With the rising cost of housing in a number of cities in Canada, home buyers are looking for more affordable home ownership options. Condominium living is becoming more popular with a number of different demographics- retirees, families and young professionals alike. While this housing type does provide a generally more affordable home ownership experience, there is unique due diligence involved before you buy.
“When buying a home and before you sign on the dotted line, the more you know the better. This is particularly true when it comes to a when you buy a condo because of the potential for additional fees and financial obligations. You need to ensure that you anticipate all expenses and it is a smart purchase for today and tomorrow,” says Jeff Schwartz, executive director, Consolidated Credit Counseling Services of Canada.
Keep the following points in mind before you buy a condo:
Read all the fine print
Make sure that you enlist the help of a lawyer to help you fully understand the contract that you are signing, especially if you are buying a unit before it has been constructed. There are differing rules on down payments and occupancy.. You’ll want to know what your rights are (and what the developer’s rights are) if the building project gets delayed (and they often do).
If you don’t anticipate delays, you may incur extra costs to find housing in the interim.
What are the fees?
Condo fees are common, but the amount and what they actually cover varies from building to building. Usually amenity- rich buildings (like those with pools, gyms, party rooms, security, parking etc.) have slightly higher fees. What are the fees specifically and what is included and what is not. Is there a plan to increase the fees on a yearly basis? If so, how much?
“Fees that you are not expecting can seriously sideline your budget from month to month,” says Schwartz.
What are the rules?
Condos usually come with a lot of rules, so you need to make sure that you are buying a unit that fits your lifestyle. Are you allowed pets? Are you allowed to have a BBQ on your balcony? Are you allowed to run a home-based business? Are you allowed to rent out or even renovate your unit?
Don’t forget that you are sharing walls with your neighbours. But, unlike renting an apartment, you can’t necessarily pack up and move if you end up with a noisy unit. Before you buy, determine if your unit is going to be subject to a lot of street noise and inquire about the type of windows you have. Units on top floors are generally more soundproof from outside noise.
What’s on reserve?
You have an emergency fund on hand to dip into when you encounter major expenses, right? Condominium buildings have a similar concept, with a reserve fund on hand for major repairs and extra maintenance to the building. Reserve fund regulations around how often a condo building must investigate these potential costs vary by province, so double check your local rules.
Ask for a Status Certificate (which is the study of the reserve fund and likely repairs needed by the building). If the reserve fund is low and likely work list high, there is a good chance that you’ll have to pay additional amounts in the coming years as an owner. If your budget is tight already, that can be a problem.
Are you looking for an affordable path to home ownership? The best place to start is by paying down your debts so that you can save up for a down payment. We can help you get started. Call us at or click on our online debt analysis.