CMHC Condominium Buyers' Guide


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Condominium Buyers' Guide

Condominium living is popular for many Canadians because it can be a relatively carefree housing option. This Guide has been created to help you become an informed condominium buyer and help you make the best choice. Topics include: condominium types, rules and regulations, a condition checklist, a glossary of terms, information sources and a condominium selection checklist. (© 2002 CMHC, Revised 2009)

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CMHC Condominium Buyers' Guide

  2. 2. CMHC—Home to Canadians Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) has been Canada’s national housing agency for more than 60 years. Together with other housing stakeholders, we help ensure that the Canadian housing system remains one of the best in the world. We are committed to helping Canadians access a wide choice of quality, environmentally sustainable and affordable homes – homes that will continue to create vibrant and healthy communities and cities across the country. For more information, visit our website at You can also reach us by phone at 1-800-668-2642 or by fax at 1-800-245-9274. Outside Canada call 613-748-2003 or fax to 613-748-2016. Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation supports the Government of Canada policy on access to information for people with disabilities. If you wish to obtain this publication in alternative formats, call 1-800-668-2642.
  3. 3. CONDOMINIUM BUYERS’ GUIDE CMHC offers a wide range of housing-related information. For details, call 1-800-668-2642 or visit our website at Cette publication est aussi disponible en français sous le titre : Logements en copropriété — Guide de l’acheteur (OPIMS: 63101)
  4. 4. This research project was funded by Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC). The contents, views and editorial quality of this report are the responsibility of the author(s) and CMHC accepts no responsibility for them or any consequences arising from the reader’s use of the information, materials and techniques described herein. Disclaimer This guide is provided for general information purposes only. Any reliance or action taken based on the information provided is the responsibility of the user. Readers are advised to consult appropriate professional resources to determine what is suitable in their particular case. CMHC assumes no responsibility for any consequences arising from use of the information provided in this guide. National Library of Canada cataloguing in publication data Main entry under title: Condominium Buyers’ Guide Issued also in French under title: Logements en copropriété — Guide de l’acheteur ISBN 0-662-33517-1 Cat. no. NH15-407/2003E 1. Condominiums—Purchasing—Canada. 2. House buying—Canada. I. Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. HD7287.67C3C66 2003 643’.2 C2003-980058-X © 2002 Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. Reprinted: 2005, 2006 Revised and reprinted 2008, 2009 All rights reserved. No portion of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, mechanical, electronic, photocopying, recording or otherwise without the prior written permission of Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. Without limiting the generality of the foregoing no portion of this book may be translated from English into any other language without the prior written permission of Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. Printed in Canada Produced by CMHC
  5. 5. Condominium Buyers’ Guide So You’ve Decided to Buy a Condominium . . . Condominium living is a popular option The Guide will give you the basic background for many Canadians as it can be a relatively information you need to get started on the carefree housing option. Currently, in some path to condominium ownership. It will parts of the country, one out of three new identify important questions to ask—and homes built is a condominium. Interest the people you should be asking—before you in condominiums tends to grow with a make this important purchase. At the end shortage of rental accommodation, relatively of the Guide, we’ve provided you with a low mortgage interest rates, and urban core condominium selection checklist to help you renewal. Most major newspapers now include narrow down the choice between the different a condominium section which recognizes the types of condominiums you might see. increasing number of people who already live in—or aspire to live in—a condominium. This Guide provides a general overview of the purchase of condominiums. It is not intended This Guide has been created to help you to provide legal or technical advice. It is become an informed condominium buyer and recommended that you retain appropriate to help you make the best choice. Please see legal and technical professionals to guide you the glossary at the end of the Guide for full with any condominium purchase you may definitions of some of the terms used in this consider. guide. 1
  6. 6. Table of Contents So You’ve Decided to Buy a Condominium . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . i 1 - Condominium Ownership . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 What Is a Condominium? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 What Types of Condominiums Are There? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 What Do I Own When I Buy a Condominium? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 Are Condominium Regulations the Same Across Canada? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3 What Rules and Restrictions Might I Encounter in a Condominium? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3 Who Takes Care of the Building and Grounds? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5 What Insurance Will I Need? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6 Can I Rent My Condominium? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7 2 - What Type of Condominium is Right for Me? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9 New, Re-sale or Conversion—What Are the Differences?. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9 New Condominiums . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9 Conversion Condominiums . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12 Existing/Re-sale Condominiums . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13 Affordability—How Much Will it Cost? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14 Condominium Contributions—What’s Included in My Fees? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15 Extraordinary Expenses . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16 Questions to Ask in Choosing a Condominium . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17 3 - Getting Help from the Experts . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19 Who Should I Consult about Buying a Condominium? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19 How do I Know if a Condominium is in Good Financial Condition? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21 How do I Know if a Condominium is in Good Physical Condition? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22 Physical Checklist . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23 What Information Does the Condominium Corporation Have that Could Help Me? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25 Appendix A - Glossary of Terms . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27 Appendix B - Where to Find More Information . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29 Appendix C - Condominium Selection Checklist . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 35 Acknowledgments . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 38 iii
  7. 7. 