hired to maintain it, the size of a suite but also by the amenities. The more elaborate they are, the more you pay. In all the years I’ve lived here, the fees have only gone up in price. I pay $ 40 more a month for the gym than I did three years ago.
My desire to go golfing in a highrise fades fast. I remember who I really am: someone perfectly content with a basic gym and a nice view.
Alexandra Slaby is a television producer with CTV. After work, she attempts to produce her own life by running marathons, travelling and spending too much money on cauliflower, kale and Pinot Grigio. She lives in downtown Toronto. Alexandra can be reached at email@example.com.