What to Consider Before Buying a Condo

Some pundits might say to the title of this post “how considering not buying it?”

Well, much to many renters and many readers’  (including Financial Uproar who said he wouldn’t be my internet boyfriend anymore if I bought a condo) chagrin, I bought a condo.

Hope you were sitting down!

Alright, here’s a post on what I considered (and what you should consider) before buying a condo:

Location

  • This is one of the most important for anything related to real estate.   Location, location, location. Couldn’t be any more true.
  • Is the neighbourhood safe?  Is public transit nearby?  How is the commute to work?
  • I plotted the address of my new place to my work and saw the the commute time is 1/3 of what it was before living with the boyfriend.  Now I will have no excuses and can bike to work (at least on sunny days haha).

Amenities

  • What to Consider Before Buying a CondoIn places like Toronto, amenities are big (pools, basketball gyms, you name it) and that’s why strata fees are also big.  I opted for a condo with basically no amenities so that the maintenance fees would be kept low.
  • Some amenities you will want to make sure about are underground parking/ parking spaces and visitor parking.  If the place you are interested in is on street where parking can be difficult to procure, you may want to consider a place that has visitor parking.
  • Another amenity to consider is a storage locker.  Storage lockers help you keep your place tidy because you cram as much garbage into it as you can.

Condo Rules

  • This is an important aspect of buying a condo and probably the reason why most people would opt for single dwelling homes if they can afford one.  They don’t want to have to deal with the restrictions and the regulations that the strata dishes out.
  • Some important rules that I wanted to know about (one of my #1′s when I was condo hunting) is whether the unit can be rented out.  As my intention is to turn this unit into a rental unit in one or two years’ time, I want to make sure that it could be rented out.
  • Another rule is whether or not pets are allowed.  This can be a deal breaker for a lot of people (especially me) since I have a whiney dog-child who goes with me everywhere.  How many pets are allowed?  Are there restrictions as to the type of pet?

Related: How to Rent Your Your Basement Suite: Part I

Your Neighbours

  • If rentals are allowed, are their restrictions?
  • Generally, more of an owner occupied building means that there are more people who aren’t going to trash the place.  They actually care about the place because they are paying for it and living there.
  • One of the most important things about condo living is to make sure that the noise level is satisfactory.  Many wood-frame buildings mean that you’ll be at the mercy of your upstairs neighbour.  You’ll know when they get up in the morning, when they are home, when they are watching television etc.  Generally, living on the top floor is better because you won’t have any upstairs neighbours.  That, or opt for a building built with concrete, less sound travels through.

Building and Unit

  • Is the building well maintained?
  • Do you see grime or nastiness on the outside of the building?
  • Do the common areas seem well maintained?
  • What kind of building do you want? high rise or low rise?
  • Is the layout of the unit good?  Sometimes small condos can feel big and larger condos can feel like a closet.  It really is all about the layout.
  • Hire a home inspector to suss out the building.  Read the minutes.  Check to see if there are any big repairs due.  Check the contingency fund and make sure its a good size.
  • How old is the building?

Affordability

  • This is really important.  Can you afford it? Is it within your budget?
  • Add up all the fees, it isn’t just about the mortgage.  You need to consider the mortgage payments, property taxes, condo insurance, heating and electricity, hot water and maintenance fees.  This number should be less than 32% of your income if possible.
  • Some places include hot water in the maintenance fees, some places include gas (for the gas fireplace)
  • Figure out how much the utilities will cost per month

Related: The Rent vs Buy Debate

As you can see, there are a lot of questions and thoughts to consider before putting that down payment on a condo.  One of the bonuses to living in a condo is stress free living (though you are paying for it in maintenance fees).  With a busy lifestyle, sometimes you don’t have the time to make sure all the rats are gone upstairs in the attic, or don’t have time to trim the trees.  The idea of a stress free lifestyle (not having to worry about leaving town and having your home broken into easily) is kinda worth the cramped condo lifestyle.

About

Young is a writer and former owner of Young and Thrifty and the main "twitter' behind Young and Thrifty's twitter account. She lives in Vancouver, BC and enjoys long walks on the beach, spending time with her anxious dog, and finding good deals. If you like what you read, consider signing up for email updates.

5 Responses to What to Consider Before Buying a Condo

  1. krantcents says:

    One of the biggest issues with an HOA is their finances. You want to make sure they are financially sound. Did they collect all the HOA dues? Do they have reserves and how big are they? Are there delinquencies? Is there deferred maintenance on the property?

    I am my HOA Treasurer and the fiscal soundness of the HOA is very important or you will have special assessments.

  2. You forgot “analyze the underlying market to make sure you aren’t buying at the top of a massive bubble.”

  3. Jon says:

    Affordability is definitely key to look at including what will happen to the affordability picture if rates increase and there is a correction in the Condo markets.

  4. Neighbors, neighbors, neighbors. Ugg don’t get me started. The one thing I hate about being a condo owners is dealing with our neighbors. A couple of the owners are normal and fine, but one in particular is nuts and he makes me nuts. We couldn’t afford a single family home (1mil+ in our city), but when we buy again we’ll move to the suburbs to avoid sharing walls and common spaces with anyone.

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