1 — Condominium Ownership Condominium living can offer the Each unit owner has an undivided interest prospective homeowner many desirable in the common elements of the building. attributes, such as affordable housing and This ownership interest is often referred to low maintenance requirements. Many as a “unit factor.” The unit factor for any condominiums have enhanced security particular unit will generally be calculated in features over those found in single-family proportion to the value that the unit has in houses. Condominiums can be complete relation to the total value of all of the units communities within one complex offering in the condominium corporation. The unit a wide range of social, entertainment and factor will tell you what your ownership recreational activities. However, buyers percentage is in the common elements and should be aware—before they buy—of many will be used in calculating the monthly fees issues surrounding the purchase of, and the that you must pay towards their upkeep and lifestyle in, a condominium. This section of renewal. the Guide will help prepare you for successful condominium living. The creation of a condominium is regulated by provincial or territorial condominium What Is a Condominium? legislation and municipal guidelines. It can be created in many different ways. In some A “condominium” refers to a form of provinces, a developer, or other interested legal ownership, as opposed to a style of parties, may register a declaration to create a construction. Condominiums are most often condominium, while in others, an application thought of as high-rise residential buildings, may be made to have title issued for the but this form of ownership can also apply to units pursuant to an “approved plan townhouse complexes, individual houses and of condominium.” The operation of low-rise residential buildings. Condominiums condominiums is also governed by provincial are also known as strata in British Columbia or territorial legislation and the condominium or syndicates of co-ownership in Quebec. corporation’s own declaration, bylaws and rules. Condominiums consist of two parts. The first part is a collection of private dwellings called Once a condominium corporation has been “units.” Each unit is owned by and registered established, a board of directors, elected by, in the name of the purchaser of the unit. and generally made up of, the individual The second part consists of the common condominium owners, takes responsibility for elements of the building that may include the management of the corporation’s business lobbies, hallways, elevators, recreational affairs. There is usually a turnover meeting facilities, walkways, gardens, etc. Common where this transfer of responsibility takes elements may also include structural elements place. Each unit owner has voting rights at and mechanical and electrical services. meetings. Your voting rights will generally The ownership of these common elements be in proportion to your unit factor. is shared amongst the individual unit owners, as is the cost for their operation, maintenance and ongoing replacement. 1
  8. 8. Condominium Buyers’ Guide What Types of Condominiums For a freehold condominium (or a bare/vacant Are There? land condominium), the unit may be the entire house including the exterior walls, the Residential condominiums can be high-rise roof and in some cases, the land surrounding or low-rise (under four storeys), town or row the structure. Prior to making a purchase, houses, duplexes (one unit over another), you may wish to hire a professional surveyor triplexes (stack of three units), single-detached to review the site plan for the condominium houses, stacked townhouses or freehold plots. corporation so you know exactly where your There are even mixed-use condominiums that unit’s boundaries lay. are partly residential and partly commercial buildings. They come in various sizes with Components of building systems that serve diverse features and they can be found in more than one unit, such as structural almost every price range. elements and mechanical and electrical services, are often considered part of the What Do I Own When I Buy common property elements, particularly when they are located outside of the unit a Condominium? boundaries specified in the condominium’s governing documents. When you buy a condominium, you own your unit, as well as a percentage of the There may be some parts of the common property elements allocated to the condominium complex that are called unit. The boundaries of each individual unit “exclusive use common property elements.” and the percentage of common elements They are outside the unit boundaries, but you own may vary from condominium to are for the exclusive use of the owner of a condominium, depending on how they are particular unit. Balconies, parking spaces, specified in the condominium’s governing storage lockers, driveways and front or documents. Sometimes, the unit boundary rear lawn areas are common examples of can be at the backside of the interior drywall exclusive use common property elements. It of the unit’s dividing walls. Alternatively, is important to be aware of any exclusive use the unit boundary can be the centre line common property elements before you make of the unit’s walls. The boundaries of an offer to purchase a condominium. While your condominium unit are an important these spaces are exclusive to your use, there consideration at the time of purchase— may be restrictions on how and when you particularly if alterations and renovations use them. For instance, you may not be able are a potential part of your purchase plan. to park a boat, RV or commercial vehicle in The unit typically includes any equipment, your assigned parking spot. There may also systems, finishes, etc. that are contained only be restrictions on what you can place on your in the individual unit. The right to use one balcony. or more parking spots and storage areas may be included. While you may have exclusive access to parking spot or storage area, you seldom actually own the space itself. 2
  9. 9. Condominium Buyers’ Guide Are Condominium Regulations What Does Freehold Mean? the Same Across Canada? The biggest difference between a freehold condominium and a regular condominium is what No. Each province and territory has its is included as part of the unit. With a freehold own regulations and legislation specific to condominium, you own the plot of land and the registry, construction and operation of any structure on that land such as a house or townhouse. You are normally responsible for the condominiums. You should become familiar care and upkeep of the entire house, including with the regulations and legislation in your the exterior walls and roof, as well as the lawn, own province or territory before you buy a garden, driveway and garage. condominium. Sources of information for provincial and territorial legislation are provided With a freehold condominium, the common property elements might include access roads in this Guide (see pages 29 to 33). to the units, recreational facilities, visitor parking area or a park with a playground. These items What Rules and Restrictions may be the responsibility of the condominium corporation. All unit owners pay a monthly Might I Encounter in a condominium fee toward their upkeep. Condominium? With a regular townhouse or house condominium, Every condominium is governed by its the unit typically consists of the interior of the house itself, while the exterior of the house own unique rules, regulations and bylaws. and the plot of land on which the unit sits are These may be very strict or very relaxed considered part of the common elements. This depending on the nature of the condominium means that repair and maintenance of items corporation. These are necessary to ensure like exterior walls, windows, lawns, gardens that condominiums are properly operated and driveways may be the responsibility of the condominium corporation. In a freehold and maintained and to define the rights condominium, you usually have more freedom and obligations of the individual owners. to make improvements, such as landscaping With respect to rules regarding the individual features, to the unit. However, there are usually owners, condominiums may have restrictions provisions that give the condominium corporation regarding the number of occupants per some control over owners modifying the unit, such as determining when the roof will be repaired, unit, pets, noise, parking and when certain and what colour the shingles must be. So if you amenities may be used. want to change the colour of your door or build a deck in your backyard, you may have to ask for Many condominiums have strict rules permission from the board of directors. concerning the alteration of the unit space or Note: In some provinces, there are bare/vacant its appearance. For example, the condominium land condominiums. The land and any structure on corporation may require all the exterior it make up the unit and maintenance can be fully doors of units to be the same colour to keep the responsibility of the condominium corporation the architectural and community aspect of or the unit owner. the condominium intact. Additionally, you may have to get the permission from the condominium’s board of directors before you change exterior fixtures or install a satellite dish, especially as some changes may affect 3
