Things to know about condo ownership

Condos are becoming increasingly popular with Canadian buyers, with a growing number of new developments popping up in major cities and some smaller towns across the country. Statistics Canada reported that 1.9 million Canadians were living in condos in 2016, and that number is rising.

They are affordable

As homeownership becomes more expensive, a condo can be an affordable way to live in a big city without shelling out the kind of money that you would for a single-family home or a townhouse.

They offer easy maintenance

Condos can be a great option for people leading busy lives. Condo fees cover maintenance costs like shovelling snow, waste management, outdoor maintenance, pool cleaning, and window cleaning. You won’t have to worry about shovelling the walk or remembering to take out the trash.

They have amenities and shared spaces

Condos have varying on-site amenities that can include gyms, green space, pools, saunas, and playgrounds. Having these amenities nearby might make you more likely to exercise, could be convenient if you have young kids, and could save you money on a gym membership.

They have security

If you have concerns about safety, most condos offer security features or guards. Living next to other people who you see regularly can also be a comfort to those living alone. If you live in a house, strangers might notice mail piling up or a car left in the driveway, which can make you more vulnerable to theft. Condos can be a great lifestyle choice for people who travel often and want to come and go without concerns about safety.

They are part of a community

Some condos offer events for owners and tenants, or may have established programs for seniors, parents, or single people. Ask about events or programs your condo runs, and consider getting involved in the condo board or decision-making committee.

What are the cons of buying a condo?

All of these advantages make condos an affordable, appealing option. But here are a few things you need to consider before you decide if you’re all in.

There are condo fees

Condo fees pay for the upkeep of the building, including building maintenance. Fees can also cover things like garbage collection, heat, water, sewage, and in some cases electricity or other costs. It’s important to factor these in when you’re budget planning or considering a condo purchase.

There is less privacy

Many condos come with a small porch, but most don’t include any private outdoor or garden space. Green spaces, pools, and gyms are shared and you’ll be passing other people in your building regularly when you leave and when you come home. Joined walls also mean that you might hear tenants upstairs or next door. For people who appreciate privacy or silence, this is a good factor to consider thoughtfully.

There are potential unplanned costs

Condo fees are generally predictable, but the cost of unexpected major repairs or renovations can fall on the condo owners as a collective. Some condos have a board or committee who vote on repairs, upgrades, and costs, but you may still end up paying for them.

They have less space than a house or townhouse

The lower cost of a condo also means you’ll likely have less space than you would in a house or townhouse.

Choices are made by committee or the condo managers

It can be a relief not to worry about repairs to shared spaces or landscaping, but this also means that you won’t always have a say in when repairs or maintenance takes place. You’ll also need to accept the aesthetic of the shared spaces, such as the paint colors, entrance details, and other factors that may change without your approval. There may also be restrictions on how you can change, renovate, or decorate –– especially in parts of the condo that are visible to the public.

Where are condos popular in Canada?

Established cities like Vancouver and Toronto (where other property types are more expensive) have a high percentage of condo dwellers. In smaller cities and towns like St. Catharine’s, Sudbury, and St. John’s where homes are more affordable, condos are in lower demand.

Questions to ask about your condo

How much are the yearly or quarterly condo fees, and how are assessments made? It’s good to ask current residents about their experience if possible, and ask if the condo board has approved or expects any costly renovations, expansions, or repairs in the near future.

What rules have the condo or homeowners association put in place for the condo? Make sure you look over the conditions, bylaws, and restrictions of the building you’re buying in. What hours is the pool or recreation area open, and are there restrictions on guests?

What do your fees cover? Don’t make assumptions about what will be included in the maintenance and administrative fees you’re paying the condo board. Ask about pool maintenance, repairs and maintenance to your unit and shared areas, snow shoveling and plowing, amenity maintenance, nightguards or security, outdoor maintenance, and any other costs not explicitly mentioned in the guidelines. 

Does the condo committee have a reserve fund? Condo fees are paid regularly, and well maintained budgets should include a reserve fund put aside for unexpected or costly repairs and renovations. 

What is the surrounding area like? Take a look at planned construction for the immediate vicinity. A beautiful view might be obstructed by another building in the near future, or a school being built nearby could contribute to the future value of the property. 

Are there any current legal disputes or or concerns expressed in online forums about the condo complex you’re considering? A simple Google search could bring up feedback and forums where current residences speak honestly about their experience living in the condo you’re considering. 

How much parking is available?

How many rental units are in the building, and how many are owner-occupied? Some condo buildings have a vast percentage of their units owned by one investor. This can influence the lifestyle, foot traffic, and noise levels in the building.

Are there rules about animals or pets? Some condos have specific rules about the number of pets you can have, and may restrict certain breeds or animals. 

Is a Condo Right For You? Contact us to discuss your options


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