What to Ask When Buying a Condo

By The A-Team | Mar 09, 2019 | Fort McMurray- Buyers Advice

Are you considering buying a condo? If so, then this blog is for you!


I have helped many people buy condos over the past 22 years and so I am here to tell you about things I have learned along the way. There is a lot to know, but don’t worry because our job is to help you get the right info!

Condo ownership is very different from buying a single-family home. Understanding the terminology is the first step. A condo is typically a shared piece of property with other individual owners each owning a unit or condo. Units are shown on the condominium plan with an undivided interest in the common property, known as a unit factor. Each owner is recorded on the title of the unit whether it’s a residential or commercial unit, storage or parking.

One great thing about owning a condo is that the responsibility for many of the larger items is shared. For example, the condo corporation is responsible for the administration, management, maintenance and care of the common property (shared areas) on behalf of all the unit owners.

Many people purchase condos because they are looking for a particular lifestyle of less maintenance. It’s important to determine whether a condo is the “right fit” for your lifestyle! If you enjoy gardening and cutting your own grass, then a condo is likely not a good fit for you.  Another consideration is your proximity to neighbours. Do you mind living very close to a large number of people? If you are in a rock band and practice at home, then it might not be the right fit for you.

Typically a condo is less expensive than purchasing a single-family home. The two most common style of condos are:

  1. Apartment  
  2. Townhouse

Each condo building is different and has its own set of rules, amenities, financials, etc.  


10 things to consider when buying a condo:

  1. Pets: Are there any restrictions on pets? For example, breed, size, number of pets, etc.  This information is something that your REALTOR® will help you find, but it will be found in the condo by-laws.
  2. Parking: Are there additional parking stalls available? Is the parking assigned or titled? Is there a place to plug my car in during the winter? What if I buy an electric car one day? Is there visitor parking available for my guests?
  3. Special Assessments: Are there any specials assessments coming up (also known as cash calls)? Condos operate on a yearly budget and part of that budget includes reserve fund contributions. Major expenses, such as roof replacement, siding, etc. should be budgeted for and the reserve fund contributions should be enough to cover those expenses, however, it doesn’t always work out that way. This is an important question to ask the management company, which again, your REALTOR® can help with. Are there any major expenditures coming up that are not budgeted for? If this is the case, then a special assessment will be levied to all the owners so you will want to know about this before you buy.
  4. Security: Is there an on-site caretaker or on-site security camera? Is the parking area secure?
  5. Windows and doors: Who is responsible for those? Is it the condominium corporation or the individual owners?  
  6. Storage lockers: Are those available?
  7. Rental: Am I allowed to rent my unit through AirBnB? In Alberta, the condominium legislation states that an owner may not be restricted from leasing or renting their unit.   The bylaws can regulate the term of the tenancy, impose fines on a tenant that breaches a bylaw and it may not allow for AirBnB rentals.
  8. Reserve Fund: How much money is in the reserve fund? This is important because you want to know if the condo corporation is on track to cover any major maintenance items down the road so that the owners don’t get a surprise special assessment.
  9. Bare land or conventional: What is the difference between a bare land condo and a conventional condo? With a bare land condo, the owner has ownership of the land up to the property’s boundaries. This means that the owner is responsible for landscaping and exterior repairs and the condo is responsible for the roads. The buildings constructed within the unit are 100% owner responsibility. An example of a bare land condo is a mobile park.
  10. Age restrictions: Are there age restrictions? If so, are they legal?  There was a recent court ruling in Alberta that resulted in the following:  “In January 2017, the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench directed that “age” was to be read into sections 4 and 5 of the Human Rights Act, thereby making it a protected ground.  This has the potential of fundamentally changing condominium and homeowner's association living for those who reside in projects and communities subject to an age restriction.  The Government amendments to the Legislation were completed on January 1, 2018, In the event, the existing age restriction is 55 years of age or older the Corporation need not be concerned.  This will continue to be allowed. In the event the existing age restriction is for less than 55 years of age, the Corporation has 15 years (to December 31, 2032) in which to become compliant.”

There is definitely a lot to know about condos, but don’t worry, we are HERE TO HELP! :) Our specialist buyers agents take the time to get to know you and find out if a condo is a right fit for you. Contact us if you want to find out  - I would love to meet you!

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The A-Team

The A-Team is an accomplished real estate team, made up of Tom & Breanna Albrecht, with RE/MAX First. The A-Team serves buyers and sellers in both Fort McMurray, and Calgary. Drop them a line at 780.804.4800...