  10. 10. Condominium Buyers’ Guide the condominium structure or safety. Moving From Single-Family Noise is an important consideration, especially for people moving from a to Multi-Unit single-family dwelling to a multi-unit Living in a detached house can be quite different condominium. Many condominiums have from living in a multi-unit building. Here are some rules regarding what noise levels will be points to consider if you’re thinking of making tolerated and at what hours. For example, the switch from a house to an apartment-type dwelling. if you are hosting a party in your unit, you may be asked to turn the music down at Noise a specific hour. You may wish to clarify the In a multi-unit, your neighbours are much closer, rules regarding noise, and if possible, talk to so you may hear them more. Many condominiums current residents about any noise problems have strict rules regarding how much noise will be tolerated, and at what hours of the day. Noise can they have experienced in the past and how also come from the mechanical services such as they were handled. plumbing, heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems, elevators and garbage chutes. When Individual condominium owners may be purchasing a condominium, you may want to obliged to attend condominium meetings consider the location of these services relative to the unit you are thinking of buying. Additionally, or serve on condominium boards and when buying a new condominium, you may want committees. Almost all condominiums have to ask the developer if any sound transmission requirements for the payment of monthly reduction measures have been used in the condominium fees. There can also be construction of the building’s walls, ceilings and mandatory charges for unforeseen repairs floors. When buying an existing condominium, try to visit the unit during the evenings or weekend to the condominium common elements. to get a sense of what the noise may be like at the time you are most likely to be in the building. Be sure to carefully review and consider all Consider the location of the unit relative to elevators rules and obligations when considering the and garbage chutes. Check to see if the unit faces purchase of a condominium. They should a busy highway. If so, air-conditioning might be a necessary feature so that windows can be kept be available from the unit’s vendor (the shut in the summer. seller), the property manager or the board of directors. The rules of the condominium Independence will be clearly outlined in the condominium Condominium living involves compromise. In return governing documents, and you should for having someone else fix the roof or cut the lawn, you will no longer have the final say in what become familiar with them prior to colour you want your shingles to be or the timing purchasing a particular condominium unit. of yard maintenance. While the rules and regulations of Your condominium unit will likely be considerably condominiums may initially seem to be smaller than your current home. You’ll need to consider which furniture and appliances will overly strict, particularly to those used to fit and what you might have to leave behind. rental housing or owning their own home, For instance, your unit may not be able to they help to ensure that condominiums are accommodate a washer-dryer set which may safe and enjoyable communities to live in for mean having to use a common laundry room. all concerned. 4
  11. 11. Condominium Buyers’ Guide Privacy Who Takes Care of the Building Under most provincial condominium legislation, and Grounds? with reasonable notice, a person authorized by the condominium corporation may enter your unit to carry out inspection and maintenance Most condominium corporations contract-out of the common elements of the condominium the day-to-day operations of the condominium (such as inspection and repair of parts of the to a property management company under common elements such as windows, mechanical the direction of the condominium’s board and electrical systems that serve your unit and of directors. The cleaning of common others). areas, payment of common area utility bills, Lifestyles operation and maintenance of the central Many condominiums are specially suited for space and domestic hot water heating and certain lifestyles, such as families with young air-conditioning systems, snow and garbage children, or seniors. Any condominium provisions removal and the collection of monthly regarding pets should be known as well. It is important to ensure that the prevalent lifestyle maintenance fees may fall under the of the condominium you are considering fits your jurisdiction of the property manager. There lifestyle. are usually limits to the property manager’s authority. For example, anything that requires Security a major expenditure, or an expenditure not Many condominiums offer increased security services, such as closed-circuit cameras in lobbies accounted for in the annual budget, may have and parking garages and security guards, to ensure to be approved by the board of directors. The that only unit owners and authorized personnel property manager is not usually responsible can access the building. Your condominium may for items or operational problems within require that any guests to your unit sign in and out individual units, unless they are related to of the building. Make sure you are comfortable with the security arrangements before buying. the common elements (e.g., heating systems, roofs, windows, exterior walls). Unit Occupancy While many owners of condominium units Some condominiums prefer to deal with actually live in their units, some condominium the management of daily maintenance buildings have a large percentage of the units rented out to others. If this is important to you, themselves. These are sometimes referred to try to find out from the property manager what as “self-managed” condominiums. Under this percentage of the building is owner-occupied. management style, the board of directors— This is an important consideration, as a and in some cases, volunteers who are residents condominium building dominated by rental or owners—will carry out the day-to-day occupancies may not show the same pride of ownership and sense of community and tasks of operating the condominium. security as a building that is fully owner-occupied. Additionally, absentee owners may not have It is important when considering the purchase the same maintenance and repair priorities for of a particular condominium, the building as owners who actually live in the to ensure you are comfortable with the building. management style, whether it is a contract property manager or self-managed. This may have implications on both condominium fees 5
  12. 12. Condominium Buyers’ Guide and any obligations you may have towards Sometimes the responsibility for maintenance the operation and maintenance of the and repair can be shared. For example, a building. heating and air-conditioning (HVAC) system may be part of the common elements, but the The condominium unit owner is responsible unit owner may be responsible for some tasks, for some maintenance duties and the such as changing filters. condominium corporation for others. These responsibilities vary from condominium to What Insurance Will I Need? condominium and should be clearly laid out in the condominium’s governing documents. Both the unit owner and the condominium corporation must have insurance. Specific Maintenance duties for the unit owner can insurance requirements vary from province include: to province. • Internal unit plumbing, appliances, heating, air-conditioning or electrical The corporation may be responsible for systems that are contained in and serve insuring: only that unit; • Common areas and units; • Cleaning window surfaces that • The corporation’s property, such as are accessible from inside the unit; furniture, equipment, vehicles, etc.; • Cleaning some parts of the common • Personal liability—against claims for elements, such as balconies and patios that bodily injury and/or property damage are assigned to or exclusive use of, the occurring on the condominium property unit holder. or caused by some act or omission of the condominium corporation; Maintenance duties for the condominium • Boilers and equipment (for example, corporation can include: elevators, HVAC systems, etc.); • Common plumbing, electrical and heating • Directors and officers insurance—to and air-conditioning systems; respond to claims made personally against • Roof and wall repairs; a director or officer of the condominium; • Windows and doors—repairs and • All perils as per the condominium replacement; governing documents. • Grounds cutting, watering; • Recreational amenities; • Parking areas; • Any other part of the property that is not part of a unit. 6
  13. 13. Condominium Buyers’ Guide The unit owner may be responsible for Summary: Questions to ask when choosing insuring: a condominium • Personal property contents such as • What are the unit boundaries? appliances, furniture and jewelry, • What will my maintenance obligations be? and items stored in lockers. • What management style is being used, and • Improvements and betterments made am I comfortable with it? to the unit (for example, finishing • What are the rules regarding the allowable a basement, installing new cabinets). number of occupants, noise, pets, Check your provincial legislation to find amenities, parking, etc., and how are these out if insurance for improvements is your upheld? responsibility. • Can I alter my unit’s appearance? If I want • Personal liability. to change something, what procedure do I have to follow to get permission? Can I Rent My Condominium? • Does the condominium corporation have the minimum insurance required by my Many condominium buyers purchase their provincial or territorial legislation? units as an investment with the intent • What will my insurance obligations be? of renting the unit out. While most condominium corporations allow owners More questions that should be considered can to rent their units to a third party, you be found in Appendix C of this Guide. should confirm this through a review of the condominium’s governing documents and your provincial legislation. 7
