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The Pros and No's of Calgary Condos

Posted by Elite Group on Tuesday, January 8th, 2019 at 1:13pm.

Calgary Condos: What to Know Before Buying – Pt. 3

Condos. Love them or hate them, if there’s one thing you can find in abundance in Calgary right now it’s condos. Especially downtown. But in a housing market like Calgary’s, where larger single-family detached dwellings can be out of the price range for a great many folks, condo living is a very viable option!

 Cartoon of a man in a top floor condo unit

In part 1 of this mini blog series, we discussed some of the big things that folks who are looking at buying a condo in Calgary should be aware of – things like getting a certified, professional home inspection and reviewing the condo documents. In this post, we’re going to discuss some of the smaller details of condo living – the “pros and the no’s” – based on the decades of combined experience that our fine realtors here at Elite Home Real Estate bring to the table.

Those Devilish Details

Condominiums (AKA: “condos”) are properties that folks can sell or buy like a house, but they’re attached to a larger building complex, typically in the same manner as an apartment.

When you buy a condo in a building, you own the condo unit outright… BUT you also share ownership of the rest of the building and attached property with your fellow condo unit owners. This is a crucially important aspect of condominium living to keep in mind, as sharing community space ownership has its own benefits and costs. It’s also what most distinguishes condo ownership from house ownership.

Cartoon of a devil and angel arguing over condo document details

The Pros vs. The No's of Condos

The most obvious benefit of a condo over a house is the relative cost. Condos are usually less costly and can be a way to become a homeowner in an expensive urban real estate market, such as Calgary’s.

However, the fees associated with your condo association can make the condo more expensive than originally planned. Because of this (and for so many other reasons), it’s always a good idea to closely examine and plan out the costs associated with owning a condo throughout years to see if it works for you.

Care to Share?

Because condo ownership involves sharing a certain level of ownership responsibilities with other residents, condo building maintenance and management gets handled by a condo board (or another similar entity). This board is made up of condo owners who are charged with managing building maintenance, landscaping, cleaning, and any other shared property work that must be done.

This work is funded through condo fees that each condo owner pays on an ongoing basis, with the specific amount depending on the respective condo board and the amenities available… However, you can expect the fees to be in the thousands of dollars each year.  

Also be aware that some maintenance costs can come out of the blue. If a hot water heater breaks, or a pipe bursts, or foundation repair is needed, or all the balconies are deemed to be in dire need of repair, then each condo owner will have pay his or her share to fix it. The fees are often referred to as “special assessments”, and many condos that were hastily built during Calgary’s last big boom are seeing a lot of these “special assessments” right now.

Cartoon of a poor condo owner who's been hit by a special assessment

Other costs are anticipated and covered by the board (well, technically by your condo fees which are set aside by the board for such occasions). For example, at some point elevator repairs or new roofing will be required – these costs should be covered by a specific fund the condo board has reserved for such things. As well, the interior design and maintenance of community areas, their furnishings, flooring, and security cameras are other costs that should be anticipated. 

Other Condominium Considerations

Sometimes, things happen that nobody can anticipate and that can’t or won’t necessarily be covered by a special assessment or reserve fund… In other words, be prepared to expect the unexpected.

Things like pest control issues (such as bed bugs or rodents) can spread from one condo unit to another, and depending on your condo’s bylaws you may be responsible for covering these costs yourself.

Another potential issue is loud neighbours or those who frequently entertain at late hours are other problems. And even if the neighbours themselves aren’t loud, sometimes they may have a creature living there that is… Such as a small, poorly trained dog or vocal & vicious guard cat.

On the other hand, living in such close proximity to your neighbour has certain advantages. If you’re responsible for covering your utilities, particularly heat, then the proximity of one unit to another definitely helps keep those costs down. Further, the sharing of maintenance and repair costs helps to buffer the blow of any special assessments. You also have strength in numbers should the condo board or management corporation try to pull a fast one.

Cartoon of a group of condo owners fitting together puzzle pieces

Rules & Regulations

Condo boards will also apply rules that each owner must follow, with a prime example being smoking. Smoking may be prohibited in your building by the condo board, making it against the rules to smoke even in your own private unit.

Other rules can include restricting the type of pets that you’re allowed to keep, the style of window coverings you can have, whether or not you can put festive lights on your balcony, and a plethora of other possible things.

You will also be tasked with regular external maintenance and safety checks within your own home. Condo boards will expect that your fire alarms are functioning properly with regular checks from the condo board, for example. So if you enjoy a lot of privacy and autonomy then a condo may not be the best fit for you.

Cartoon of a guy trying to decide whether to buy a Calgary condo

On the flip side, condos do give you a sense of community that you may not find in owning a house. The regular interactions with your neighbours can be a great way to make friends and get involved in your community. You can even serve on a condo board yourself – something a number of condo owners enjoy and take pride in. (That said, the downside of this can be managing the needs and expectations of your fellow condo association members can be difficult and frustrating.)

In the end, the pros and no’s of condos is entirely dependent on your own lifestyle and habitation preferences. For some, the advantages of condo living are worth their weight in gold and these folks would not trade it for even the most sprawling of country manors… Yet others would sooner live in a tin can than a condo. This is why it’s important for you to have a thorough understanding of your unique needs and lifestyle preferences before making any sort of significant property purchase.


Still unsure of whether a condo is the right property purchase for you? Have some lingering questions that need answers? Then get in touch and chat with one of our experienced, reliable Calgary realtors. We have more combined realty experience than we care to admit, so chances are high that we can help you with your Calgary real estate needs!

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