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A customized condo

A first-time homeowner shares his experience buying a pre-construction condo and finding his sleek retro-minimalist style

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McCloskey repurposed an old plumber’s toolbox as a coffee table and storage space. “It was in my parents’ home for years and years,” he says. “All of my board games are in there, and it is great storage as well. It’s really special.” Photo by Stephen Harris.

Brady McCloskey was ready to shift from sharing an apartment with roommates to buying his own home. The 25-year-old photographer owned a growing business, and wanted a space he could live and work in. After touring a few options, he found a pre-construction condo build in Stratford, P.E.I. that suited his needs.

Like many self-employed people, McCloskey hit some roadblocks when he approached his bank for a mortgage.

  • McCloskey repurposed an old plumber’s toolbox as a coffee table and storage space. “It was in my parents’ home for years and years,” he says. “All of my board games are in there, and it is great storage as well. It’s really special.”
  • McCloskey’s balcony offers a view of the Hillsborough River, and a space to grow potted herbs and tomatoes. Plus selecting a floor plan that encourages natural light makes a small space feel larger. Another design trick that makes this living room feel spacious is hanging a curtain rod that is slightly longer than the doors. The pulled-back curtains hang against the wall to allow light in through the whole window.
  • An old record player that McCloskey found at The ReStore in Charlottetown, which sells overstock and gently used furniture to raise money for Habitat for Humanity, became a television stand. He painted it white with, he says, “a million coats of paint.” On it sit a pair of wooden mountain pieces made by Jane Gallant of Modern Jane Designs in Summerside. The two non-matching retro chairs he purchased at the 70 Mile Yard Sale in P.E.I. allow for flexible extra seating when he has guests over for social gatherings.
  • Succulents are trending right now. With juicy roots, stems, and leaves, succulents come in a diverse and vast group of plants. While some have exacting care needs, most are easy to grow and maintain because they have special water-storage tissues allowing them to survive in dry environments.
  • Three prints from Lila & Lola hang over the bed. He found the prints on Etsy, a website that allows artists to sell their work directly to customers. The art throughout his condo is black and white, with white frames from Michaels. Using this design scheme throughout the condo makes it feel like it was one space.
  • McCloskey customized the closets in the bedroom when choosing features for his yet-to-be-built condo. The closets added enough storage space to replace his dresser, which saved floor space and kept the bedroom open. McCloskey chose the same colour paint for the walls throughout the entire unit, Benjamin Moore’s Horizon, a light grey colour to keep everything bright and airy. “I wanted to create as much light and open space as possible,” he says. “I didn’t want make things smaller or darker than they were with a dark colour, or several different colours.”
  • The countertops in the kitchen are dark granite and clear of all clutter. Only necessary items are on display. Being in such a small space, it was important for McCloskey not to have things cluttered everywhere. “With too many things, it would make my home feel smaller, so I wanted to maximize space. I also wanted to only be surrounded by things I love, so having the other things tucked away neatly allows my favorite things to be displayed,” he says. He chose simple white subway tiles for the backsplash to keep the space neutral and clean looking.
  • Pendent lights hang over the kitchen counter seating area that separates the kitchen from the living room. In addition to working well with the condo’s minimalist-retro look, the pendants focus bright lighting on the counter tops to create a safe well-lit work area. Three stools add extra seating that tucks out of the way when not in use.
  • McCloskey uses the second bedroom as an office. “This is where I spend the most of my time,” he says. He works off of a white Ikea kitchen table, which offers him plenty of space.
  • In front of the desk hangs a large map from Indigo, custom framed by Michaels. In addition to adding a splash of colour to his minimalist, the map reminds him of his travels. The map features gold foil over multi-coloured countries, like a scratch ticket. “It’s so much fun when you come home and you can do a little scratch.”
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His first step was to work with an accountant to ensure his tax filing reflected his full income. “She was a wonderful help in preparing my taxes to better suit the bank’s requirements and ratios,” says McCloskey.

Next he found a mortgage broker. Fifty-five per cent of first time-home buyers used a broker, up from 51% in 2016, according to the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s 2017 Mortgage Consumer Survey.

“It was a good decision as I was able to have options instead of only relying on my own bank to approve me,” he says.

Working with a broker offers first-time buyers like McCloskey a number of benefits. For those like McCloskey, who have sufficient employment to make mortgage payments, but not the credit history to support homeownership, a broker can help to secure a better rate than going it alone.

Brokers research multiple options from a variety of lending institutions to find the right fit in terms of interest rate and payment options, as well as guiding the homeowner through the paperwork. The lending institution that grants the mortgage pays the broker’s commission, so there’s no extra cost to the homeowner.

Before hiring a broker, do your research to make sure you’re hiring someone who will negotiate for your best interest, not the lending institution.

McCloskey’s broker, who was recommended by a family member, secured a 2.6% interest rate on the $129,900 condo, which was lower than the original rate his bank offered.

“It was the right timing and everything fell into place,” he says. “I work from home, so having a space for this was important, and with two bedrooms I have made one of them my office space. It makes me much more productive, and allows me to be more creative with a big bright space to work from.”

His 950-square-foot condo was in the process of being built when he bought into it in February 2016. His move in date was September.

“This allowed a lot of time to prepare, source the things I needed, prepare financially, and think about the direction I wanted to take with the design,” McCloskey says.

Because it was a new build, he chose many of the features in the unit, including the paint colour, lighting, flooring, and kitchen backsplash tiles.

“I had so much time to think and carefully plan what I was buying, saving, and getting good deals,” he says.

He chose a retro style for the condo because of its visual appeal and budget-friendly options. “I loved the character and uniqueness of some of these pieces, and also found better quality than some new items at the big-box stores,” he says.

Purchasing his first home and decorating it on his own taught McCloskey to be patient with the details. “By taking my time to choose everything, I’m now left with a home filled with items that have meaning, uniqueness, and good design.”

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