  14. 14. 2 — What Type of Condominium is Right for Me? Condominiums come in all sizes and all construction and well before the condominium kinds of building forms. There are newly corporation is formed. A developer may constructed condominiums, condominiums have some unsold units available after the that have been converted from office or condominium has been completed and warehouse space, and re-sale condominiums. registered. In some market conditions, a This section will explain some of the developer may wait to sell a majority (or all) of differences between condominiums. the units before registering the condominium corporation or starting construction. Deposits New, Re-Sale or Conversion— are typically required to secure, or reserve, a What Are the Differences? condominium unit in a new development. The term “new” is applied to condominium When looking over the drawings and buildings that are either under construction specifications, ensure that you are aware of or have been newly completed, while the the basis of any floor area measurements: do term “conversion” can mean the building they reflect the actual floor area of the unit or was previously used for something else do they include the exterior and interior wall but has been, or is to be, renovated for floor space areas as well? You should also be residential use. For example, many loft- aware of plans to reduce the ceiling height style condominiums are converted from in any locations in the unit to accommodate former commercial or industrial buildings. ductwork and other mechanical and electrical Conversions may also refer to the changing services. This can have an impact on the of units from rental units to condominium esthetics of the unit and affect the eventual units. Both new and conversion location of lighting fixtures and furniture condominiums are usually purchased from as well as wall decorations and fittings. a developer. “Re-sale” condominiums are Similarly, be aware of the future location units that have already been occupied, of heating and air-conditioning equipment, typically in older buildings, and are offered ventilators and hot water heaters as this can for sale by the current owner. affect the availability and esthetics of the space in your unit. New Condominiums Other important issues to consider in the purchase of a new condominium are related Newly constructed condominiums can be an to construction quality. Some key questions attractive option for the prospective owner. to consider include: Are there any special They offer all of the benefits of a newly provisions to limit noise between units? constructed building (fresh appearance, How are the units heated, cooled and modern fittings, surfaces, elevators, appliances) ventilated? How are odours controlled? Is the while providing unit owners with the chance building energy-efficient? Who operates and to customize their units. maintains the heating and air-conditioning systems? What options are available for suite You can purchase a new condominium from wall and floor finishes, cabinets and fixtures? the developer either before or during its 9
  15. 15. Condominium Buyers’ Guide Agreements of purchase and sale may contain You should also be aware that the view provisions that allow the developer to extend from your unit might be subject to change the dates for making the units available for if the building is being constructed in a occupancy. This can be problematic if you newly developed area or as a part of a larger have made arrangements to vacate your complex. Be sure to ask about the future existing housing by a specific date based construction plans for adjacent open areas as on the original closing date. If this is an your view may change significantly with the important consideration for you, ensure construction of a neighbouring high-rise. that you are aware of any occupancy delay clause in your purchase agreement and plan When shopping around for a new accordingly. You should also check your condominium, it is important to ensure that provincial homeowner protection legislation you are aware of what is and what is not to learn your rights in cases where agreed- included in the purchase price. For instance, upon occupancy dates are missed. are there amenities such as pools and parking? How is access to such amenities paid for? Are finishes within the units included in the A Note on Healthy Housing TM purchase price? Are there other charges over Research has shown that your housing choice and above the purchase price you should can have a direct impact on your health and that be aware of? Are utilities (gas, electricity of the environment. When considering new and water charges) covered in the monthly condominium projects, be aware that some condominium fees or not? All such questions developers are now offering condominiums that must be considered to ensure that you can have been designed to minimize energy use through improvements to wall insulation, the compare the overall costs associated with quality of windows, and heating and cooling different condominiums. equipment efficiency. Not only does this save energy and minimize Rules and regulations for new condominiums harmful environmental emissions, it also saves you vary from province to province, therefore it is money now and in the long run. a good idea to check your provincial legislation. Developers are also becoming aware that the New home warranties are often available for materials and systems they construct their buildings newly constructed condominiums—make with can have impacts for your health. For instance, a building designed with a ventilation system for yourself knowledgeable about what the your unit, one that distributes fresh air directly to warranties cover and for how long. all rooms and exhausts air from the kitchen and bathroom, can greatly improve the quality of your Quite often, there is a lengthy wait before a indoor environment. new condominium project is completed and Similarly, be aware that materials and finishes you can move in. It is always important to used in the construction of your condo can have evaluate the current state of the construction an impact on the quality of your indoor air. Note also that the commuting distance between project. Consider whether or not it seems your condo and workplace will have a significant reasonable that the project will be completed impact on energy use and your budget. For by the date set out in the purchase agreement more information on Healthy Housing choices, from the developer before making your visit the CMHC website at or call moving and financing arrangements. 1-800-668-2642. 10
  16. 16. Condominium Buyers’ Guide Disclosure Statements: construction. The developer is responsible In some jurisdictions, in compliance for correcting defects in, or omissions of, with legislation, the developer of a new warrantied elements that occur during the condominium must provide you with warranty period. Should the developer a “disclosure statement” before the sale default on this obligation, the warranty agreement is binding. This includes, among program can provide funding to correct other things, a summary of the condominium’s deficiencies in warrantied elements up to a features/amenities, the condominium’s specified maximum dollar amount. All of the governing documents and budget for the owners of new condominiums are expected first year after registration. This should give to co-operate with the new home warranty you some indication of the rules, regulations inspections and to report any defects or and financial situation of the condominium omissions in their units. You should be aware corporation before you buy into it. that new home warranties do not cover every item that one might construe as a defect. Your province may have legislation that Be sure you are aware of what the warranty provides a “cooling off” period during which does and does not cover, and for how long, buyers can review the information contained before making a claim. New home warranties in the disclosure statement and rescind may also protect the deposit you place on their agreement to purchase if they are not your new condominium, up to a maximum comfortable with their original purchase amount, in case the developer cannot, or will decision. Ensure you obtain and carefully not complete your unit, through no fault of review the disclosure statement within the your own. Check with your provincial or specified time frame. If a cooling-off period territorial government to find out more about is not provided for in your provincial the warranty program as program coverage condominium legislation, try making it varies from province to province. a condition of your offer to purchase to allow you to have a few days to review this Advantages of buying a new condominium information. may include: • A lower purchase price (depending upon New Home Warranties: market conditions); Most provinces have new home warranty • More choice of locations within the programs, which include new condominium building (if applicable); projects. Warranty programs are put in place to ensure that new dwellings are • A broader range of options and/or properly constructed and that they meet upgrades; the construction specifications. Warranty • Newer buildings have less risk of having to programs provide for the reporting of undergo costly, noisy and intrusive repairs defects in, or omissions of, warrantied and renovations; elements within specific time frames. Often, • New home warranty protection. the developer makes arrangements for independent inspection companies to audit the condominium, individual units and common elements within the first year of 11
