Save. Spend. Splurge.

What I am looking for in a condo (in the future) to buy in cash

Remember how militant I was when I did my numbers on condo-buying versus renting?

I am thinking of a condo!

Now that we’re casually looking for something in Montreal to stay in and retire with for the rest of our lives, I’ve come up with a mini wish list.

A few rules:

We are buying for life.

No “starter” condos or homes here.

If we end up having 19 children like the Duggars, we will HAVE TO MAKE DO and stack them up like sardines.

ONE. HOUSE. FOREVER. until retirement anyway.

Nothing over our budget.

I mean it.

I’m looking at $500,000 maximum but my partner is edging up to $550,000 as his max.

We’ll see who wins because if the home’s selling price is more than 30% over the city’s estimation of value, I am putting my foot down and saying NO.

The maximum I can go up is $50,000 more but it better be for something ABSOLUTELY incredible and to get two parking spots, otherwise I want to be UNDER BUDGET for this particular big-ticket purchase, all the better if I can also have the option of paying cash in full for the house to get a discount / leg-up in the offers.

I will also be shopping when there’s snow on the ground, so that I weed out competition and know that the sellers are effin’ desperate to sell for some reason (bought another home, need to move, need the money, etc).

Hello discount!


Did I also mention I plan on paying my half in cash?

As an even greater incentive to make sure we don’t blow the budget, I am aiming to pay for my half in cash.

Of course, this will mean that I need to work and save, so that I ALSO have a generous amounts in cash reserves after paying for my half.

I really hate debt. I just don’t want to pay interest if I can help it, unless it’s ridiculously low and I can make more even if I just invest in bonds.

I really don’t want my net worth to be 100% house though, so this is a concern.

Nothing with a condo fee that is above what I’d normally save in a maintenance fund

We did the math and it’s about $700 a month or $350 each.

My condo fees can’t be higher than that, and whatever is leftover from paying the condo fees, goes into my own personal condo fund.

Nothing where the value of the land is significantly lower than the current listed price.

I’ve seen homes that have the value of the land listed at $100,000 selling for $600,000. That to me, is ridiculous and a sign that the prices are way out of line.

Major Criterion:

  • IN A QUIET AREA — Non-negotiable.
  • No homes of any kind — I don’t want to take care of any lawns, driveways, be right up against neighbours, etc.
  • Construction in thick concrete — I hate noise, and I do not want to hear neighbours, nor be in shoddy construction.
  • Safe location — Safe neighborhood.
  • A place with at least 2 parking spots — this one will be hard but I’m flexible on this, might have to pay more just for a second spot, to which I will justify a price increase.
  • 2 bedrooms as a minimum — one for us, one for the kids (yes, for all of them!! ); guests can sleep in the kids’ rooms and the kids can sleep in the living room or on our floor if need be for the interim when people visit (if ever).
  • 1 bathroom — It’s the minimum, no outhouses for me.
  • A medium-sized kitchen — I don’t need it to be a massive designer monstrosity, but I want it bigger than a closet so I can comfortably move around in it without feeling claustrophobic.
  • A comfortable, open, pleasing layout — I prefer a loft style but that depends on how the house is laid out
  • 900 square feet minimum — this is a good size for bedrooms and enough space without being ridiculous; any bigger would be a bonus but not expected
  • Public transportation within 15 – 20 minutes of walking (family will use public transit, because the kids will definitely be learning how to take a bus because I’m not a chauffeur).


Nice to haves:

  • Nothing with a pool or a gym if possible — frankly, I hate these things and never use them.
  • Within 15 minutes to a highway without being on it (we travel a lot and our client locations will change)
  • Near a school if possible (elementary and secondary)
  • Near a park or a major green space — so I can go walking around the neighbourhood or park if I feel like it
  • A good view that doesn’t gross me out or make me sick (e.g. not facing a busy highway or a garbage dump)
  • Extra half a bathroom — like an extra powder room with just a toilet and sink for when people take showers and someone else in the family needs to use the bathroom too

That’s it.

Everything else is cosmetic, like how sexy the kitchen is, hardwood floors, colour of the walls and it can all be changed if we truly hate it.

I think I can obtain all of that, except getting 2 parking spots might be a problem if I am buying a condo.

Most places come with only one parking spot, but perhaps we can make do somehow.

That doesn’t sound too unreasonable or picky, does it?


  • Paul Rumohr

    Have you considered purchasing an income generating asset with your $500 to 550K in cash rather than a condo to live in?

    A duplex, triplex or 4-plex in a neighboring community you might not want to live in personally but that would generate enough income for you and your family to choose to rent and live anywhere you desired?

