Buying a Condo? Consider These 3 Things

Condominiums are popular in densely populated areas where land prices have skyrocketed. Condo ownership can be a very different experience compared to a detached home or townhouse. As a condo owner, you are also a business partner with the condo board or homeowners’ association and you are financially responsible for its operations. An appointed or elected board of directors represents you and governs how the condo is managed. While condo ownership comes with a number of conveniences, there are also compromises that come from a communal living situation. As such, it’s important that you understand the give and take that comes with condo ownership. Take these three points into account before making your decision.

  1. Monthly Fees

Periodically, often every month, condominium or homeowners’ association fees are due that will be put towards, among other things, maintaining the common elements of the building. This is a shared cost split among all residents to cover public services like amenities, landscaping, snow removal, cleaning, security, and repairs. Utilities may or may not be included.  You could be held partially responsible for damage to common elements or structures, regardless of your involvement in their destruction. Does the condo have a healthy reserve fund to cover unexpected major expenses and planned long-term maintenance and upgrades? Condo fees can be a double-edged sword. On the one hand, you can enjoy lavish amenities and avoid shoveling snow at six in the morning, but on the other hand you could be held accountable for the actions of your neighbors.

2. Lifestyle

If you took a suburban neighborhood, stacked it vertically, and tightened the gaps between houses, the result would be a condo. They appeal to particular lifestyles, so it’s important that they mesh with yours. With close quarters and adjacent units, there is less of an expectation of privacy and perpetual silence. With that being said, if you’re new to the neighborhood and looking to develop social ties, this living situation may be perfect for you. Many condo boards or homeowners’ associations organize events and encourage social interaction between neighbors. Amenities can include but are not limited to a fitness centre, concierge, pool, terrace, theatre, sauna, games room, rock climbing wall, playground or bowling alley. These public elements can be a tremendous addition to your living space with unrivaled convenience. However, the more and better the amenities, typically the higher the condo fee, so evaluate the amenities and whether or not you will realistically take advantage of them.

3. Bylaws and Rules

Before signing anything, be sure to familiarize yourself with the condo’s bylaws and rules. The board is free to set rules so long as they can demonstrate that they are protecting the property and its value or the welfare of other residents. Depending on the bylaws, you may have restrictions on pets, how many occupants can live in your unit, noise, parking, the ability to rent out your unit to long- or short-term renters and renovations. Even though you may own your unit, the board may have a say in your renovations and may even dictate style choices. As with anything, it’s important to fully understand what you’re getting into.

Many people find comfort knowing that a lot of the responsibilities that come with homeownership are handled by the association. When a condo is well managed, it can be a very accommodating living experience. Thus it’s important to know who you are going into business with to avoid surprises after you sign on the dotted line.

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