The Condo Purchase Checklist

Posted by Joel Gwillim on Monday, January 21st, 2013 at 12:50pm.

The Big Kahuna, The Bible of Condo Buying, The list you should get to know before purchasing a condo in Calgary, or anywhere else for that matter.

The process of purchasing a condominium is quite different than purchasing a single family home. There are many things to consider with your Calgary condo purchase and I will try and outline most of the more important ones below in no particular order:

CONDO DOCUMENTS  // You should have your condo document binder/package reviewed by a condominium document review specialist. Their thorough review will give you a full outline of what is going on currently and possibly what to look for in the future.

CURB APPEAL  // Are you comfortable with the appearance of the building, both inside and out? You will not be permitted to change the exterior, and there are many interior renovations that will require board approval. For instance, in an apartment building, you will not be allowed to remove or change the location of some walls without an engineer’s opinion, as certain walls will be load-bearing.

AGE RESTRICTION?  // Check the bylaws and restrictive covenants registered on title, because depending on your age, you might be able to purchase it, but you might not be able to live there. Age restrictions may also affect the future market for your unit. Also, if a resident becomes pregnant, it may be moving time!

CONDO FEES // What are the monthly condominium contributions? What do they include? What utilities are not included? All condos are different in regards to what they do and do not include, so make sure you’re prepared and budget your estimated monthly costs.

SPECIAL ASSESSMENTS // Has there been a recent special assessment (cash call for extra funds over and above the monthly contributions)? What was it for, and how much was it? Are they planning to have another special assessment in the near future? Ensure that your purchase agreement and lawyer obtain a “clear” estoppel to confirm that the current owner has paid up everything owing on their account. If you suspect that a special assessment might be coming up, you could consider negotiating to have a sum set aside in trust for a specific time period, like six months, in case a special assessment occurs shortly after you have taken possession. In some cases, we could negotiate a price break.

RESERVE FUND  // Does the complex have a reasonable amount in their reserve fund account, in light of what work has recently occurred, and what work may occur in the future? Make sure there is an up to date reserve fund study document available for review.

PARKING // Is there a parking stall for the suite? Is it titled, leased, or assigned? Is it possible to rent an extra parking stall? What is the number of stalls compared to suites? Where is the stall located? Covered, outside surface, inside or underground? Get a visual of your actual stall prior to proceeding.

VISITOR PARKING // Is there visitor parking stalls for the building’s guests? Do you require a display pass in order to park there? Is there a time limit that people can park there?

PET RESTRICTION?  // Check with the condo’s property management company and look through the bylaws. You may need board approval for your pet, along with tags, registration, weight and a picture. Some condos that do allow pets limit the number of them per suite however. Dogs can be the most problematic if anything in some condos, so make sure you verify this information.

POST TENSION CABLES? // If it is an apartment building, does it have a post-tension (PTC) system, and can you have a recent post-tension report? Most complexes with a PTC system are regularly monitoring the system, and have no problems with it, but mortgage insurers may not approve your mortgage without that recent PTC report…or even at all!

BUILDING NOISE // Wood-frame buildings tend to be noisier than concrete buildings (suite to suite and floor to floor), and you may not be able to get permission to install any hard-surfaced floorings if you have anyone living below you. You can usually get permission for laminate or engineered hardwood flooring if you adhere to the required underlay requirements for sound proofing. Any flooring material changes will typically need board approval.

REPAIRS  // What repairs are you responsible for, as an owner? Just the inside of the unit? Or is there some work you would need to do on the outside yourself, such as mow your own backyard? You can check the bylaws, and also ask the property manager or board questions. Some smaller complexes are self-managed and may tend to do much of the work themselves to save money.

AIR CONDITIONING // If the building does not contain central air, are you able to install an air conditioning unit? Many complexes will only allow those portable indoor air conditioners that have a hose connected to the window.

RECREATIONAL FACILITY // Is there a recreational facility, and is use of it included in the condominium fees? Is the equipment usable, safe or updated? Some complexes have their own fitness rooms, and an occasional complex may be nearby to a fitness facility.

HOME BASED BUSINESSES // Do the bylaws permit you to operate a business in your unit? It’s a rare case, but if so, you will need to confirm this with the board as some might regulate you on hours, amount of foot traffic, type of business, etc.

If you check out all these aspects, you will be among one of the few well-informed condominium buyers. Research and know what you’re buying into and it will be an enjoyable experience!

What do you want discussed? Give us an idea!

Joel Gwillim


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