    You’d have the value safe in the rental property, you could live the lifestyle you wanted to in your upscale safe community, you’d probably have extra cash flow in perpetuity, and you’d still be generating both of your impressive work incomes.

    You’d also keep your flexibility about where you wanted to live. Montreal may be your dream city, but are you 100% sure the condo you buy will be in your dream community? If you change your mind, you have options if you’re renting.

    • save. spend. splurge.

      So what you’re saying is to buy real estate just not for myself?

      Well that’s interesting and I haven’t considered it.

      Upon further reflection, I am not interested in being a landlord, and I really didn’t want a house.

      A condo okay, but not a house.

      A house here is not made to last and I’ve seen way too many problems with the way they’ve been built here to even consider that, particularly during our harsh winters.

      At least a condo is concrete and although it may have problems with the roof and so on, I am not alone in paying these fees, it is a collective purchase and I will have the ready cash for anything that does happen.

      I actually don’t feel like I have any safe value in a rental property because I’d need to get people to stay in said rental, pay me rent, make sure they don’t ruin the place, skip out on payments, manage all of that, etc.

      I’d need to be able to generate enough rent to essentially pay me back for my $500K investment, not to mention turning a profit, and with maintenance and everything taken into consideration, this is a crapshoot depending on where I buy.

      For me, it is just as risky as buying a place for myself, but at least I am the one taking care of the place I want to live in, and I am paying the future cost of rent ($500 a month in fees instead of $2100 for instance). Sure, the fees will go up, but so will rent.

      I also won’t be carrying a mortgage and paying interest on that, which was one of the main reasons why I really shied away from buying anything unless I could pay for it in cash.


      The condo I am thinking about is 100% in my dream community, in the right area I want to be in. We’ve lived here before for a number of years, we’ve tried living elsewhere and there’s no place like it.

      All good questions! Keep them coming.

      The last point I want to make in all of this is that my decision is not just for me, it’s also because my partner wants to settle down and stop moving around now that we know where we want to live and work.

  • Paul Rumohr

    Why do you need this? This seems very un-minimalist. You are locking yourself into a non liquid asset that has maintenance costs WITH an equity partner that may or may not pay cash (which means you’re still subject to the effects of debt and interest indirectly).

    Your cash reserves will get totally sucked up. Your real estate investment could crash (I live in the US and have lived through this on several properties I’ve owned).

    What makes this a good financial move?

    How do you suddenly need to own real estate?

    • save. spend. splurge.

      1. I think you’re confusing being a minimalist with being a nomad. You can be both a minimalist and a nomad, which is what we were before, but that’s because we didn’t know what city we want to live in forever.

      We’ve finally found our “Forever City” and this is the reason why we are now no longer going to be nomads.

      This doesn’t mean we will stop being minimalists though. We still don’t own any major pieces of furniture, will never buy a bed (we have a futon) and refuse to buy extraneous toys and things for Baby Bun that we know he will not need in the future.

      2. My “equity partner” or you mean my partner for life, is going to pay in cash. So am I. I just wasn’t sure if I wanted to take a mortgage to take advantage of the low interest rates or if I wanted to just clear the debt and be done with it.

      Either way, I will have enough money to cover my half in cash.

      3. I live in Canada, not the U.S. I don’t plan on buying any other property, using my entire cash reserves for a house (I am going to have about $400,000 in cash by the end of next year), and I am aiming to have about $250K of that $400K go to the house which will then bring down my monthly cash outlay from $2500 to $300.

      4. We don’t need to “suddenly own” real estate but we have been thinking about it because we’ve finally found where we want to live and retire, and it becomes a lot more expensive when we did the math over 30 years, to rent rather than buy a place particularly where we live.

      If we lived in Toronto, Vancouver or Calgary, we wouldn’t buy a place because $1 million for a semi-detached shack is not our idea of a good deal, but Montreal’s real estate has been dropping down in recent years and we’d like to buy when it settles down even lower.

      Based on what we’ve seen in the past 10 years, Montreal is reasonably priced and becoming on the verge of cheap in the upcoming years, all of which point to a good financial move to buy a permanent place, considering we are done looking.

      We also aren’t buying outside of our budget.

  • LAL

    I think k it’s a great list. The only issue is that hoa fees always go up. We’d love a SFH but are currently priced out of where we live. However we have to sacrifice and live in a condo. I think the list is very cheap and reasonable. Ugh though where we live condos are so old they are a pain.

    • save. spend. splurge.

      Yes I know HOA fees always go up but that’s the cost of maintenance considering we don’t want to maintain anything. We’ll consider that our rent, to be honest.

