should i buy that condo?

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Are you sure you want to buy that condo? With Vancouver’s leaking windows 1 and Toronto’s falling balconyglass 2, today’s condominiums seem to be crumbling before our eyes.Fueled by rising home prices, swelling urban centers and a desirefor maintenance-free living, the housing market is respondingwith an increasing number of quickly constructed units 3. As therange of units grows, it’s important to consider your options as abuyer. Bringing together the best available data on condominiumconstruction and ownership, this guide will help you betterunderstand your choices and needs as you consider your condopurchase.


  • Are you sure you want to

    buy that condo?

    A Users GUide to NAviGAtiNG the CoNdo MArket

    froM AN ArChiteCtUrAl perspeCtive

    R e s e a R c h & W R i t i n g : g i n a Pa g e | L ayo u t & D e s i g n : a m a n D a c h o n g | a D V i s o R : D R . t e D K e s i K

    With Vancouvers leaking windows 1 and Torontos falling balcony glass 2, todays condominiums seem to be crumbling before our eyes. Fueled by rising home prices, swelling urban centers and a desire for maintenance-free living, the housing market is responding with an increasing number of quickly constructed units 3. As the range of units grows, its important to consider your options as a buyer. Bringing together the best available data on condominium construction and ownership, this guide will help you better understand your choices and needs as you consider your condo purchase.

  • A Users Guide to Navigating the Condominium Market from an Architectural Perspective 32 Are You Sure You Want to Buy That Condo?

    Freehold Condominium

    RoW | toWnhouse semi-DetatcheD | DuPLex singLe-DetacheD house LoW-Rise buiLDing high-Rise buiLDing

    unit DeFinit ion:

    The interior area of a

    specif ied space, often

    with the backside of

    the interior drywall

    acting as the boundary

    l ine (or centre l ine

    between two units).

    unit DeFinit ion:

    A plot of land and

    al l the structures

    located on that


    Conventional Condominium

    The Diversity of

    condo options4

    common eLements:

    Could be road access,

    recreation faci l i t ies,

    visitor parking and a


    common eLements:

    Structural, mechanical,

    and electr ical services

    along with lobbies,

    hal lways, elevators,

    walkways, and

    amenit ies.

    Housing comes in many forms, yet condos are unique because they are made up of privately owned units connected by commonly owned elements. These units can be both owner or tenant occupied.

    aLteRnatiVe teRms:

    BareLandUnits (AB, SK, MB)

    BareLandStrata (BC)


    (NL, PEI)

    aLteRnatiVe teRms:

    Strata (BC)



    miD-Rise buiLDing

  • A Users Guide to Navigating the Condominium Market from an Architectural Perspective 54 Are You Sure You Want to Buy That Condo?

    New & UnbuiltFrom the ground up, new buildings offer exciting opportunities and interesting challenges. Glamorous sales offices often leave lots to look forward to, but make sure you understand your purchase agreement so that you arent left with less then you expected.

    ExistingSeeing is believing. With an existing building, you are able to get the full picture of what you are purchasing. Every building has a back story, so ask questions and review your estoppel/status certificate. Always engage a qualified professional to review the latest reserve fund study and inspection/maintenance reports before signing on the bottom line.

    ConversionsFrom one use to another, conversions start out their lives as commercial, industrial, religious or rental buildings before being transformed into condominiums. The envelope (exterior) of the building often remains intact, while the interior undergoes an extensive retrofit.

    +customizabLe FeatuResFixtures, f in ishes, and f loor ing. The decisions are up to you!

    unit VaRietyAn array of unit s izes, layouts, and solar or ientat ions are avai lable

    youRe coVeReDNew Home Warranty programs offer you protect ion and peace of mind.

    DeVeLoPeRs DiscountsNo maintenance fees for 2 years, only 5% down, and $10,000 of free upgrades! Only developers have the abi l i ty to offer these types of bargains.

    eVeRything is bRanD neWSo there should be less chance of cost ly repairs in the near future.

