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Linda Palfi
CNC Properties
47033 Creekside, Calgary, Alberta
P: 403-998-7732
F: 403-592-8002

House = 1 thing, while condo = 3!


Condominium homes are three times more complex than non-condo homes. To create the affordability of location and the lifestyle that ownership of multi-family living can provide, a condominium comes with financial and political structures, as well as the physical home. This complexity can be a good thing when buying, as condo homes offer an in-house social life and resale condos have savings in the bank for future expenses. Few single-family homes come with those!


Because there is three times the complexity of a house, though, condo home shoppers should triple their knowledge before shopping, and rely on Realtors who have specialized condominium knowledge and market awareness. Just as I would not dare to help clients shop for a rural property with issues I've not studied, such as well-water quality, soil type, and mineral rights questions, condo shoppers are not well served by rural or residential agents who are not versed in the complexities of condominium.


With a house, of course, there are still the questions of location, style, size and other factors. But these questions apply equally to a home of any type, be it a house, a condominium apartment or a mobile home. So let's set aside the obvious issues of location and such that shoppers can sort out for themselves, or which are largely a matter of preference. Let's look at those additional issues we need to consider in condominium homes, including single-family houses in bare-land condominium subdivisions.


Realize that every condominium home is part of a corporation. That corporation may be well run and well funded or be rudderless and virtually bankrupt. It may also own driveways, sidewalks, parking lots, extensive interior common property and mechanical systems ranging from foundations to elevators and from boilers and roofs. Any of these components may be new, aging gracefully or downright decrepit. There should be a professional assessment of those corporate assets ("reserve fund study"), and a savings account to fund, in whole or in part, their eventual replacement.


Obviously, then, the condo corporation needs to be analysed prior to a final commitment to purchase a condominium home. From the operating budget to the audited financial statement, and from the current state of mechanical systems to plans for their repair and replacement, the corporation's assets need to be evaluated, and the condition of these assests all affect the market value of the individual condominium home.


A condominium corporation brings with it still another set of questions under the heading of politics. Every condo corporation has a government not much different in law than a city council. And as we all know, we can be governed well or poorly, and even the tiniest village can be either peaceful or suffer "trouble in paradise". Minutes of condo Board meetings, annual general meetings and special general meetings can all reveal whether a condominium is united and well led or divided and poorly led. Home shoppers should feel free to chat up current residents in the hall or the elevator to learn if issues are percolating among condo owners.


The complexity of condominium is not a bad thing, as it provides the foundation to have an elected Board and a paid manager deal with issues of maintenance that you might rather ignore. Fifty or 150 homes under one roof also means we can afford to live downtown, riverside, or along a golf course where otherwise only millionaires would reside. Many of our neighbours in condominium communities become our friends in a pleasant semi-communal environment.


Be aware of condo's complexity, not intimidated. A house is a house: understand the location, have it inspected, and you're pretty well protected. In condominium you have the "house", but then also have a corporation with assets and a political animal you'll want to know before adopting it. When you shop for a condo, be as informed as possible, and rely on professional advice beyond that.

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