10 Tips for Buying a Condo or Townhome

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Condo or townhome ownership are popular housing choices in today’s expensive housing market. These types of housing are typically more affordable, and can also provide freedom from external building maintenance that comes with owning a detached house. As these types of housing are run by strata councils, and involve both owned and common property, there are some important considerations to inquire about before you finalize the purchase a strata unit.

  1. Ask what is included with the purchase of the unit such as:
    • Number of parking spaces & whether you can purchase more if needed
    • A Storage Locker
  2. Find out what the monthly strata fees are, are they likely to increase and what is included. The following are commonly included in strata fees, but not always so it’s best to double check:
    • Landscaping
    • Some utilities (i.e. Electric, Gas or Water)
    • Snow Removal
    • Concierge (if applicable)
    • Building cleaning services
    • Garbage removal
    • Access to the amenities onsite (i.e. Gym, Pool, Common Kitchen/ Amenities room)
    • Access to laundry facilities if not inside in your unit
  3. Request a copy of the Strata meeting minutes. This will allow you to see what type of strata is running the building. Look for a strata that is proactive and is attending to the unit owners concerns as they arise. It should be a requirement of your purchase agreement to have the last two years of Strata minutes provided. However, sometimes you can request the minutes before you place an offer so you know whether it is a strata you’d like to live in.
  4. Find out what the Strata rules & bylaws are – are there items in there that are deal breakers for you? In addition to standard bylaws concerning parking, use of common property and noise, these are some common bylaws:
    • Pet restrictions (this can include number of pets, breed, type of pet, or size restrictions)
    • Christmas tree restrictions (often strata’s prohibit live Christmas trees being brought into the building)
    • Holiday décor restrictions – there are bylaws concerning the timeline that holiday décor can be displayed outside of your unit, such as lights.
    • Colour of exterior facing window coverings must be white.
    • Restrictions on what items can be left on a balcony (i.e. garbage, barbeques)
    • Rental restrictions – this can be a total ban on rentals, or it can state that only a percentage of the units may be rented out
  5. Review the financial documents from the strata corporation. These include:
    • Yearly budget, including reserve fund. The general rule is to have 10% of the overall operating budget as reserve funds.
    • Year-end financial statements – did they go over budget? How are they covering the deficit?
  6. Find out where exactly your potential unit ends, and where the strata property begins. Also check to see if there is any warranty left on the unit. If so, find out what is covered in the warranty.
  7. Check to see whether there are any upcoming special assessments for building upgrades, maintenance or repairs. If so, find out what your potential unit would be assessed for the repair.
  8. Confirm that there are no pending legal actions against the strata. If there are, find out how these could affect you financially as a strata unit owner.
  9. Request to have a home inspection completed. If possible, also have an air quality inspection. Even if your unit is brand new or only a few years old, it is best practice to have it inspected to insure there isn’t any mold, water or sealing issues.
  10. Request a quote for Condo Insurance from your insurance company. This type of policy is for both condos and townhouses. Find out what is and isn’t covered by the policy, as well as what the limits of cover are for things like strata deductibles. Find out if you can purchase extra coverage if the policy on its own doesn’t offer high enough limits. Visit BC Condo Insurance quotes for more information