    DeLayeD again!I f construct ion is delayed i t can mean making mult iple moves, and staying in temporary accommodations, which can cost you.

    not What you P ictuReDMake sure to understand your purchase agreement as develoeprs often leave themselves room to make modif icat ions without not ice.

    constRuction zone L iV ingBe prepared that construct ion might cont inue even once youve sett led in.

    money stRuggLesI t may be harder to get a mortgage for something that doesnt exist, and your deposit wi l l be held for the durat ion of construct ion.

    neVeR buiLtFind out what wi l l happen to your deposit i f the project goes bankrupt or is never bui l t. Many provinces have insurance to cover this. However, i t may be to a maximum that is signi f icant ly less than you paid.

    +moVe- in ReaDyNo need to wait for the bui lding to be completed. I t s already done and ready to be l ived in.

    VieWabLeWhat you see is what you get.

    WiDe oPen sPacesExist ing bui ldings often offer more square footage and clear ly def ined spaces.

    gst FReeLower deposit rates and no GST means more money in your pocket.

    PaPeR tRaiLThe Condo Board can provide you with reserve fund levels, bui lding condit ion survey, inspect ion reports, and maintenance history. I f they cant, this should be a ser ious red f lag.

    Whos WhoBecause the other units are already occupied, you have a chance to meet your neighbours, see how people interact, and get a sense of how the bui lding is run.

    this is itBecause what you see is what you get you have fewer, i f any, unit opt ions.

    authoRizeD customizationMake sure to check what the l imitat ions to customizat ion are as many condo boards have str ict rules about what you can do.

    ongoing RePaiRsAs elements reach their useful l i fe span, they need to be replaced. This could mean increased maintenance and repair costs, especial ly i f the reserve fund is not adequate.

    What amenit ies?!Many older bui ldings just dont have the features of newer bui ldings, such as a pool or f i tness centre.

    +gooD as neWOffers many of the features of a new bui ld, such as Unit Var iety and Customizable Features.

    one oF a K inDIndustr ia l, commercial and church conversions offer dynamic spaces that are never repl icated in other bui lding types.

    Less oR moRe exPensiVeDepending on the bui lding type and locat ion, the pr ice could be dramatical ly di f ferent ( in either direct ion) from a comparable new unit.

    Location, Location, LocationConversions are often done in highly desirable areas, which can mean steps to transit and entertainment.

    gooD bonesThe bui ldings that are chosen for conversion are usual ly structural ly sound, architectural ly interest ing and made of qual i ty mater ia ls. These bui ldings are worth saving.

    no WaRRantyAre often not covered by the same catchment as new bui ldings.

    PReViousLy LoVeDSome bui lding components may be at the end of their l i fe cycle but not replaced which means they l l probably need replacement in the near future ($$$).

    unexPecteD DeLaysBecause the bui lding is being retrof i t ted, problems can be discovered through the bui lding process, thus pushing back the or iginal schedule for occupancy.

    All Shapes and Sizes

    building types5










    Cooling Plant

    Heating Plant








    Building Components & Longevity 6Buildings are made up of thousands of individual components. Over time, these components will need to be repaired or replaced. Getting an idea of when something was last replaced or repaired will give you an idea of when it might next need maintenance.

  • A Users Guide to Navigating the Condominium Market from an Architectural Perspective 76 Are You Sure You Want to Buy That Condo?

    steP 1A group of individuals purchase private units within a collection of units.

    Ownership Model

    $$ $ $$

    youPeRsonaL ResPonsibiL it ies:




    conDo coRPoRationcoRPoRation ResPonsibiL it ies:








    steP 2By purchasing a unit, each individual agrees to pay for a percentage of the areas that link the units (often known as the common elements).

    The percentage is known as the unit factor which is calculated based on the unit value in relation to the collection of units.

    steP 3A condo corporation is made up of all the unit owners. And as a corporation, a board of directors (Condo Board) is elected to oversee the common elements and the operation of the corporation.

    steP 4The condominium becomes independently governed once the developer has had a title issued or the collection of units has been registered as a condo. At this time, the board begins managing the property.

    steP 5Each condominium is an independent community and creates its own by-laws, regulations and rules. It is also governed by provincial or territorial legislation.

    This legislation is seldom, if ever, enforced or policed.

    conDo boaRDboaRD ResPonsibiL it ies: