What to look for when buying a condo
This blog post provides some extremely important information to consider when buying a condo. It discusses the pros and cons and provides some helpful advice on everything to look for to make sure you are making the right decision!
The Pros Of Owning a Condo
Condos can offer a convenient, low maintenance lifestyle. Many people looking to downsize or simplify their lives are tired of constant property maintenance, whether that’s landscaping, snow removal or ongoing upkeep of the exterior itself. In a condo, these items are almost always taken care of by the condominium property management company. This allows the flexibility to lock the door and forget about it while you focus on more important things!
Many condos also offer common areas that act as an extension of your living space. Some buildings offer basic amenities like a social room or gym. Others like The Roy, offer a lavish amenity floor that includes a pool and sauna, theatre room and yoga studio, to name a few! This allows a resident the opportunity to enjoy where they live without actually having to leave the building.
In addition, condos are generally located in more urban areas that provide quick and easy access to services like healthcare and grocery stores. Don’t feel like cooking? Take a step outside your downtown condo and explore the numerous restaurants Halifax has to offer!
If you are looking for a convenient, low maintenance lifestyle, a condo might be the right choice for you.
The Cons of Owning a Condo
As with any decision, there are definite cons of condo ownership which will depend on your own personal taste. While most condos are pet friendly, they can sometimes limit the type of animal permitted or how many. A pet policy will be found in the bylaws of the condo corporation, so it is important to understand all restrictions of the bylaws to ensure you’re not losing something you need. Charcoal bbq’s are generally a no!
While you are not directly responsible for the maintenance of the building, I still highly recommend taking part in board meetings. You can choose not to take part in meetings, but will then have no say when the board makes decisions on repairs, maintenance or otherwise. If you don’t want to take part in meetings, be prepared to go with the flow! If you don’t want to go with the flow, be prepared to take part in meetings.
Also, consider that your exterior space is going to be limited so if you still enjoy sculpting your gardens, you’ll have to grapple with letting that go. Additionally, if you have more than one vehicle, you may have to find other parking nearby.
The cons of owning a condo depend on your lifestyle goals. It’s important to consider what you want in life, before choosing a condo as a housing option.
What to look for when buying a condo
Buying a condo is like buying into a business. You need to ensure the building is managed properly and is in good condition before investing in it. A condo with low condo fees might look attractive on paper, but if the fees are low because the board is not maintaining the building properly, it could be a serious concern.
When looking at potential buildings, you’ll have time to review condominium documents with your lawyer. But even before that point, there are several clues you can pick up on when viewing a building.
Entrance and Hallways: Are they clean and how does the paint and flooring look?
Landscaping and Snow removal: Are the common area gardens well manicured and are the walkways cleared of snow and salted?
Critters: Is there evidence of a pigeon problem? Mouse traps could be pre-emptive measures, but should raise questions.
Windows and balconies: Are they in good condition or aging and in need of replacement?
Smells: You can’t control your neighbours cooking, but is there evidence of other smells like mustiness or cigarette smoke?
A well managed building might have slightly higher condo fees, but that is not a bad thing. It means the board has taken steps to ensure they are protecting the investment of every unit owner in the building.
When you buy a home, one of the most important investments is in a home inspection. When buying a condo, it is equally important to take the time to review the condominium documents to ensure the building is in good health. There are several documents to consider:
These statements show the budget for the building and where funds are allocated. It outlines plans for maintenance and renovations in the future. Healthy financials are critical in protecting your investment in the building and the value of the individual units.
Reserve Fund Study
Related to financial statements, a reserve fund study outlines a long term plan for maintenance. This could span 25 years or more and helps the condo board determine how much money they will need in the future to replace big ticket items like a roof. A portion of your condo fee is added to the reserve fund to save for these future expenses.
We talked about pets earlier - whether you are bringing a cat, dog or a lizard, it is important to ensure the condo bylaws allow for it. Many buildings will limit the number of animals you can have in a space. They might not limit breeds, but they will focus on temperament. If your dog is a barker like my extremely noisy weiner dog, a condo is likely not the best option.
The best way to understand the current standing of a building is to review meeting minutes. During these meetings, boards and owners will discuss issues with the building or plans for improvements. It’s easy to discover red-flags simply by taking the time to read them.
Sometimes when there isn’t enough money in the reserve fund to complete a repair or renovation, owners can be special-assessed. This is a fee charged to an owner and might be in a lump sum or in several payments. The advantage of a special assessment is that a board can improve the building without having to increase condo fees. The special assessment would be voted on by all owners before being passed.
Take the time to review all of the documents associated with a condominium before making the decision to proceed. Your lawyer can provide some valuable information during this period as well. Lean on us to help guide you through the process.
Parking and storage
Always stand in your parking stall before you purchase a property! Once during my time in Alberta, I heard a story of a Realtor who helped a client purchase a condo. The condo was advertised with a parking stall, but did not specify where it was. The buyer’s agent assumed it was an underground stall, but once the transaction closed they discovered that it was an above ground stall. This is a significant thing when winters often see temperatures of -40 degrees.
Beyond this extreme example, not all parking is created equal. You need to determine if your car will fit in the garage, but also that the parking stall is big enough. Some parking spaces are between a wall and a pillar or have a mechanical component for the building dangling from overhead.
The same goes for storage to a lesser extent. But if storage is important to you while downsizing, go stand in that space!
Condos | The Verdict
Condos offer a convenient and low maintenance lifestyle, but do not release you from all responsibilities related to homeownership. There are numerous things to consider when selecting the right building to protect your investment while achieving your lifestyle goals. Lean on me to provide you all the information and knowledge you need to choose the condo that’s best for you.
Chris Perkins, Broker/Owner
Coldwell Banker Maritime Realty
902 210 1223
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