What you should know before buying a condo

4 Min read on home

Sep 1, 2019


There’s lots to love about condo living: many come with amenities like swimming pools and tennis courts, and you’ve got lots of neighbours to get to know. But is buying a condo right for you? The key is to ask as many questions as you can, because not all condos are alike. Here are some things to consider and to ask about before you put your money down.

What is a Condo, Really?

A condo is not the same as an apartment: you’re buying into a community with shared responsibilities. That means that your condo association can become a big part of your life for as long as you’re living there. They can even influence your décor decisions, with many condos insisting on white drapery facing the street. Make sure to get a thorough understanding of what the condo association requires and restricts.

Condo associations generally determine what fees need to be paid and how money is spent. Ask to see their budget. Most condos have a reserve fund to cover expenses like major repairs; if the fund is low, you may be charged additional fees when those repairs are needed. Ask about upcoming projects and how they plan to fund them.

Get Assurance About the Insurance

Condo insurance is different from homeowner’s insurance and should cover your unit, rather than the entire condo building.  Moreover, your condo association should have a commercial policy—usually called a Corporation, Strata or Shared insurance policy which usually includes building insurance and liability coverage for the condo corporation. For building insurance, what the policy covers may vary from condo to condo. Most Corporation policies cover common areas, such as the lobby or elevator, but not your personal belongings or your condo improvements, which can leave you to foot the bill for any major issues.  In some cases even the plumbing/electrical located in your unit is under your responsibility as well which means paying for repairs.

Also, Corporation policies usually do not cover your personal liability. That’s where Condo Insurance or Unit-Owner protection comes in. Condo Insurance can help if the contents of your home are damaged and can even assist in the repair or replacement of upgraded items. Condo Insurance can also include liability coverage, if someone is unintentionally injured while in your condo. Johnson Insurance offers coverage that works with your building’s policy for a fit that’s right for you. 

Dig Into Their History

The age of your condo matters too. If it’s an older building, ask around to get a sense of its reputation. If it’s new, look into the history of other condos from the same builder. Are they in good financial shape? The last thing you want is for the builder to be cutting corners or to go out of business. If it’s a brand-new building and many of its units have not yet been sold, beware of delays—you may not get to move in when you think you will.

For existing condos ensure that they do have a Corporation insurance policy in place and that they provide you with a Certificate of Insurance which outlines the limits of coverage.  You can also request information on any current or prior claims against the corporation.

You should also obtain a status certificate which confirms the status of the reserve (contingency fund) of the Corporation.

If it is an older building, ask to see the maintenance log and any repair plans to ensure that there is proper care and attention.

Who Will Your Neighbours Be?

Ask how many units are investment properties, and how many are owner-occupied; if it’s primarily the latter, you can feel good about its liveability. Owners are naturally more concerned about maintaining their property, whereas tenants can come and go.

A condo is a major purchase and one that can be very rewarding as both a place to live and as an investment. That’s why it’s important to do all the research you can on the building, the builder, and the condo association. What you learn will determine whether it’s the right place for you.

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