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Calgary Condos: What to Know Before Buying – Part 1
In our decades of experience, the good agents here at Elite Home Real Estate have learned that summer is the #1 season for first time buyers. In fact, the number of first-timers that we help is consistently the highest during this season than any other time of the year... And for a whole lot of first time buyers, condos are the property type of choice.
Thing is, we’ve also learned that very few buyers – first timers or not – are 100% aware of the many ways in which owning a condo differs from owning a house or even a townhouse. It’s with this in mind that we write this blog series, “Calgary Condos: What to Know Before Buying”… Because a little bit of extra knowledge goes a long way!
The Benefits of Condo Living
Condos make a truly great home for many different reasons – from having your sidewalks shoveled for you to indoor parking, to low maintenance costs and property taxes – condominiums have become the property type of choice for an increasing number of homebuyers.
For a lot of first time buyers, these above factors are very attractive selling points! After all, the idea of property maintenance, taxes, home improvements, and utilities can be pretty intimidating for someone who has never owned their own home before (and sometimes, even if they have).
On the flip side, homeowners who are looking to downsize are also attracted to condo ownership for the very same reasons. After years of shoveling snow, cutting grass, taxes, endless property repairs and upgrades, and having to deal with your own plumbing and furnace emergencies, all these long-time homeowners want is someone to deal with this for them! (And, really, who can blame them?)
But owning a condo is not like owning a house or even a townhouse. In many ways, the responsibilities and duties of a condominium owner are much easier. In other ways, however, the obligations of condo ownership are more complex.
From the state and status of the condo building itself to the details of living in and insuring it, there are a number of things to consider when you look at buying a condo in Calgary.
Value vs. Workmanship
In Calgary’s last big boom, we saw the construction of literally thousands of new condos in Calgary These condos were built in a comparatively short span of time and sometimes by contractors who were stretched to provide the resources needed to accommodate all the building projects they were working on.
Ten years and many building code amendments later, many (but certainly not all) of these boom condo buildings are in need of upgrades and repairs. They’re still 100% habitable and have retained impressively strong property value, but their management companies and governance boards are now sending out special assessments. As a result, these condo unit owners are beginning to realize these additional costs.
This is why we always make sure our clients understand the difference and connection between value and workmanship.
Several months ago, we did about a blog post about a young couple that bought a home with some serious structural issues. In it, we emphasized the need for accurate and current home inspection reports. This same advice bears repeating here – but with a condo, you will want to have 2 types of thorough inspections:
• A certified, professional home inspection
• A thorough inspection of the condo documents
This is because unlike a home inspection of a house or townhouse, condo inspections only cover elements specific to the condo unit itself. These are unit-specific elements such as windows, appliances, cabinetry, fire and CO2 detectors, etc.
“Common elements” – like the plumbing, roofing, and electrical systems – are outside of a condo inspection’s scope and therefore cannot be included in a condo home inspection report.
This is why it’s crucial you have a trained eye review the condo documents. It’s in these documents that you’ll get a fuller story because they will reveal any problems or potential problems relating to the bigger picture and long-term issues.
A Bit More About Condo Documents...
These documents give you critical information on the condo’s overall status. This includes pertinent information on the building, the board’s financial resources, special assessments, insurance claims, condo fees, any legal actions taken against the condo’s builders or its board, and how the condo building is and has been managed.
Condominium documents also include the meeting minutes of the condo board, which is a great place to learn about potential issues that may be creeping up to cause serious headaches in the future.
Condo documents must be supplied to condo owners, potential owners, and their respective mortgage providers within 10 days of receiving a written request for them. You can find out more about condo documents from this incredibly handy Service Alberta info sheet.
Geographic Considerations (Prime Example: Floods)
Almost any Canadian who was around in 2013 will remember the devastating, overwhelming floods Calgarians endured that summer.
And while floods like that were previously considered a rare occurrence, the Government of Alberta itself has acknowledged that climate change will “result in long-term changes in temperature and precipitation, as well as increased frequency and severity of weather events such as droughts, floods, forest fires, and severe storms.”
With this in mind, reviewing flood maps and available flood insurance policies is a very wise idea for anyone who is considering condo ownership – especially near Calgary’s two rivers and inner city.
Don’t get us wrong here; we’re not trying to dissuade anyone from investing in a condo in these beautiful and established Calgary neighbourhoods! We are, however, pointing out that there are some unique considerations to keep in mind – regardless of where you want to purchase a condo.
As for floods, the vast majority of condo buildings will have water damage insurance that includes storm sewer back ups. This is important to know about because hundreds of buildings that were not directly affected by the flooding rivers in 2013 still suffered serious damage from over-flowing sewers, drains, and other infrastructure-related flooding damage.
However, if you are thinking of buying a condo near Calgary’s flood zone or flood fringe zone, then be sure to find out if the condo building has overland flood insurance (this information can also be found in the condo documents).
If and/or when the next big flood hits, you’ll be glad to know that you’re properly covered!
Flooding and water damage insurance aside, owners of a condo unit will require a unique form of insurance known as “condo insurance”.
What a great many condo owners don’t realize (until they're in the thick of it) is that condo insurance policies are very unique creatures in the property insurance world.
A condo insurance policy can be a confusing document to understand. That’s because a condo insurance policy needs to balance and complement the insurance that exists for the rest of the building with the coverage needs of your specific condo unit.
A prime example of this is a fire. If there was a fire in your condo, the condo building’s insurance would only cover the damage of the walls and ceiling outwards – so your carpets, fixtures, appliances, and furniture would be covered by a condo owner’s individual condo insurance policy.
Can Ya' Do a Condo?
As you can see, there are some important things to think about when it comes to buying a condo in Calgary. What we’ve listed above are just 4 of the bigger considerations that potential condo owners need to be aware of.
There is definitely much more food for thought when it comes to being a condo owner, but luckily Elite Home Real Estate has some of the very best condo buying specialists in the province!
Stay tuned for our next installment of “Calgary Condos: What to Know Before Buying” where we’ll share more tips and helpful factoids about buying a condo in Calgary.
Want to know more, or maybe you have some condo questions that need answering? Then get in touch! We absolutely know our stuff when it comes to Calgary real estate and Calgary condos – and are always happy to help.