Sweet or bitter
Sour, sweet, bitter, pungent, all must be tasted.
—Chinese proverb

The Chinese say that life can be sweet and it can be bitter. You have to accept what fate gives you. Condominium living can also be sweet or bitter; it depends.

Our first condo—life was sweet

In 1973, I bought my first home, a two-bedroom 1 bathroom condominium apartment on Bloor Street in Mississauga. I lived there for ten years and I enjoyed my apartment and I enjoyed my condo building.

I paid $17,000 for my unit and I sold it ten years later for $27,000; an annual appreciation of 6%. Today (2016), these units are listing for $200,000 to $230,000.

This two-building complex was run by our board of directors, who were volunteer-owners who lived on the site. At the time, I appreciated their intelligence but now, after seeing and learning how other boards operate, I think they were brilliant.

Each of our two buildings had a large recreation room equipped with a kitchen and washrooms. The one in our building was rented out to a private daycare centre. The only condition that the board made was that the centre had to offer any new vacancies to the residents of our two towers before they would accept children from outside our condo.

The families with young kids loved the convenience and the condo made a good and steady profit from a well-run daycare that gave us absolutely no hassles.

The large party room in the other building was so nice it hosted wedding receptions. One resident had her wedding and her reception in that room.

When it first opened, a private business owned the coin machines in the two ground-floor laundry rooms. After a disagreement over a rent increase, the board severed the relationship and bought brand new commercial Magtag washers and dryers for the two buildings.

Within a year, the coin-operated machines paid for themselves and after that, the laundry room profits paid for our snow removal and landscaping costs.

When the board wanted to upgrade services for the building, they called an owners’ meeting to vote on it. I remember one meeting where a company promised to double the number of TV channels were presently receiving and greatly improve our reception by replacing our TV antennas with a new system. It would cost us an extra five dollars a month.

After a good debate, the owners had to choose. Pay five bucks a month for far better service or keep our present just-okay reception. The owners voted for the extra channels.

The board also knew how to keep deviant behaviour in check. When a renter moved in and decided to have a wild and very loud housing-warming party, the police were called and the next week the absentee owner received a letter from the condo lawyer along with a bill for the cost of the needed extra cleaning the common elements and for the lawyer’s time.

So we had a competent and honest board of directors and our two buildings were occupied, in the main, by owner-residents. We knew who are neighbours were and friendships were made.

Halloween was a fun night for the children and many of the adults too. The kids would start up on the tenth floor and work their way down using the staircases. Several of us seventh-floor adults would leave our doors open and wait for the kids in the hallway, sitting on chairs and sipping on glasses of wine. As the kids appeared, my next-door neighbour would fuss over the young ones and lecture the older ones saying this had to be their last year.

The owners helped keep our expenses down. We had regular hallway washing events where we would clean our common elements. As a single man, inexperienced at this, the women on my floor showed me just how much soap I needed to add to my water.

When my wife and I left our first home to move into our first house, we had good memories and fond feelings for our first condo.

Why not? We had a well-maintained building that was a pleasure to live in. The owners were encouraged to help keep the building clean, help keep our fees low and cooperate with our neighbours. We were rewarded with steadily raising property values.

Over the years, whenever we drove by our old condo, we saw that the two buildings looked as well maintained as they were when we sold.

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