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A woman sunbathes on the balcony of a condo in Vancouver, B.C. (DARRYL DYCK/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
A woman sunbathes on the balcony of a condo in Vancouver, B.C. (DARRYL DYCK/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Real Estate Expert

Condo balconies: Want one? Need one? Add to ...

Question: My husband and I have been looking at condos downtown. One of the things we’re stuck on is the balcony. Do all condos come with one? They seem like a waste of space to me. Am I missing something? Would it be less expensive to get a condo without a balcony?

Answer: Not all condo units come with a balcony, but in my opinion, they all should. Most buyers want a balcony, or believe they want a balcony (which is just as relevant from a resale perspective). That is why the majority of high-rise condominium units in Canada include a balcony in some form.

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Condominium units without balconies are typically cheaper, but not always. Take the recent surge of luxury hotel-condominiums in Toronto, many which don’t include balconies, but come at a hefty price tag.

There are many experts who share the same view as you. Balconies are expensive to build and are often the susceptible to maintenance problems. Take the falling glass from several condominiums widely reported in Toronto during 2011.

On the other hand, having a balcony can come with several benefits – the single biggest being, outdoor space without having to take an elevator or stairs downstairs to get a breath of fresh air. Simply opening a balcony door can allow for fresh air circulation throughout a unit as well.

Even with the weather in Canada limiting the balcony season, many condo dwellers can use their balcony from early spring into late fall. As Canadians, we know that we will do anything to stretch the outdoor patio season, the same holds true for balconies.

Balconies offer a great opportunity to have a small garden of your own. Spurred by the organic movement in recent years, many balcony owners have started their own herb and vegetable gardens giving them an opportunity to experience what homeowners cherish about their outdoor space.

I’ve also noticed an increase in the number of condo units that offer a natural gas hookup on their balconies to install a BBQ. One of the first questions buyers ask me when looking at a condo’s balcony is if they allow for BBQs. Increasingly, I’m able to tell clients that they are permitted, something that wasn’t as common in the past.

Dare I say it? Balconies offer a retreat for smokers to partake in their habit. Before you dismiss accommodating smokers, consider that 16 per cent of Canadians still smoke according to StatsCan. Whether or not you smoke, it is a consideration for your guests who may be smokers, and certainly from a resale perspective. Going a step further, it is safe to say landlords of condo units wouldn’t like tenants to smoke inside the unit. Offering a balcony addresses this issue.

Balconies aren’t without their issues, and there are some improvements that can be made for a more usable design. We can look to countries in Europe, in which many balconies offer window enclosures for off-season use – essentially converting your balcony into a solarium. Many balconies can be very cold and sterile in their appearance, a simple aesthetic upgrade can make all the difference.

If you still aren’t convinced, it is worth noting that 1 in 8 Canadian households now live in condos across Canada (StatsCan). Many in urban centres are choosing the condo route because single family home affordability is becoming out of reach. This group of people would probably choose a home with a backyard if it was within their means, instead they are moving into condos – I’m fairly certain that some outdoor space would be rank high on their ‘want it’ list.

Ricky Chadha is a broker with Royal LePage Estate Realty in Toronto, and specializes in applying social media and other digital tools to the business of real estate. You can find Ricky on Twitter @your416 or at his website RickyChadha.com.

Submit your questions to realestateexpert@globeandmail.com. Our Real Estate Expert will answer select questions, which could appear on The Globe and Mail website. Your name will not be published if your question is chosen.

The content provided in The Globe and Mail’s Ask a Real Estate Expert is for information purposes only and is neither intended to be relied upon nor to be a substitute for professional real estate advice.

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