  17. 17. Condominium Buyers’ Guide Disadvantages of buying a new Advantages of buying a conversion may condominium may include: include: • Because construction may not have • Many of the same advantages of buying started, you cannot “see” what you are a new condominium apply to conversions, buying and must rely on artist sketches (e.g., choice of unit, opportunities for and floor plans (which may change). upgrades, etc.). Be sure to have the unit’s boundaries, • Some conversions offer unique designs, location, finishes, materials, chattels, etc. (e.g., lofts). clearly specified in the purchase agreement. • Converted units are often, but not always, • Your initial deposit will be tied up for the somewhat less expensive than a comparable duration of construction. sized new unit. • Financial institutions may not give you • Conversions may be located in established a mortgage on an unregistered and desirable parts of cities that are well condominium. served by entertainment, educational, • Construction of your unit may not be transit and other amenities. completed by the expected date. • You may move into your unit while Disadvantages of buying a conversion may construction continues in others—this can include: be noisy and disruptive. • As new home warranty programs may not apply to conversion condominiums (check Conversion Condominiums with your provincial program), there may not be construction warranties other than Buying a conversion condominium in the that offered by the developer. early stages of development is similar to • The building structure and perhaps some buying a new condominium. The biggest of its internal components will already be difference is that the exterior of the building old, which may mean major (hence costly) (or building envelope) already exists. The repairs may be needed sooner rather than majority of the construction project usually later. This could be problematic if the consists of modifications to some of the condominium corporation has not had common property components and the sufficient time to build an adequate reserve creation of individual unit spaces. fund. This may have an impact The transfer of the title of ownership on condominium fees and extraordinary may not take place until after occupancy. charges to the unit owners. • Occupancy dates can be changed due You should check with your provincial to construction delays. government to find out if the warranty program in your province covers condominium conversion projects. 12
  18. 18. Condominium Buyers’ Guide Existing/Re-Sale Condominiums applicable warranty periods have expired. Therefore, it is important to have the purchase One of the advantages of purchasing an existing of the unit contingent upon the satisfactory condominium is that you get to see the unit, inspection of the unit and building by building and grounds before you make your a qualified home inspector, professional purchase. You also have the opportunity engineer or architect. to meet other unit owners, speak with the board of directors and ask questions to the Advantages of buying a re-sale property manager. Consider the age of the condominium may include: building and what repairs have been made and • You get what you see. when. Ensure that the condominium is well • There are no lengthy waiting periods maintained and managed. All of this will before you can move in unless provided provide you with valuable information as to for in the condition of sale. whether or not the condominium is right for you. • Deposits are often much lower for re-sale purchases and there is no GST. Estoppel/Status Certificates: • You can check out the condominium When making an offer on a re-sale unit, “community” in advance to see if the ensure it is conditional upon obtaining, and corporation is well run and the people having the time to review, the corporation who live in it are compatible with your documents available to the purchaser under needs and lifestyle. provincial legislation, including an estoppel • Older condominiums can have larger unit or status certificate. There may be a fee sizes. for this certificate, but it will give you the opportunity to review information, including Disadvantages of buying a re-sale the condominium’s governing documents, condominium may include: financial statements and insurance coverage. • Fewer options with regard to choice of unit It is important to thoroughly review these (within the building), decorating, or upgrades. documents, as once you sign the offer to • Older re-sale condominiums may require purchase you are contractually bound and more maintenance and repair than new ones. cannot change your mind if, for example, you later find out the condominium does • The amenities that you may find desirable not allow pets or requires major repairs. (e.g., a workout room or whirlpool, In Alberta, there are services available to high speed Internet connection, security help you with the review of condominium features) may not be available. document packages. In other provinces you • Older resale units may not be as energy should ask your lawyer or notary to help you efficient due to different construction review them. standards in newer buildings. • Major repairs may be coming due that will Provincial new home warranty programs require extra charges to the unit owners if do not protect deposits made when buying the reserve fund is underfunded. a re-sale condominium and won’t provide • You will only receive the portion of the new protection for construction defects once the home warranty that has not yet expired. 13
  19. 19. Condominium Buyers’ Guide Affordability—How Much Will Any costs over and above the basic unit it Cost? purchase price should be clearly outlined in the agreement of purchase and sale. It is important to know how much money you should have set aside to purchase—and You should budget for these charges when live in—the condominium you are considering. you are considering buying. Additionally, when you are shopping around and comparing different condominiums, it is At final closing you will be required to pay important to be aware of the costs (purchase the following costs: price and monthly fees) that would be • Remainder of purchase price; incurred for each unit you are considering • Legal fees and disbursements; so that comparisons can be made. This • PST and GST on extras or upgrades section of the Guide will outline common to unit finishes, equipment and systems condominium expenses to help you with your if not included in purchase price; budget preparation. • Provincial land transfer tax. Purchase Price: Many of these additional costs do not apply For new construction, the purchase price may to re-sale units, since they were already paid include: and/or factored into the purchase price. • Unit sale price; • Upgrades (negotiable); Recurring Costs: • Development charges; • PST on chattels (e.g. appliances) being There are more expenses involved in owning purchased with the unit; a condominium than just the purchase price. • GST on the sale price; You need to include the following in your budget: • Utility hookup fees; • Landscaping fees; • Monthly condominium fees or common • In some provinces, two months’ common expenses; expenses to build the reserve fund; • Property taxes; • Occupancy fees (from occupancy closing • Unit and contents insurance; to title closing) which may include: • Mortgage payments; - Estimated common expenses based • Amenity fees, such as storage, pool, on the disclosure statement budget; extra parking, etc. if not included - Estimated realty taxes on the unit; in the common expenses; - Interest on the balance is due on • Utilities (if not included in common closing. expenses); • Warranty program enrolment fees. • Telephone, cable and Internet access (if not included in common expenses); • A contingency for emergency repairs; • Maintenance costs associated with the upkeep of your unit. 14
