5 Questions to ask when buying a condo

As you guys might have noticed, Brian and I are in the condo buying market again.  So I’ve had real estate on my mind and I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about what I’m looking for in our next condo.

Photo Credit: Keoni Cabral via Flickr

Why do I want to live here?

For me at least, it’s easy to be distracted by a beautiful, well decorated condo.  I often have to remind myself that it’s not just the unit, it’s the whole neighbourhood.  When we bought our first condo, the unit was fine, nicely renovated (mostly) and the building was in solid shape… but the neighbourhood was lacking in community and amenities.  I missed walking over to the coffee shop!  So before you decide that a condo is “the one”, have a peek around the neighbourhood.  Are there stores and restaurants that you would frequent?  Are the people who live there friendly and welcoming?  It might be better to live in a better neighbourhood with a condo that needs more work.


What are the rental restrictions?

Even if you’re not planning on renting out the condo, it’s important to consider the building’s rental restrictions.  As an owner, you may want to live in an owner-centric building since owners have a vested interested in caring for their unit and their building more diligently.  However, as a future seller and investor, a building that allows rentals may be easier to sell or convert into a rental property a few years down the road.  Keep in mind, the strata council may one day decide to change the building rental restrictions!

What are the pet restrictions?

Pet ownership is pretty common so many people don’t think to check whether or not their potential new home allows pets.  In fact, many condo buildings do not.  Before considering a condo, be sure to check the bylaws for any pet restrictions.  Some places will not allow pets at all, while others will allow some pets, with restrictions.  Brian and I have to stick to pet-friendly condos due to the cat!

Is the building rain-screened?

During the 80’s and 90’s, building technology changed and houses started being built completely sealed (previously, air was allowed to flow in and out of walls). Since Vancouver has a wet climate, any water that does get in gets trapped and as a result, many buildings suffered from ‘leaky condo syndrome’ and required expensive rehabilitation known as “rain-screening”.  If you’re buying a condo built during these times, I would be extremely wary of condos from this time period unless work has been done to rain-screen the building.  If you are ever assessed for rain-screening, the cost will easily eat up any equity you have in your home, and more.  Typical costs can run from $50,000 to well over $100,000 on a moderately sized condo or townhome.  When Brian and I purchased our first condo, one of the biggest selling points for us was the fact that it was completely rain-screened!


What are my responsibilities as a condo owner?

Condos come with a stack of bylaws and regulations.  Before deciding to purchase a unit in a condo development, carefully read over the bylaws and rules.  Some buildings do not allow BBQs on balconies for example.  Other buildings might restrict the types of items you are allowed to keep in your parking stall.  Being aware of the rules can help you avoid costly fines later on!  For example, in our first condo, we were not allowed to store bikes in the parking garage, subject to a $150 fine.  Grr!




Any other suggestions?  For home owners, what do you look for in a house?

Posted in: Real Estate

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