Buying a condo in Calgary

Through years of experience in helping condominium buyers, we've noticed a huge trend in some major misconceptions that often come up, while we always educate our clients throughout the process, we hear many stories of buyers who simply aren't informed, and are faced with major shocks and decisions in Condominium ownership. 

We've compiled a list of 10+ misconceptions in owning a condominium

1. The Condo Board covers the large expenses and fixes (Not you the owner) 

As an owner of your unit, you are actually part of the ownership and interest in the entire building, you may not hold a role on the board (like the treasurer) however, you do retain ownership in the building. As part of your monthly condominium fees, your funds contribute maintenance, utilities, as well as a reserve fund, which is a fund that is used to pay for items like the roof or siding. If your building has a major repair/fix/loss and the reserve fund is unable to cover it, you could see an assessment processed against you and your ownership/interest in the building.

2. I don't need to pay for insurance, my building is insured. 

This is definitely true that your condominium building insurance will be covered by your commercial condominium policy through condominium fees. There are other forms of insurance you'll need to consider as a condominium owner. 

Upgrades - If you've upgraded your condominium from the original build, you should look into obtaining insurance for this. This includes hardwood floors, counter tops, etc. There are some buildings where they've created bylaws that would require owners to be responsible for certain materials (flooring for example) regardless of whether they were improvements or upgrades (in the event of a loss). 

Liability - While there are many examples of liability insurance being beneficial to clients, one we often provide for consideration is this: A simply mistake like leaving a faucet on, resulting in water damage to neighboring units could result in you being sued for damages, or someone slipping on a wet surface and injuring themselves could also result you being liable. 

Contents / Theft - Your personal property (Electronics, household goods, etc) is only covered by your own personal insurance policy, you would set the limit of coverage based on the amount of goods you possess. 

Special Insurance Assessments - The most common occurrence in this situation is when a building suffers a loss and unit owners become responsible for this damage (See Point 1 of this blog) If there is a shortfall in the condominiums commercial policies coverage, you could be responsible for covering this shortfall (along with other owners)

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3. I'll be enjoying some drinks and BBQ'ing from my patio this summer! 

Talk to your agent about this before you buy into a specific building, if your patio doesn't have an existing natural gas line, there's a strong possibility that you won't be doing any BBQ'ING from your patio. While some buildings have designated / shared common spaces that would allow for this, many buildings have strong safety oriented bylaws that forbid owners from operating BBQ's. 

4. All condominium fees have you covered for the same things (Maintenance, utilities, etc) 

Unfortunately this isn't true! What's included within your condominium fees will vary between every single building, while you will see a lot of similarities, it is important to make note of what is or isn't included. This is also the same for parking and storage within buildings, while some will have opportunities for titled parking stalls and lockers, other buildings will not, and therefore guaranteed parking spots aren't always included. Ask your Real Estate Partner - Re/Max First real estate agent to discuss these inclusions and exclusions from units you're interested in buying. 

5. I will have complete freedom to make the unit exactly how I want it, including decorations and renovations. 

Commonly owned pieces of the building (plumbing, electrical, and other stuff behind the dry wall) are typically not permitted to be modified or altered in major ways. Taking down walls, adding bathrooms, etc will require approval from the condominium board. There can also be bylaws implemented that dictate certain decorations (Christmas lights, items hanging on your balcony, etc) These are normally implemented to keep the beauty of the building intact, therefore not deterring certain buyers who may be put off by certain decorations (I.e. flags hanging from balconies) 

6. My 90lb Dog is moving in! 

Almost every condominium in Calgary will have some restrictions for pets, this typically would be how many you can have, and their sizes. In our experience, we typically see two pet maximums, while size restrictions can really vary, you may have to file a special application to have a larger dog, and demonstrate their good behavior. As MAJOR animal lovers, we always advise our clients who are pet owners to have this at the forefront of their minds when considering various condominiums in Calgary and surrounding areas to ensure that they don't run into any unpleasant scenarios. 

7. Posting bad reviews / pictures online will get things fixed quickly in my building!

Recently while browsing reviews of a newer high rise condominium in Calgary, we saw a unit owner (or possibly a renter) leaving poor reviews, posting pictures of construction dust, etc  - The building is still under construction in some areas, and while frustrating, this likely won't make the work happen faster, but the lasting results of these reviews will stand, potentially resulting in adverse resale value. It's better to go through the proper channels as an owner to ensure that issues are remedied as quick as possible, without hurting your ownership position. 

8. I'd prefer to own a home because it's cheaper!

While this can be debated ad nauseam, generally speaking, condominium ownership is typically cheaper than owning a house. Home owners will see higher utility bills, insurance payments, and have to budget for annual expenses routinely (2-5%) in maintenance, repairs, and other costs that are associated with home ownership in comparison to condominium ownership. 

9. This buildings views are amazing and unobstructed, I'm sold on that alone!

In Calgary, our views change all the time. Whether you're downtown or in newly developed area, don't count on your scenic views to stay forever.

Don't count on your unobstructed mountain views to last forever, while it's hard to predict and know for sure, an experienced agent can provide guidance or insight on future development plans in the area, but there are no guarantees for this. 

10. Condo boards and the meetings are a waste of time. 

Definitely not true! You do have a say, and vote at meetings, and you should definitely act on that. There could be rules passed that affect you and things you consider important! This could be increased fees, decreased common space cleaning, animal bylaw changes, etc. Stay diligent and exercise your ownership rights to ensure your vision and values are reflected in the building.  

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Posted by Cody Tritter on
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