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Home at Last

November 15, 2013

by Vib Reid

Ask Elizabeth Lindsay why she chose to buy a home in Albion Woods, a landlease community owned by Parkbridge Lifestyle Communities just south of Ottawa, and she will tell you with a smile: “because of the value of the home and the lifestyle.” The former Associate Professor in Health Sciences is an experienced homeowner who lived in a number of single-family houses and condominium townhouses throughout a life that saw her move regularly. When taxes and condo fees on her last apartment went up, again, she started looking for alternatives. She says she could hardly believe her eyes when she saw a listing for a home in Albion Woods—a lovely home with great features at an incredible price. “I had already decided that I was willing to move a little further in order to get a larger home and a bit of a garden—at a price I was willing to pay with comparable monthly costs.” The fact that the home was on a leased lot meant that she could get all that and still be within comfortable driving distance to downtown.

The first visit convinced her immediately that the home had all the features that were most important to her: it was bright and light, with high ceilings and an open concept layout—“I love being able to see right through from front to back”—and it had pillars, granite countertops and other touches of luxury that she appreciated.

At 1,700 sq. ft., the home had lots of space, including a large room at the back for play and work, and a three-season sunroom. Plus, it offered storage space galore—including a basement and double garage. “Storage was very important to me,” says Elizabeth. “It’s a myth that we need less storage space as we get older. On the contrary, we still have lots of stuff ourselves, plus we often end up with our parents’ belongings and still have to warehouse our children’s possessions until they finally get settled.” The house, built by Guildcrest Homes, a large factory-based builder in Eastern Ontario, had been a model home for the community back in 2005, and showcased the design and construction offered by the company. “My building inspector was impressed and very complimentary about the quality of the home,” says Elizabeth.

Elizabeth was also attracted to the idea of living in a place where people look out for each other without being intrusive. “There is a community spirit here that perhaps can best be described as ‘quiet watchfulness and helpfulness’. Many people offer help when needed and are aware when something is ‘off’. If a garbage can stays out on the street too long, for instance, someone will check to make sure everything is okay.”

For Elizabeth, the ongoing professional management is another great advantage of the landlease community. As the owner of the community, Parkbridge maintains an office onsite to manage the community on a daily basis, from looking after landscaping and common amenities to dealing with residents’ issues. By comparison, she explained, condominium associations frequently consist of owners with varying experience in financial management and building maintenance; yet they make decisions that can seriously affect the lives and economic circumstances of the residents. The whole concept of landlease communities is not well understood, notes Elizabeth. A lot of people don’t know what it means. This includes lawyers and bankers who may be a little leery of a homeownership form that excludes land, simply due to lack of knowledge. likewise, many real estate agents don’t seem to have a firm handle on how to describe and explain landlease communities to potential customers.

Elizabeth believes that landlease communities offer a very attractive option for homeownership. She does advise people who may be thinking about buying a home in a landlease community to exercise due diligence and ask a lot of questions. You need to fully understand what you are buying into and have confidence in the company that operates the community. She also found it helpful to make a list of the expenses she had living in her condominium and compare them to what the expenses would be in a landlease home.

Having lived in Albion Woods for a little more than a year, Elizabeth is involved in a residents’ committee that works with Parkbridge on community matters. “There is an opportunity to become part of the community, if you want it,” she says.
It looks like Elizabeth Lindsay won’t be moving again anytime soon.