Condo Living: Is it for You?

Can’t stand the smell of smoke? Doggy doo-doo makes you gag? You like to express your style by painting your balcony railings red? Having 1970’s shutters on your windows makes you feel at home? – Or maybe you smoke and have 5 cats?

Depending on your lifestyle and habits, condo living might be perfect for you – or perhaps, it’ll make your home life miserable. It’s worth a little investigation.

The 2011 National Household Survey (NHS) revealed that 12.1% of Canadians live in condominiums, the concentration of which are in major cities. In Montreal, 13.2% of the population lives in a condo.
For city life, condos are cheaper than stand-alone properties, and often come with amenities like parking, a gym, snow removal and roof maintenance.

However, condo living is not like owning your own bungalow. The old saying “my house, my rules” does not completely apply. When you buy a condo, you’re moving into an established community with its own rules, values, history and culture. It’s your house, but run by collective rules.

Once you decide you’re going to buy a condo, you’ll want to want to know if the community supports your lifestyle and shares your values. It might fit like a glove, but then again, if you’re not informed and understand what you’re getting into it could turn into disappointment, frustration, anger, and possibly a series of legal letters.

In addition to checking the neighborhood school, the kitchen cabinet design, and distance to work, it’s important to do a little digging on how your new condo community operates.

“You need to know who’s handling the administration of the complex. Is it self-managed or managed by an outside firm” says Joanne Smith, who’s been living in a condo community since 1988. She is currently the chair of the board for her condo association and has been an active member of the association for a number of years. “Make sure you ask for the Declaration – the rules of condominium association” advises Smith. “That’s where you start.”

Condo responsibility

It’s really important to be diligent and find out who’s responsible for what, Smith advises. “People think that once they buy a condo they don’t have any responsibilities; it’s a way out of maintenance and usually a cheaper way to buy.” However, there’s certain responsibilities that comes with condo life too, says Smith.

Sure, you’re not responsible for the roof, or the building itself, or maintaining the common grounds, or cutting grass, or shoveling snow; but you still have to pay for the work to be done. That’s where condo fees come in. If the condo fees are low and there’s a water stain in your unit coming from the roof (the responsibility of the condo association) you have to ask yourself, is this condominium well managed? Lower condo fees may not necessarily be a good thing.

Plus, you’re still responsible for the maintenance of your unit, and you’ll have to follow certain rules. In Smith’s townhouse condo complex, she says “The association decided all window frames should be white to maintain a certain esthetic. There was also a rule that all doors had to be certain a colour, but that changed. Railings should be white or black. Our by-laws state that co-owners must inform the association before they make certain changes e.g. to their outdoor lights and co-owners must keep their garbage and recycling bins inside their patio area.” She explained that the majority of issues are related to dogs, garbage, noise and smoking.

“It differs from owning a private home. There are pros and cons,” she says.

Smith’s condominium complex is self-managed; co-owners who want to get involved are elected annually to the association and assume responsibility for the administration; members of the association are paid a nominal remuneration for their services based on their responsibilities. Retired, Smith has the time at the moment to be active. She says that while condo life takes adjustment for some, there are a lot of benefits too.

“One of the wonderful things about my complex is it has a lot of green space and the outdoor pool is a tremendous draw. The lifeguards offer swimming lessons for children and aqua fitness classes for the adults. There are pool parties, bbq’s on a weekly basis, and a close of season party, and arrangements for all these activities are handled by co-owners.” She says that for families with children the pool creates an instant community.

5 Documents Condo Buyers Should Read
Once you’ve decided you’re interested in a condo, there are 5 documents you’ll want to review carefully.

  • Condo Association Declaration – What are the rules and regulations of the condominum ? What are the responsibilites of the association ? What are the responsibilities of the co-owners? How are members elected to the association ? How often does the association hold meetings ?
  • Financial Statements of the last 2 years – Are the condo fees covering all the major expenses? Does the condo association have a prudent Reserve Fund to cover ? Have there been situations in the past where members had to make additional payments (Special Assessments) due to a shortage in the Reserve Fund? What have been the percentages by which the condo fees have increased year over year ?
  • Minutes of the last 2 Annual General Meetings – What have been the major issues? Are major expenses expected soon? Is there a pool and gym? Are there issues with these these facitlities? Does the pool need to be resurfaced? What Is the elevator constantly needing repair? Is there enough money in the Reserve Fund to cover all the repairs?
  • Minutes of the last 3 condo association meetings – How often does the association meet ? What kind of issues have been raised by co-owners? What actions were taken to resolve the issues ? What issues are outstanding and how long have these issues been outstanding ?
  • Condo Inspection Report – It is important to hire a home inspector knowledgeable in condos to inspect the unit you want to buy. Has the unit been well-maintained? How old and water tight are the windows and the patio door ? Is there a high likelihood of leaks, or cracks? Are railings properly installed? Is there any evidence of mold? Knowing the condition of the unit will help you understand what you’ll need to repair and to negotiate purchase price. Has the property been well maintained ?