  20. 20. Condominium Buyers’ Guide Know What You Can Afford Condominium Contributions— What’s Included in My Fees? If you are presently renting and are looking at purchasing for the first time, here are some Unit owners pay a monthly condominium important points to consider when assessing fee to cover their portion of the operating what is affordable for you. Canada Mortgage and expenses of the common property elements. Housing Corporation can help you to determine what you can afford with an on-line calculator A portion of this fee is allocated to the reserve available free of charge at fund that is created to ensure that there are sufficient funds available for major repairs Down payment and replacements over the life of the building. The more you can afford to put down as a Calculation of condominium fees varies deposit, the less interest you pay over the course of your mortgage. by province but is usually specified in the governing documents of the condominium Mortgage corporation. Condominium fees are usually Consider the type of mortgage, rate of interest and calculated from the annual operating cost term. Consult with your financial adviser or bank of the entire condominium and divided loans officer to decide what works for you. Be sure to factor in the costs of mortgage insurance by the percentage of your contribution to if applicable (required if the deposit is less than the common expenses (your unit factor) as 20 per cent of the unit’s purchase price). Life outlined in the condominium governing insurance may also be desirable but ensure that documents and/or local legislation. the costs are also factored into your monthly These fees may include: budget. • Day-to-day care and upkeep of the Fees common property elements (e.g., snow As a condominium owner, you will pay a monthly fee toward your share of the operation and removal, landscaping, cleaning of maintenance of the common property elements. common elements including carpets and You’ll need to know exactly what is and isn’t exterior windows, heating/cooling system included in the fees for any condominium you maintenance); consider, and how much you can expect to pay. • Contributions to the reserve fund, which Property Tax is used to pay for major repairs to, and When you rent a place to live, the property tax replacement of, common building systems is usually a part of your rent. When you own a to ensure the condominium is kept in condominium, you are responsible for paying your good repair over the life of the building; own property taxes. For a new condominium, the municipality where your condominium is located • Property management fees; should be able to tell you how much you can • Building repair and maintenance; expect to pay. For existing condominiums, this • Salaries of condominium employees (e.g. information can be provided by the real estate agent or the vendor. superintendent, security guards, concierge); • Amenities (e.g., pool, recreational facilities, Utilities party room); These may or may not be included in your monthly condominium fee. You will want to know • Utilities; what you might expect to pay for utilities such as • The corporation’s insurance policies; natural gas, water and electricity. • Cable and/or Internet access. 15
  21. 21. Condominium Buyers’ Guide What is, and is not, included in a Extraordinary Expenses condominium’s monthly fees should be clearly outlined in the operating budget. If the condominium has a shortfall in You should be able to find out more about the operating budget or reserve fund, or the condominium fees from the vendor, unforeseen events occur (for example, a rise property manager, the board of directors in heating costs or a need for a major repair or the developer prior to purchasing a unit. or renovation), the higher cost will necessitate The fees should be stated in the disclosure an increase in your contribution. statement (for new condominiums) or in the estoppel or status certificate (for resale When this happens, each owner could condominiums). These fees may have to be be given a special assessment charge. adjusted from time to time to reflect the The amount owed by each owner is changing costs of goods and services and the calculated by the percentage of ownership, state of the reserve fund. Each adjustment is or unit factor as previously discussed. reflected in the next year’s budget. The amount owed by the owner may be either added as a lump sum to one month If the board overestimates the common of an owner’s regular monthly condominium expenses, the surplus is wholly applied fees, or, it could be spread over a period of either to future common expenses or is time by increasing a number of monthly paid into the reserve fund. Refunds are not condominium fees. Special assessments are given to unit owners. If a unit owner sells uncommon but in some cases, such as when a unit before the end of the condominium funds are needed for major repairs, they can corporation’s fiscal year, the owner cannot be substantial. This is why it is important to obtain a refund for common expenses but review the financial statements, reserve fund may add it to the unit’s purchase price. level, building condition surveys, inspection reports, maintenance history and the estoppel Condominium fees are neither optional or status certificate for the corporation before nor negotiable. For example, unit owners you commit to buying. The following section are required to pay a share toward the care will provide you with more information in and upkeep of amenities such as swimming this regard. pools, regardless of whether or not they plan to actually use the pool. Unit owners cannot withhold payment of their condominium fees if they are displeased with the board of directors, the property manager or other unit owners. In some provinces, the condominium corporation can register a lien on your unit if you do not pay your share of the common expenses. This means the corporation may have the right to sell the unit to recover the money it is owed. 16
  22. 22. Condominium Buyers’ Guide Questions to Ask in Choosing a Condominium • What is the current state of construction, and how quickly can it be expected to progress? • Does the occupancy date meet my requirements? • Can the occupancy date be changed and under what conditions? • Is the building type (i.e., high-rise, townhouse, freehold/bare land, loft) the one I really want? • Will a provincial new home warranty program cover the unit? • What is the purchase cost of the unit, and what is included in that cost? • What other costs will I have to cover when I take ownership, and how much should I expect to pay for each? • What are the current monthly condominium fees, and what do they include? • What mortgage interest rates are available? • What kind of mortgage is right for me? • Will I be able to meet all of my financial obligations if I buy this condominium? • Will I need mortgage insurance and if so, what does it cost? More questions that should be considered can be found in Appendix C of this Guide. 17
  23. 23. 3 — Getting Help from the Experts Who Should I Consult About A real estate agent can also assist you in Buying a Condominium? making an offer to purchase once you’ve found the unit that’s right for you. There are a number of professionals who Remember for a re-sale unit purchase, can help you find the right condominium. make the offer conditional upon getting Real estate agents, lawyers and notaries, all corporation documents available developers and financial advisers all play to the purchaser under provincial an important role. legislation, including an estoppel or status certificate where available, or the financial Because buying a condominium is different statements and governing documents from buying a traditional house, it’s a good for the condominium. Making any sale idea to enlist the help of professionals who conditional upon a satisfactory review of specialize in condominiums. the condominium’s financial condition and inspection by a qualified professional is Real Estate Agents also highly advisable. A good real estate agent specializing in existing condominiums can help you save Lawyers and Notaries time and energy. Hiring a real estate lawyer (or notary in Quebec) who is knowledgeable about You can choose to deal with the vendor’s condominiums is the best way to ensure real estate representative (for existing that your legal interests are protected. condominiums), but you should really enlist Your lawyer will help you by explaining all one who will act only on your behalf. If you the documentation for the condominium deal with the vendor’s agent, there should be including the declaration, bylaws, rules and no charge to you, as the agent will be paid disclosure statements and will review your a commission by the vendor. An agent offer to purchase and the purchase and sale acting exclusively for you should not charge agreement. Your lawyer should be able to a fee for his/her services, as he/she normally determine whether or not there are any shares in the vendor’s agent’s commission. pending legal actions against the condominium Make sure you are clear on who is paying that may have financial implications to the the real estate agent’s commission, and what unit owners. your obligations are once you’ve signed an agreement. If your offer to purchase is accepted, your lawyer will be responsible for many of the When you meet with your agent, be specific closing arrangements. about what features you’re looking for, location, and your budget. This will allow Architects, Engineers, Home your agent to pre-screen condominiums on Inspector Agencies and Document the market that are within your price range, Review Services in the neighbourhoods you want to live in, Having your potential new home inspected with the features and amenities you want. by a professional is a wise idea. All too often, 19
  24. 24. Condominium Buyers’ Guide people make purchase decisions too quickly Consider Your Mortgage Options due to the desirability of the condominium or in anticipation of competing offers. This Mortgage payments are made up of the principal can leave buyers in a situation where they sum (the amount you borrow) and interest (the could face substantial costs after they take amount you pay to borrow the principal). The best plan is to minimize the amount of interest you ownership of the unit due to construction- pay. Some options include: related defects that might have been detected by a pre-purchase inspection. For an objective • A larger down payment—a smaller mortgage means less interest review of the condition of your unit and • A shorter amortization period—the faster you building, it is recommended that you find pay off the loan, the less interest you pay a qualified inspector in the yellow pages or • A weekly or bi-weekly payment schedule— on websites such as that supported by the instead of monthly payments Canadian Association of Home Inspectors • Optional lump sum payments—on top of at Additional information on regular payments to pay down the principal inspections is discussed in following sections portion of the loan of the Guide. Features of a mortgage that you may wish to consider include: Condominium document review specialists (only available in Alberta to date) can • Prepayment—ensure you can pay down your mortgage with a lump sum without penalty be retained to assess the status of the • Portability—allows you to transfer the terms and condominium corporation through the review conditions of your mortgage to your next home of the condominium’s governing documents, • Assumability—allows you to take over the financial statements, etc. The agreement- existing mortgage on the property, as it may to-purchase offer can be made conditional have a lower interest rate than the current upon the satisfactory review of condominium market; an assumable mortgage may also be a documents by persons offering this service. selling feature for when you decide to move • Expandability—allows you to expand upon the first mortgage at the lender’s agreed-upon rate Financial Advisers of interest Ensure you can afford your mortgage and • Flexibility—This allows you to skip one or more the monthly expenses you will face as a result mortgage payments a year—this may relieve of your purchase. Your bank manager or some financial pressure during a tight period, financial adviser can help you customize your but skipping a payment will add a month to your mortgage mortgage to suit your financial goals and needs. CMHC’s on-line Homebuying Step- Federal legislation restricts banks from providing by-Step Guide can also help you to determine mortgages of more than 80 per cent of the what you can afford. You can find the purchase price of a home without mortgage guide on CMHC’s website at insurance. CMHC mortgage insurance enables Canadians to purchase a home with as little as a five per cent down payment. If the homebuyer does not fulfill the terms of the mortgage contract and There are many different types of mortgages, defaults on mortgage payments, CMHC mortgage including conventional, high-ratio and second insurance protects the mortgage lender (typically mortgages. Take the time to discuss 20
  25. 25. Condominium Buyers’ Guide your bank) from losses on the mortgage. This sign that the condominium corporation is ill- arrangement assures the lender that mortgage prepared to fund major repairs and renewal funds are not at risk and the homebuyer is in projects. As a result, the condition of the a position to purchase a home sooner. The condominium property can deteriorate or you minimum five per cent down payment must come may be faced with substantial charges from from the homebuyer’s own resources and the lender must verify that the home buyer can cover the condominium to cover repair costs as they the closing costs of at least 1.5 per cent of the occur. Fortunately there are ways to determine purchase price. CMHC mortgage insurance does the financial status of the condominium based not provide insurance for other aspects of the on the documentation that the condominium home purchase, such as property and casualty corporation is obliged to keep, such as the insurance, housing quality or life insurance. annual operating budgets and end-of-year Application for mortgage financing for the purchase financial statements. For resale condominiums, of a condominium should be made directly through check the estoppel or status certificate. For new your lending institution, which, in turn, will forward condominiums review the disclosure statement. the application for mortgage insurance to CMHC An important part of the operating budget is on your behalf. The assessment of a borrower is the reserve or contingency fund. considered to be the most demanding task in the review of homeownership loans. CMHC provides guidelines to lenders for assessing borrowers. The Condominium Reserve Fund Based on your personal circumstances, your The purpose of a reserve fund is to provide financial institution can provide you with the financing for major repairs and renewal information relating to the maximum mortgage for which you would qualify. projects over the life of the condominium building. The fund essentially ensures that You can get more information from the free the condominium common elements will be Homebuying Step-by-Step Guide published by maintained in good shape for the life of the CMHC or by visiting the Canada Mortgage and project. The amount required to be in the Housing Corporation website at or by calling 1-800-668-2642. reserve fund depends upon the condition and life expectancy of all of the common elements in the building and the estimated cost to your current financial position and future replace them over the life of the project. goals with your financial adviser and be sure The amount each unit owner is required to that you are comfortable with your purchase. contribute to the reserve fund, usually via monthly condominium fees, is determined by How do I Know if a estimating what would have to be set aside on Condominium is in Good a monthly basis to cover the long-term costs. Financial Condition? Reserve fund studies are updated from time The financial well-being of the condominium to time, depending on provincial regulations corporation is an important consideration. or at the discretion of the condominium Buying into a condominium corporation that corporation. The studies are conducted by is insufficiently funded to operate and maintain professionals capable of assessing the condition common elements is a risky proposition. Low of the common elements of the building, condominium fees may make one condominium estimating remaining lifespans and the more appealing than others, but it may be a related repair and/or replacement costs. 21
  26. 26. Condominium Buyers’ Guide Based on their observations, the reserve fund a performance or technical audit may be study professionals estimate the monthly or conducted to identify deficiencies before the annual contributions necessary to fund the warranty expires. long-term renewal of the common elements. After receiving the reserve fund study, the For existing condominiums, the condition of board of directors can propose a plan for the the unit and building you are considering buying sustainability of the fund, including monthly can be determined by a review of technical contributions from owners as part of the audits (essentially a building-wide inspection) condominium fees. In some provinces this is done in conjunction with reserve fund studies. mandatory, while in others it is optional. These audits will provide you with an overview of the condition of the building and common You do not want to move in your new elements, but not necessarily of any of the home only to discover that the reserve individual units. A technical audit may be fund is under-funded and major repairs are available as a part of the reserve fund study in required. This could mean a significant increase some provinces. Avoid any surprises and ask to in condominium fees or the levying of charges, see these reports before you make your decision. commonly known as special assessments, to the unit owners by the condominium corporation You should also consider hiring a qualified to pay for the needed repairs. Special home inspector, who specializes in the type assessment charges can be high depending on of condominium you are thinking of the type of work required. Ensure you obtain buying, to inspect the unit and building. and review either the disclosure statement or The inspector should have condominium the estoppel or status certificate to determine experience and provide a detailed written the current state of the reserve fund. report on the unit and visible common elements, whether any repairs are necessary How do I Know if a and the estimated cost. If more than one set Condominium of repairs is necessary, the report should put them in order of priority—what needs to be is in Good Physical Condition? fixed first, and what can wait. Very often, new condominiums are protected It is always a good idea to examine the by new home warranty programs that ensure inspection contract very closely to determine the common property and individual units what exclusions or disclaimers it contains. are in good condition. In such cases, an Ask for the credentials of the inspectors (e.g., inspection will be conducted to ensure that membership in the Canadian Association of the condominium is properly constructed Home and Property Inspectors) or if the and finished. Any defects in or omissions of inspection firm is licensed provincially and warrantied elements will be listed and the ask for proof of errors and omissions insurance. developer may be obliged to correct them If a costly repair is required that was missed if they are material. Long-term warranties in the report, the inspector might be on major components such as structural financially responsible to compensate you elements can run for as long as 5–7 years for the repairs. after a building is completed. At this point, 22
