How to turn your condo into a family home
How to perfect condo living with a family
Home prices have been falling in Vancouver since mid-2018; however, affordable family homes are still out of reach for most of us. Vancouver has a serious lack of 3 and 4-bedroom condos, which makes it difficult for most families to live in the city. It turns out there are a few ways to turn a 2-bedroom condo into a comfortable family home that you can afford.
In this post, we’ll explain why condo living with a family is important, how to perfect living in a condo with your family, and provide eight suggestions if you’re new to family life in a condo.
What is family living in a condo and why does it matter?
Sky-high Vancouver house prices are driving families away, leaving a city with no children. A large influence for the exodus is cultural – Canadians were raised to believe children need a house with a backyard to grow and thrive. Another key factor is Canadians haven’t learned lessons from Europe where raising a family in an apartment has been the norm for generations.
This article shares some expert cosmopolitan living tips from across the Atlantic.
1. Add another bedroom
You’ve been looking for new places to buy, and the only homes in your price range are 2-bedroom condos. The location is perfect for work and schools, and the master bedroom is what you and your partner have dreamed of. However, the problem is, your 13-year-old daughter absolutely refuses to share a room with her 7-year-old brother. If only you could add another room…
This is totally possible if you buy the right kind of place, hire a skilled architect, and accept a little less communal space.
Buy the right place
Knowing a little about the building regulations is important to select an appropriate place to buy. I spent some time on the phone with the City of Vancouver building regulation department, and here are the key takeaways:
Plans that comply with building code (Height, fire safety, doors) will be approved.
Livability is the biggest concern; this is determined by square footage and lighting and is dependent on the zoning.
Strata approval is more difficult, but most will accept any changes you wish to make if you have a valid reason. When buying a home, review the past strata meeting minutes to see how the strata have handled other homeowner requests.
Buildings with sprinkler systems don’t require a window in the bedroom (Though a window in all bedrooms is highly advised).
You want to look for a particularly spacious 2-bed condo. These condos are at the higher end of the 2-bed price range but will be more affordable than a 3-bed condo. There are several ways to add a room: You could split a bedroom, carve a new room from your dining room area ,or fully re-engineer the square footage of the entire apartment. This is where investing in a great architect makes all the difference.
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Hire an experienced architect
An expert architect is invaluable, even if you’re wonderfully creative or have already envisioned how you’re going to add the third bedroom. Their experience will give you great ideas about how to lay out new walls and the final spaces the condo will have. Ultimately, an architect will give you the best chance of the most comfortable result.
As with any alteration, adding a bedroom will require a building permit from the City. I recommend you find an architect with condo renovation experience because they will have the best knowledge of city regulations and will help ensure your plans are approved by the city. It’s likely that the renovation plans will go through a few feedback cycles with city staff before being accepted, so a well-established architect will guide you through the renovation process and provide you with the best results.
2. Buy Smart Furniture
No, I don’t mean buy a couch that listens to your children and acts as a nanny… I mean be smart about the furniture you buy to make each room as multifunctional as possible to maximize the usefulness of your condo’s square footage.
Adrian Crook has mastered condo living with a family and relies on multifunctional furniture throughout his home. One such item is the Murphy bed in the master bedroom. The bed folds into the wall during the day and has a large functioning desk that can be folded out during the day. The major benefit of this is increasing the useful time of all the space in the condo and hence maximizing space utility.
Many think of Ottoman footrests as the original multifunctional furniture item, and they are still a fantastic purchase. Whether the storage is used for toy cars or spare blankets, a few ottomans will reduce clutter in your family condo and make it feel bigger than it is. Furthermore, Ottoman furniture allows a room to be multifunctional. Imagine your living room had two or three ottoman furniture pieces packed with children’s toys. On a rainy weekend in January, your living room could transform into the playroom and then on a warm evening in May, the room is ideal for friends to share a few drinks while the kids stay with your parents. Other furniture to investigate include storage sofas and storage beds. Storage beds can be a great addition to your bedroom, particularly if you are unable to install a murphy bed.
The final piece of furniture I would recommend is a bunk bed. Adrian Crook’s condo has a three-layered bunk bed for his three boys. Sharing a room is a great way for young siblings to bond and understand how to live with others. They’ll share late-night conversations that you’ll never know about and dive into each other's deepest secrets. Yes, the two of them will probably have some fights as well, but these scuffles can help you teach them vital life lessons around dealing with people that you disagree with. A bunk bed also makes a 2-bedroom condo livable for a young family of four which enables you to get on the property ladder before moving into a more permanent 3-bedroom place. The limitation here is that bunk beds don’t really work for children older than 10, and it is more difficult if your kids are different genders.
3. Final suggestions to succeed with family living in a condo
Explore local parks and activities on the weekends
Avoid cabin fever and get outside on the weekends. One of the best parts of living in a condo is that you’re usually closer to all the cultural amenities of a city centre. Whether it’s seeing a musical, exploring a museum, or visiting a local farmers’ market; get out there, make the most of it, and help your children find their passion.
Develop good neighbour relationships
With kids at home, there are bound to be times that get a bit noisy. When you move in, introduce your family to the neighbours as soon as possible. Make sure neighbours know that they can always contact you. Establishing this level of understanding will ensure any issues are resolved quickly.
Enjoy quality time together as a family
Whether it’s playing board games on a rainy evening or playing on the beach, spending quality time as a family is fundamental to happy family living wherever you live. Remember that the square footage of your home is not as important as how you use it and the time you spend with loved ones. Take back the time you’d spend commuting, mowing the lawn, or fixing the roof and instead, spend that time with your family.
Learning to thrive in a condo with your family is the best way to stop paying rent, especially for the majority of us that can’t afford a $1 million home. Look for a condo with a large floorplan and room to add a bedroom. Find furniture that looks great and makes space in your condo.
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