“If you’re someone who likes community, you’ll love it,” Smith speaks from experience; she’s been living in her condo since 1988, and loves it. “If you’re stubborn and want things a specific way, it might not be for you.”

“A successful approach for condo living is to live in your complex as if you’re a good guest.” says Smith. “That’s not for everyone.”

Mose Home Inspection Services
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Lay Chan Wee
Lay Chan Wee
01:19 31 Aug 21
I was impressed with the service provided by Rui Su. He was organized, explained in detail area that I am not familiar... with. He provided a good report. I will recommend him if you need home more
Mary Jane Caro
Mary Jane Caro
14:25 27 Aug 21
I am always pleased to recommend Carol Mose from Mose Home Inspection Services to my clients who have had offers... accepted on residential real estate properties. She is knowledgeable, thorough, provides clear explanations, and delivers comprehensive more
Massimo Pannunzio
Massimo Pannunzio
22:05 25 Aug 21
Michael has got to be on of the best home inspectors in all of Quebec. It was amazing working with him and he had my... best interest at heart when making a life changing decision. He made sure I had all the answers and made it easy to work with him. I will be using Mose inspection for any moment that I need an inspection done that's for sure!read more
Amanda Lee
Amanda Lee
19:14 16 Jun 21
Amazing experience with Carol Mose who helped me with a pre-purchase inspection! She was very approachable and... observant, and informed me of all her first impressions on-site. This gave me greater understanding of any conditions as I was able to ask any quick questions on the spot. Her reports are the most thorough that I've seen and include diagrams to help explain what any physical signs mean and potential consequences. Could not have asked for a better inspector!read more
Maeghan Banks
Maeghan Banks
15:38 14 Jun 21
Carol was wonderful to work with for our pre-purchase inspection. She was professional, thorough and communicative,... taking the time to explain her findings as we went through the house. After the inspection, we felt we had clear knowledge of the condition of the house (both pros and cons), allowing us to move forward with the purchase with confidence. Highly recommend!read more
Ryan Chalupovitsch
Ryan Chalupovitsch
13:43 01 Jun 21
Carol Mose is the best home inspector in the business. Approachable and extremely knowledgeable. She did an... inspection for me and really took the time to explain her findings and help me understand the home I was looking to purchase. Cannot recommend her enough. Don’t more
Elisabeth Faure
Elisabeth Faure
21:16 29 Apr 21
This is the second time I have used MOSE, and they are always really amazing. Very nice, very professional. they came... to have a look at my roof and let me know if we were due for a repair - I was very satisfied with everything and would recommend them to anybody!read more
Hannah S
Hannah S
22:05 16 Apr 21
I had a great experience with Mose home inspection. My husband and I are first time homebuyers and so had a ton of... questions about the process. Everyone we talked with was really informative and helpful. Michael was our inspector and was phenomenal. The inspection was very thorough and he explained everything in detail with realistic next steps for us to take. We came out of the inspection feeling really informed. Plus, he is just an absolute delight! He had very contagious enthusiasm and made the inspection a really positive experience. Would highly recommend!read more
Gabriel Lukuc
Gabriel Lukuc
03:05 16 Apr 21
Michael was amazing. He took the time to explain to us what’s really important and the reasoning behind it. We’re not... very handy nor savvy when it comes to home construction so we really appreciate him taking the time to explain to us all aspects of the inspection. Also, Michael was friendly, professional and timely; he provided the report over a holiday and a more
Stephanie Ballard
Stephanie Ballard
14:24 19 Mar 21
MOSE is the best in the business. Once again we were happy with their inspection services - they are professional,... friendly and knowledgeable. Would not hesitate to recommend to friends and family (and have)!read more
Rodrigo Morales
Rodrigo Morales
18:27 10 Sep 20
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