Demand for condominium and townhouse living is at an all-time high in Squamish and most of BC’s major cities. Affordability and low supply seems to be the main driving forces behind this surge of activity. Condominiums are after all, on average, much cheaper than detached housing. From first-time buyers to downsizing retirees, condominiums can offer a wealth of opportunity.
However, condominiums can also have their own set of challenges, some of which I outline below. If you follow the advice I have laid out here, you will help yourself avoid the pitfalls that can unexpectedly put more than a little dent in your pocket:
First on the list and before purchasing the unit, one should verify that there is enough money in the reserve fund to cover the cost of major repairs and renewal projects. Depreciation and/or engineering reports and the minutes of the Annual General Meetings will help a buyer understand what cash-flow is needed now and what is needed in the future as far as building maintenance is concerned. Some buildings are inadequately funded and thus, if a problem arises, unit owners will be charged with a Special Levy. Depending on the scope of the problem these Levies can be in the tens of thousands of dollars. While my staff and I review all of the aforementioned documents to flag potential pitfalls for my clients, not all realtors are this diligent. Avoid “money pits” by carefully reading over the minutes, depreciation reports, and any other documentation provided by the Strata.
Second, like most communities, a condominium attracts individuals with a variety of personalities. This can be daunting when people with very different viewpoints make up a strata council. It can often be a challenge to reach a consensus and therefore, maintenance and repairs can be put off or not done at all for years. Newly proposed bylaws may never see the light of day, because what is important to some people is not to others. Review the Strata minutes to identify how proactive the council is on issues and what actions they typically take.
Third, condo Stratas may place restrictions on things like noise levels, parking, pets, barbecues, smoking, renters, renovations, and even the style and colour of things like doors and window coverings. Read the Strata Corporation’s bylaws as they will cover most of the restrictions in detail. Generally, fines will be imposed if the rules are not adhered to. The noise factor is inevitable in many buildings, as developers often did not take special steps to limit noise between units and/or between floors. As a result, bylaws will often demand special underlay be used if hardwood is to be installed. Some Stratas won’t allow hardwood at all for fear of noise transference. Again, read the bylaws to determine if their restrictions will be compatible with your desired lifestyle.
Fourth, be aware that monthly condominium fees go toward the upkeep of common property elements such as recreational facilities. As a result, condo fees may be higher than a similar building that doesn’t have these amenities. Even if you never use the swimming pool or gym, you must still pay a share toward its care and maintenance. Don’t forget to take into account how much the condo fees will impact your housing expenses.
Fifth, If you see an affirmative to the words, “court proceedings” in the Form B summary (this is just one of the documents you will be provided with by your Realtor), one should have an “uh-oh” moment and perhaps seek out a lawyer’s opinion before purchasing the unit. All strata lot owners are responsible for a judgment against the strata corporation.
When all is said and done, according to the stats, people still invest in condominium living since it is an affordable alternative to detached homes. And, since condos do not require the same maintenance as houses, and all common spaces are taken care of by the Strata and management, people can enjoy lower-maintenance living.
Barbara will help you avoid the potential pitfalls of condo-buying. Complete the form below and she will help you search for and secure the perfect condominium unit for your ideal living:
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