  27. 27. Condominium Buyers’ Guide If you suspect that there may be an indoor Common Elements — Exterior air quality (IAQ) problem in the unit you q Garbage in receptacles/dumpsters are purchasing, an IAQ investigation can q Snow and ice removed from walkways be arranged. An initial IAQ inspection can and parking areas provide a subjective evaluation of the air q Amenities are clean and in good repair, quality of the unit and identify the potential including external recreational facilities presence of mold, airborne particulates, and landscaping volatile organic compounds, poor ventilation, q Exterior walls are not cracked, corroded and odours from other units and other or water-stained sources of IAQ problems. For a list of people who have completed Canada Mortgage and q Balcony railings are rigid, rust-free and Housing Corporation’s Residential IAQ balcony slabs are not breaking up Investigator Training Program and further q Roadways, sidewalks and parking areas guidance on hiring an inspector for a pre- are in good shape with no standing water purchase inspection, call 1-800-668-2642 or q Block heaters are functional consult CMHC’s website at q Good pathway and parking lot lighting q Walls: no water stains, corrosion, loose Physical Checklist siding, white marks on brick q Lawn, fences, playground structures and Use this checklist to evaluate the physical landscaping are in good condition state of the condominium. Unit Common Elements — Interior q Favourable initial reaction to odours q Lobby is clean and in good repair, exterior upon entering the unit doors, locks and security system functional q Exterior door to unit is in good repair, q Recreational amenities (if any) are in with unmarked paint and functioning good working order and clean latch and locks q Elevators are clean and functional q Drywall not dented or broken q Corridors are clean, well-lit, odour-free, q Paint unmarked carpets in good repair, paint unmarked q Flooring (including tile, hardwood and q Stairwells are well-lit, doors and door carpeting) clean and in good repair, handles are functional with no stains, holes or burn marks q Common basement or locker facilities q Smoke detectors are present are well-lit, clean and dry q Interior doors in good repair, open and signs of water leaks or mold q No close easily and latches/knobs functional q Underground parking structure does not q Windows open, shut and lock easily, show any evidence of leaks or concrete glass is unscratched, no noticeable deterioration drafts, no mold, seals in place areas meet your needs for ease q All visible water-stain marks/damaged q No of accessibility drywall around windows, near floors or ceilings 23
  28. 28. Condominium Buyers’ Guide light fixtures are operational q All A Note on Mold q Appliances (if included) are functional, clean and in good repair Molds are microscopic fungi that we encounter everywhere, everyday. Foods spoil because of mold, q Plumbing does not drip leaves decay and wood rots. The fuzzy black growth on q Toilets flush and refill properly windowsills is mold. Musty smells in damp locations is q Bathtub and shower walls are clean and caused by mold. Mold grows where the temperature, moisture conditions are right and where it has a source solid of nutrients. If we keep things dry, molds do not grow. q Electrical sockets function q Kitchen cupboards in good repair with In houses and apartments, mold growth occurs due to functional doors and no signs of pests the presence of high moisture levels caused by leakage of rain or snow from outside, plumbing leaks, poor (insects or mouse droppings) basement drainage and cooking and bathing activities q Basement is dry, there are no obvious without adequate ventilation. Under such conditions, odours and free from evidence of water mold will grow on any surface that will nurture its damage (indicates previous flood) growth, such as wood, drywall, paper and carpets. q Basement sump-pump in the unit Mold is a concern as it damages construction and is functional (if applicable) finishing materials in our homes. Materials become q Unit heating and air-conditioning stained, discoloured and over time, ruined. Moldy paper and cardboard boxes disintegrate while wood system working rots and looses its structural integrity. Mold is also a q Exhaust fans in kitchen and bathroom health concern. Health experts indicate that exposure are operational to certain types of molds over a sufficient period of time can cause illness and allergic reactions in susceptible individuals such as pregnant women, infants, the elderly and those with health problems. Mold is a problem if it starts to actively grow inside a dwelling. Small isolated mold growth on windowsills is not a big problem as it can be easily cleaned and prevented. Once mold has covered an area greater that one square meter (10 sq. ft.), it becomes a concern and experts in mold removal and prevention should be consulted. Remember, the presence of mold is usually a sign that there is a moisture problem within the unit or building. Solutions range from simply increasing ventilation via operable windows or use of exhaust fans through to removal of contaminated materials, solving the moisture problem and restoring the affected areas. If you detect a significant amount of mold, you should seriously reconsider your interest in the unit, as the problem may not be easily or quickly resolved. For more information on detecting and solving mold problems, consult CMHC’s website at or call 1-800-668-2642. 24
  29. 29. Condominium Buyers’ Guide What Information Does the A note on Quebec Condominium Corporation Have that Could Help Me? In Quebec there is a declaration of co-ownership and a register containing the bylaws, financial statements, etc. This register is accessible to Whether you’re buying a new condominium co-owners only. Prospective buyers can consult from a developer or looking at a re-sale the register only if they have a mandate (proxy) property, the seller should provide you with to that effect from the co-owner-vendor. There information about the unit and the corporation. is no estoppel or status certificate or access to Essential documents you should have include: information as found in other provinces. The vendor may supply the prospectus—known as • Governing documents — constitution, a “memorandum” in Quebec—if the building declaration, condominium plan, bylaws; was registered after Jan. 1, 1994 and has 10 residential units or more. This information • Estoppel/status certificate for resale includes: condominiums or disclosure statements • The name of the architects, engineers, builders for new condominiums; and developers (called promoteurs in French) • Reserve fund study and/or performance/ • A plan of the overall real estate development technical audit; project • Operating budget, financial statements, • A summary of the descriptive specifications annual general meeting minutes and • Budget forecast reserve budget (for re-sale condominiums). • Information on common elements • Management of the immovable If you are having difficulty obtaining • The right of emphyteusis or superficies affecting information about a condominium the immovable. corporation or a particular unit, consult your lawyer or check your provincial regulations for your rights regarding access to a look at life in this particular condominium, information. You may also want to reconsider information that should help you to decide if purchasing a unit in a building where such it’s the right choice for you. documents are difficult to access as it may be indicative of problems with the building or Questions to ask when choosing condominium management. a condominium q Does your real estate agent specialize If you are looking at a re-sale condominium, in condominiums and understand you may be able to meet some of your your needs? prospective neighbours, speak with the your lawyer or notary knowledgeable q Is board of directors or ask the property about condominiums? manager questions. Speaking with people q Can your lawyer or notary explain who already live in the condominium provincial condominium legislation gives you the opportunity to ask them and the condominium’s governing about the community, the operations documents in a way you can and the management of the condominium understand? corporation. They should be able to give you 25