Condominium ownership can be appealing for people who want the independence of owning a home but not the responsibilities such as maintenance and repairs. And some long-term homeowners who are scaling back — after the children leave the nest, for example — want fewer responsibilities, while still retaining ownership.
A condominium is a kind of legal ownership of a property where the buyer owns a unit within the development — which might be a house, a rowhome, or an apartment in a low-rise or a high-rise building.
With condominium ownership, the buyer also contributes to the costs of maintaining the common areas and capital repairs.Monthly condo fees help pay for upkeep and services such as snow removal as well as capital items like a roof replacement.The boundary between a private owner’s unit and that of the common property varies from community to community.In some arrangements, external walls are considered common property, while in some “freehold condominiums” unit ownership extends to the land around each home. Ownership of a part of the property usually means being responsible for maintaining it (and paying for repairs), so it is very important to know where the unit boundaries lie before purchasing a condo. And because condominiums are private developments, it’s also important to find out whether the condo development receives the same municipal services — such as garbage collection or road repairs — as freehold homes do. What is unique to living in a condo corporation is the common property such as recreational facilities, community spaces and other amenities — which give owners several advantages, such as having access to a pool or garden that they might not otherwise be able to afford individually. The “ready-made community” of a condo can involve other common features, such as rules about property design or noise, or security for the property. These amenities and rules provide opportunities to create a sense of community and shared responsibility. Those responsibilities extend to the governance of the community. Unit owners have the right to vote at general meetings on issues that affect the community. It’s very important to participate in these meetings because the decisions made there can involve the community’s services, features, repairs, and maintenance and how to pay for them. These meetings are also opportunities to gain an understanding of the state of the corporation’s finances, which is important to the long-term stability of the development and maintaining the property’s value, and to raise any issues that may affect its future.
This can include legal issues — the condo corporation can be held liable for incidents for which the owners are collectively liable — so keeping on top of these issues is vital.
To help you learn more about buying a condo, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) has a publication called Condominium Buyers’ Guide. This free guide now has information specific to each province and territory. View the online guide at www.cmhc.ca/condoguide.