Understanding Strata when purchasing a condo is crucial .A Condo is defined as an individual home. It usually has a shared access, unlike townhomes which generally have their own private entrance. Condos are most popular as a starter home for young professionals, small families and singles. Condo living appeals to Seniors who are looking for a simplified lifestyle that allows them to lock and leave. You can sell the lawnmower and the snow shovel!  Due to all the conveniences, condo owners enjoy a low maintenance life style.

Having said that…don’t think that means you can just sit back and rest on your laurels. Financially, you will need to delve into the strata world. You need to do your due diligence when making any purchase in real estate.

Here are a Few Tips for Understanding Strata When Purchasing a Condo:

First of all, when purchasing a condo, READ everything to do with the strata you are buying into.  Do not just rely on the realtor, but do ask their opinion. Talk to a lawyer.  Ask your team of professionals to assist in reading the AGM’s.  You should always ask for a minimum of 2 years as well as the depreciation report which can be very lengthy, but very informative. It will help you in understanding Strata when purchasing a condo and the individual complex you consider living in.  The Bylaws, Rules and Regulations will all need to be thoroughly read to insure you get the best quality of life your money can buy!

The strata’s FINANCIALS give you an inside view into what the health of the financial investment will be. What are reasonable or unreasonable expenses? Does the roof need to be replaced? What is in the Contingency fund?

Above all, the financials will give you an idea of how the strata is spending your strata fee’s.  Is there is enough being collected or allocated in the contingency fund for future repairs?

Research and Planning for the Future When Purchasing a Condo:

Buyer’s Agent

Have your Buyer’s agent do an evaluation of the area, not just the complex! Always remember what they say in real estate, “Location, location, location!” Will you have easy access to shopping, schools, parks and hospitals? Consider the crime in the area etc., do you feel safe?

Strata Home Inspector

Hire an experienced  Strata Home Inspector who understands Condo’s. Make sure the seller or seller’s agent can give the inspector access to the parking arcade, utility,amenities room, mechanical and electrical rooms and the roof. The whole building is part of your home. Any structural problems or leakage can impact all the owners in the complex. These are important steps.

Set Money Aside

Be prepared to set aside 10% of the purchase value per year.  IE:  If the Condo cost you $350,000, save $3,500 per year for future repairs.  I like to call it the “Just in case” savings account.  Inevitably most strata will need some form of assessment at some time; either for a new roof, siding, windows, doors, balconies, plumbing, electrical, paint or hot water boilers being replaced etc.  I have seen all of these assessments over the years. Some are just normal wear and tear, while others are caused by bad management of the finances. An increase in construction costs often outweigh the strata maintenance charged. A common issue is bad construction when it was originally built. Things get missed and a few corners are cut here and there. The result can be that it costs future owners hundreds of thousands, and millions in assessments.

Attend the Meetings

If you buy a condo, make sure that you attend most of the strata meetings. If you can, get on the Strata council. You will be able to make changes, assure that proper quotes are supplied for different projects and have a pro-active influence on any building or decorating decisions made.

Understanding Strata and Condo Restrictions:

Restrictions define a Strata complex as either Adult, family and/or pet friendly. I will explain the most common bylaws you will find in the lower mainland of BC.

Certainly, there can be many types of Condo and Townhome Strata restrictions. These four main STRATA restrictions are the most common:

The first three restrictions can be searched via your real estate agents multiple listing service. However, the Condo building upgrade restrictions are usually discovered by carefully reading the current strata information.

 Age Restrictions: 

Ages 55+, 45+, 19+ are the most common age restrictions in BC. Usually, there will be Rules and Regulations for young children, grandchildren, guests visits and stay overs etc.  Read them very carefully to be sure you can live with the rules. There can definitely be difficult re-sales for complexes with too many restrictions. Be sure to ask your Buyers agent to research that aspect for you before buying or making a final commitment like a subject removal.

Pet Restrictions:

Similarly, Strata complexes usually have a limited number of pets that are allowed. Each complex is different in what those restrictions are.  They quite often have a height restriction for dogs. There can be restrictions on exotic pets as well as aquariums, and likewise, viscous breeds of dogs. Some only allow dogs and some only allow cats. So whether you have a menagerie of pets or just one beautiful best friend, read all the Bylaws and Rules before you purchase.  You will certainly be glad you did.

Rentals:

Condo’s can restrict or disallow rentals. Consequently, restricted rentals are common. Usually a small number of units are permitted or a percentage of rentals will be allowed in a complex.  Once they are all rented, you would need to apply to strata to be put on a waiting list for future rental of your unit.  Most noteworthy, is that immediate family members are always able to rent from an owner regardless of the Bylaws, as that is a loop hole in Strata law.

Upgrades to the Condo Restrictions

Owners of condos often like to change their floors from carpeted to wood or laminate. Some do it for health reasons (respiratory or allergies), while others need to accommodate a wheelchair. Consequently, the trend over the past number of years is less carpet and more hardwood or laminate. It is usually the 2nd floor and above that may be restricted due to excessive noise transference to suites below them. Some of the newer buildings don’t have the same issues. Read those minutes, rules and AGM’s carefully and ask lots of questions.

Finally, note that most places will require strata approval for various upgrades.  If a wall is to be removed or a structural component is required, Strata will require proper permits and have you hire a structural Engineer to sign off on those upgrades.  It can get expensive, but some of the renovations I have seen made a huge difference. This is especially true when opening up kitchens and family room areas.

In conclusion, whether purchasing a condo as your starter home, an investment you will rent to tenants, or a retirement plan, you will want to be as confident as possible with your decision.

Help is on the Way

As an award winning real estate agent with over 38 years of experience in the Fraser Valley, Joan is there for you and your family from start to finish when you are buying or selling a house or understanding Strata when purchasing a condo. Whether you hire Joan Hansen or another agent you will need the knowledge and support of someone who is highly proficient in their field of expertise to find just the right property.

The Hansen team provides good solid advice and guidance. Our team is down-to-earth and always approachable. Our professional goal is to provide excellent customer service and share our expertise. Therefore, helping you achieve your real estate dreams.  We embrace a community mindset to support our clients through every aspect of their real estate experience. Joan’s personal goal is to create lasting relationships with clients and business partners with long-term success for all involved.  Are you buying or selling in the Fraser Valley area?

Phone Joan at 604-220-7653 or email joan@joanhansen.ca THE HANSEN TEAM at HOMELIFE BENCHMARK REALTY