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The basics of maintenance fees, prices and resale value. Here are three things to consider before buying a condo.

Condos can be an urbanite's go-to living choice for various compelling reasons. First-time buyers often find condos more affordable than houses. Busy career folks like the fact that maintenance is taken care of by building management. Hipsters love the fact that condo buildings are often located downtown near all the action. Single women may prefer them for peace-of-mind amenities like security and concierge service. But amid fears of a softening real estate market, are condos still a smart investment? Here are three things to consider before buying.

Price range
You know the old real estate adage: location, location, location. Condo prices vary across provinces, cities, and neighbourhoods. Here are the average sticker prices for resale condos in six major cities. While they’re indicative of the big picture, remember that prices diverge greatly depending on location.

Montreal: $188,000
Toronto: $360,125
Winnipeg: $184,836
Edmonton: $260,837
Calgary:  $311,816
Vancouver: $387,032

NOTE: Prices reflect April or May 2008 average purchase prices for resale properties defined as condos within the Metropolitan areas, except where noted. Montreal price reflects median, not average price. Toronto figure is for the downtown region. Sources: Greater Montreal Real Estate Board, Toronto Real Estate Board, Winnipeg Realtors, Realtors Association of Edmonton, Calgary Real Estate Board, The Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver.

Maintenance fees
You’ll never have to worry about replacing the pavers on the rooftop patio, mowing the lawn in front of your townhouse, or replacing light bulbs in the garage while you live in a condo. But convenience comes with a price, of course, in this case: monthly condo fees.

When you buy into a condo, you own the inside of your unit. The outside of your unit and the land surrounding all the units is owned collectively by you and all the other condo owners. The general maintenance and insurance for these “common elements” are covered by everyone's monthly fees, as are utilities (most of the time). The more amenities your condo development boasts – concierge? extensive fitness centre? landscaped green space? – the more you’ll pay in fees. In Toronto, typical condo fees average 40 to 55 cents per square foot of your condo."Freehold" townhouses, meanwhile, don’t have maintenance fees. When you buy a freehold townhouse, you own your property indoors and out, and you alone are responsible for its maintenance.

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