Jim and Heather's story: Luxurious Twindo master bedroom suite
Jim and Heather downsized to a condo in a town centre near Vancouver in 2010. Their kids had left home. A two-bedroom condo seemed to be the perfect fit for their double income “not-retired-but-ready-to-travel-more” lifestyle. Although they didn’t regret leaving housekeeping chores behind, they started to second guess their downsizing decision.
One of their kids moves back in from time to time. Their daughter is pregnant, so a second grandchild is on the way. Their 850 square foot condo is feeling cramped whenever the family is together.
Financially, long term lifestyle is more important than up-front costs. With their combined income, they could buy a detached home in suburbia, but Jim is not willing to go back to maintaining a house and backyard.
Heather is in real estate, she knows the existing condo’s location makes it a sound investment. Rapid transit was still a dream when they bought, but with SkyTrain under construction at their doorstep, real estate prices will escalate more in this urban centre than in any single family sub-division.
Jim and Heather spent lots of time looking at larger condos. Most 1,400 square foot apartments they found were overpriced penthouses. With only a handful of larger units in each condo tower, there is not a lot to choose from. Anything they found that was decent was priced well in excess of $525 per square foot. Jim and Heather therefore figured they had to spend $750,000 to $800,000 to get their dream 1,400 square foot condo.
That’s when they heard their neighbour’s one-bedroom condo was for sale. Jim and Heather contacted Twindo.ca to help them do the math.
Condos on the market acceptable to Jim & Heather (MLS Oct 2012):
Penthouse 1,480 sf built in 2002 ($538/sf): $796,900
Condo 1,229 sf built in 2008 ($667/sf): $819,900
Condo 1,374 sf built in 2007 ($579/sf): $795,900
They set their budget for a 1,400 sf condo, built after 2000, close to transit, with two parking stalls and good amenities at $735,000 to $800,000. In the end, they bought the unit next door and renovated it.
So how did the numbers work out for Jim & Heather?
Market value of their existing 847 sf condo: $344,900.
Listing price of neighbour’s 591 sf condo: $239,900.
Cost of renovating the neighbour’s 591 sf condo by removing the extra kitchen, creating a luxurious master bedroom ensuite and decorating a new office/den: $68,556 ($116 / sf).
Cost of renovating their 847 sf condo by installing new french doors between the units, matching hardwood floor and painting: $16,940.
Well within the allocated budget Jim and Heather saved a lot of money by not moving. They were close at hand to watch tradespersons work on their luxurious master bedroom ensuite. They already knew their strata building was well managed. They now have a large den, immediately adjacent to the living room, for the kids to play during family reunions. They have a large master bedroom with a to-die-for walk-in closet that Heather’s friends rave about. Their new bedroom is more private when they have guests staying over. Because the reno was well within budget, they were able to use top-of-the-line materials. And they keep being told by their realtor friends that they could easily sell their unit for well over what they've invested.
Jeremy's story: Twindo on a tight budget
Jeremy W. called Twindo.ca even though none of his neighbours' suites were for sale. We were all amazed at how much he got out of a one-hour conversation with one of our designers.
When he called back a few months later, he said: "I just knocked on the neighbours' door and asked them if they would sell their unit to us." They were not interested but that didn't stop Jeremy. He kept asking them whenever they crossed paths in the elevator or the parkade. "It became a sort of a joke between us" Jeremy said. "I would give them an inquisitive look and they would just smile and give me a thumbs down." Jeremy was determined because he was only interested in the unit East of his own condo. "My partner and I wanted the morning sun" he said.
In the end, it's the neighbours who knocked on his door. They were ready to sell. "We made the deal that same night!" said Jeremy. He called Twindo.ca and asked us to draft a set of renovations plans and get all the required permits. We were able to secure all permits a week before the closing date.
Renovations were kept to an absolute minimum. The small kitchen in the neighbour's unit was walled off, a door installed and it became a storage area. "Kitchen cabinets are ideal for storing seasonal stuff and knick knacks. By leaving the kitchen intact, we can easily sell the units separately if we want to." said Jeremy.
Opening the wall between the units was tricky in that it required the relocation of some electrical wiring but Twindo.ca devised a simple and elegant solution to that problem.
Condos on the market comparable to Jeremy's twindo (MLS Jan 2013):
Condo 1: 1,225 sf built in 2009: $599,000
Condo 2: 1,152 sf built in 2009: $598,000
Condo 3: 1,150 sf built in 2008: $550,900
Jeremy’s budget for a 1,200 sf condo near his existing location: $550,900 to $600,000. So how did the numbers work out for Jeremy?
Market value of their existing 617 sf condo: $237,000
Price they paid for their neighbour’s 640 sf condo: $239,000
Cost of renovating the 640 sf condo: $13,530
Cost of renovating their 617 sf condo (minor repairs, paint): $640
Design, consulting and legal costs: $8,300.
TOTAL COST: $498,470 for a 1,257 sf twindo
Creating equity out of thin air Jeremy and his partner were reluctant to do anything that would be permanent so keeping the option of selling the two condos separately was foremost in their mind. Twindo.ca respected their wishes while still coming up with a design that allows them to use every square inch of their new twin condo. They now say that the market would have to turn completely upside down for them to ever revert back to selling their twindo as two separate units. "Such a large apartment in this location will always be more valuable than the two separate units." said Jeremy.
2015 Update: In early 2015, Jeremy invested a further $26k in a reno. His total investment climbed from $498,470 to $525,000. He sold his unique Twindo for $665,000. He purchased two side-by-side condos units in June 2015. Stay tuned for Jeremy's next Twindo!