  • Anne @ Money Propeller

    Good luck in the hunt!
    A friend is about to have a child and she grew up in a home where they had to share rooms; it is very, very important to them that they live somewhere with a room for each person, after her experience growing up sharing.

  • Lila

    You made me laugh when you said “I will also be shopping when there’s snow on the ground, so that I weed out competition and know that the sellers are effin’ desperate to sell for some reason (bought another home, need to move, need the money, etc).”

    I like your idea of buying a home and keeping it. I don’t get the point of starter homes. I think if you know what you want and you’re financially stable then go out and buy the home you want.

  • SarahN

    You’ll soon see if it’s reasonable or not – the market and the quality of stock will tell if you’re realistic.

    Interesting your comments on not being a chauffer – I agree with you in principle, but try having 2-5 year olds (pre school age) and making them walk 15-20 mins adult length will be WAY longer with kids! And they can’t do it alone. I suppose the practicalities of you choosing to buy a car already will only extend through toddlerdom. And with many kids, you will always have a ‘little one’. So I suppose I balance that with your 2 car spaces desire.

    We’ll see how your hunt goes!

  • Pauline

    $700 in HOA? Wow that’s a mortgage in some places! But I guess changing the roof on a house isn’t cheap either.
    Good luck with your search!

  • Cassie

    I don’t really see your list of must haves as being out to lunch at all. One thing to note though is that if you do plan to eventually put hardwood or laminate down, you’ll need to check to make sure the building allows it first. Some places don’t allow it due to noise considerations. If you’re planning on carpet it’s not an issue though.

    I had to laugh at your $500,000 ceiling price while your bf is pushing for higher. $500,000 is my absolute ceiling, will not consider going above, price as well, and my fiance is also looking for more upward wiggle room .

  • Miemo

    I don’t think your list is picky. Actually my condo meets all your needs. Except I have two full bathrooms, with a loft as well, and I have a a garage and drive which is space for 2 cars. Walk to metro, bust stop in front of the building, and near the mixing bowl (interstate interchange for 495, 95, and 395 which probably doesn’t mean anything to a canadian but those are our major highways in dc) Too bad I’m not selling mine or in Montreal! Good luck with your hunt. I think its VERY doable!

  • MelD

    Good luck!

    How interesting that you state that houses are wood and condos are concrete – not so in Switzerland, for sure!! Learn something every day… (our house is from 1770 and half-timbered but lined in concrete when it was renovated 25 yrs ago, in line with what is usual standard in Swiss houses).

  • Taylor Lee

    I don’t think you’re being picky at all! We’re looking for houses right now too and many of my requirements are similar to yours: 2-bed, <450K, low HOA, close to the subway. For whatever reason though the real estate agents I've talked to are all trying to lower my expectations, despite my feeling like I'm asking for much. Is the market just that hot right now? How do people afford to live in the city!?

    • save. spend. splurge.

      If I wanted those things and they didn’t exist in my budget, I wouldn’t buy or I would wait until I had enough for a down payment or in my case, cash.

      I think playing into the real estate game and overpaying for something is just taxing on the buyers and future buyers which is fueling the market bubble right now.

      I have no idea how people buy houses and live in the city without significant help.

  • Tracy

    Make sure you use a realtor. I know you are a fan of Garth Turner so you probably are!

  • Emily @ Simple Cheap Mom

    Good luck with the house hunt. It sounds like youre really know what you’re looking for.

  • Gene

    Hmm.. Why do you hate gyms and pools? I stopped going to the pool years ago due to inconvenience and sanitary reasons (kids peeing and adults not showering before entering). But I do love the exercise of swimming. I also detest gyms due to sanitary reasons and loud grunts made by strength trainers. When I went to gyms in Japan, the attendant would immediately swipe down machines and equipment after someone stopped using it. It made me feel that Americans (which is what I am) are barbaric.
    Do you exercise? If so, what do you like to do to stay in shape?

    • save. spend. splurge.

      I hate them for that reason: unsanitary but also that I don’t want to pay for it in my condo fees!!!!! I don’t use gyms. To stay in shape I eat well, walk and take the stairs when I can, and do yoga if possible.

      I do like swimming but only in private pools…

  • StackingCash

    Even though you think it will be your forever home, life will happen and change everything. Because you are buying a quality condo, resale should not be a problem, but make sure you factor it in regardless. I don’t have as much faith as you do in regards to noise proof concrete. Also, make sure there are strict rental conditions, if any, because there is nothing worse than a bad renter neighbor… Then again, the high quality price you are looking to pay should weed out most. I don’t think you would have the problem we have here in Las Vegas where the wealthy criminal element, pimps, rents out high end condos to live in. A terrible neighbor to have…

    • save. spend. splurge.

