A condominium can be the first step for many Canadians looking to own property. Whether it’s a place to live or a savvy investment – or both – purchasers need to understand that buying a condo comes with its own unique considerations. TitlePLUS spokesman Ray Leclair, a real estate lawyer and vice-president, Public Affairs (Acting) at LawPRO offers the following checklist to keep buyers in the know when purchasing a condo:
1. Status Certificate: This document should be a condition in any agreement to purchase. It includes important information such as monthly expenses, pending legal actions and other matters, including how much the condo has in reserve funds, which could affect future fees. It also includes the documents governing the condominium: the declaration, by-laws and rules & regulations. These documents govern many aspects of condo life. You should become familiar with them, as they may affect your lifestyle. Can you have pets? When can you use the swimming pool? Can you wash your car in the garage or barbecue on the balcony? Discuss your concerns with your real estate lawyer and ask for advice.
2. Special issues for new developments: For those who purchase pre-construction or in a new building, there is a whole other set of variables. When will the amenities be ready? Will there be phasing? This could mean additional buildings on the same site, and more people using the facilities. What are your interim occupancy rights until the condo is registered? Knowing this can avoid complications when selling or renting your unit.
3. Property rights: As the condo owner, you own the interior space of the dwelling unit inside the condominium. However, the building walls, surrounding land, fences and facilities are usually owned in common with other owners in the complex. Your real estate lawyer can explain what property rights you will have when it comes to your parking space, locker and balcony/patio.
4. Condominium governance: It’s typical for a board of directors made up of elected condo unit owners to oversee the workings of the condominium. This governing body has a great deal of influence over how the building is run. If possible, learn as much as you can about the board, including how you can get involved in decisions that will affect your lifestyle and property value.
A useful resource for people interested in buying a home is the TitlePLUS Real Simple Real Estate Guide, available for free at www.titleplus.ca. This guide provides important information on the role of a real estate lawyer and also offers useful calculators, a glossary of terms and a locate-a-lawyer tool.