      Yeah I don’t think I will have that problem here with pimps and drug lords in Montreal. Those guys buy on Mont Royal in Westmount in huge homes 🙂

      Noisy neighbours are the pits but you can only do so much to minimize noise. I’ve lived in wood homes my whole life and they’re SO noisy just with a regular family in them so I am not keen on homes at all. The best of the worst is a condo on a floor that is easily resold. 🙂

  • Irene

    What about laundry? In suite is the way to go in terms of resale.
    Number of parking spots assigned to a condo is often based upon square footage or number of bedrooms. You may find yourself going up to 1200 sqft to get the double parking spot. Which is a bonus in my mind. I live a minimalist lifestyle and 900 sqft for 2 people can feel cramped.

    • save. spend. splurge.

      All the units we look in will have ensuite laundry. This is a must but if I found a place without it that was perfect, I could be swayed to not have it if I had to.

      As for the square footage I haven’t seen that limitation yet. They sell actual parking spots at $20,000 – $50,000 each…

  • Gia T.

    “If we end up having 19 children like the Duggars, we will HAVE TO MAKE DO and stack them up like sardines”- this made me chuckle!

    I’ve noticed there’s a real movement nowadays to let each kid have their own room (clearly, I watch too much HGTV), and I’m all for that IF I could afford that space, but if not, my kids are sharing a room too.

    Quick question, are pets a consideration for you? I know you said you we allergic to dogs, but what about if the kiddos want a cat or turtles or something? What are the rules about that in condos in Montreal?

    I look forward to living vicariously through your eventual condo search!

  • Yetunde

    I bought a townhouse-condo 2 years ago and my list of requirements were not too far from yours. I was looking for our forever home but here we are 2 years later and considering a move. The big factor we overlooked? age! How old is the condo you want to buy?

    Mine is almost 50 years old and the fact that we can’t retro-fit a central air condition system to it plus the harmless but annoying insects that have probably lived there for decades really get to me. If those things are not a big deal to you then you’re in luck.

    I look forward to reading more about your search. Maybe it’ll guide us in our next steps

  • Sarah

    One thing to be aware of is that condo fees go up over time, almost always. My friends bought a condo, with fees around $350, and now pay well over $600 a little over five years later. Buildings get old and maintenance costs go up.

    How many kids do you plan on having? I’m all for kids sharing a room but one room for more than four (especially a small condo-sized room) is a bit much!

  • Young Millennial

    Love the list of requirements and good luck. Just having gone through the process myself, I can state that many compromises must be made. We got a condo that was the most basic of condos but with some elbow grease we upgraded it in a few weeks and managed to save around $20k when compared to a similar one with the same upgrades in the same area.

    We also wanted 2 parking spaces, but ended up getting one within walking distance to work so no second car is needed.

    • save. spend. splurge.

      We NEED a second spot because I think the winter here is too harsh not to have 2 spots… I wish we could do without, but this is not an option.

      • Young Millennial

        You could evaluate the cost of the extra space versus the rent for one in the same building. A few buildings we looked at had parking spaces for rent for anywhere from $150/month to $200/month. Of course if you want to live in the same building forever, this option may not make sense financially in the long run.

        Another thing I found about most Toronto condos is that you can only buy a condo with 2 parking spaces only if you buy a very large unit. Not sure how it is where you live, but it could be worth looking into it.

  • Vanessa

    😀 I’m so excited for your house hunt! What neighbourhoods are you looking into? $500 000 is A LOT of money for Montreal and if you go to Ile des Soeurs (or maybe Lasalle or Verdun if you really want to save), you’ll definitely find everything that meets your search criteria. Keep me posted!

  • Louise @ Good Financial Choices

    Well at least you know what you want, and what’s negotiable – I went house shopping with a similar list, and managed to get all my essentials.

  • NZ Muse

    The one thing I’m confused about is: ‘No homes of any kind — I don’t want to … be right up against neighbours.’ Aren’t apartments by definition right up against neighbours much more so than houses?

    “I’ve seen homes that have the value of the land listed at $100,000 selling for $600,000. That to me, is ridiculous and a sign that the prices are way out of line.” So weird. Here the land is what’s valuable, so those ratios are basically reversed.

    • save. spend. splurge.

      Yes but condos are insulated against noise in good buildings made out of concrete. I rarely hear my neighbours where we live now. In a house it is chipboard or wood and you can hear neighbours in your backyard or even in your house if the TV is on loud and you aren’t in your own little area of land. This is more applicable to Toronto than Montreal but Montreal downtown is terrible for noise in homes.

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