There are many obvious luxuries in buying a condo: The security of being in a community environment, the total hands-off building maintenance, and perhaps an incredible high-rise view or great location in an enviable neighbourhood. But when buying a condo, there are also important factors to consider. You must look far beyond the floor-to-ceiling windows to ensure you aren’t also buying a giant future headache.

The most important factor to remember is that when you buy a condo, you are buying into how the property is run. It’s vital to do your due diligence before you become an owner.

Many documents: reviewing them is important

Whether the complex is run by a management company or by an association formed by the owners, always make your offer is conditional upon reviewing all the condo documents from the last two or three years.

Don’t be shy about making this request. The OACIQ, the organization responsible for protecting buyers and sellers, has a mandatory form for all real estate brokers that includes a special clause for condo sales (B2.5) in its promise to purchase. It clearly states:

“REVIEW OF CO-OWNERSHIP DOCUMENTS. This promise to purchase is conditional on the BUYER’s examination of the declaration of co-ownership, including the regulation of the immovable and the following documents…”

What are the most important documents to review?

The regular documents that should be available to the buyer include the following:

  • Annual budget for maintenance and upkeep
  • Minutes of the annual meeting
  • Reserve fund update
  • Financial statements
  • Proof of condo fees
  • Building insurance plan

The insurance plan is an important document to give to your insurance company so they can analyze it and propose a plan to cover your condo and personal belongings. They will make sure nothing is left out.

The buyer has the right to a time period to receive and review these documents. A buyer who is not satisfied upon examining the documents and wishes to withdraw the promise to purchase can notify the seller in writing within seven days of receiving the documents. At this point, the promise to purchase becomes null and void. If the buyer is satisfied, the condition is automatically waived and accepted once the timeline has expired.

Other questions to ask

Here are some other points to consider as you assess the overall condo association and community:

  • How helpful is the president of the association or management company when you approach them for information?
  • Is the building clean and well maintained?
  • Are you allowed to have pets? Can you have a barbecue on the balcony?
  • Is there enough money in the reserve fund to pay for any work that the association is planning to do?
  • Do you get the sense that all the owners are paying their condo fees?
  • Is there an annual maintenance contract for the roof?

With an annual maintenance contract, you can be assured that the condo association is maintaining the quality of the roof. If there are any issues, they are reported right away.

When doing your due diligence, look out for the big jobs. For example: re-pointing the bricks, a new heating system, foundation work, windows, balconies, etc. These costs can add up. Well-run associations will have quotes available for the work they are considering.

Also, get a feel for the other condo owners. You’ll have to work with these people to make decisions and handle any problems for the foreseeable future. In the end, you should be able to comfortably afford the current fees because you can count on the fact that there will be increases and fees that fall outside of the regular condo fees in the future.

Just remember that all buildings, whether they are houses or condos, need regular maintenance and small repair. Ensure the people who are running building or complex you are buying have a proper plan and the money in place.

For more information on condos in Quebec, you can visit: www.condolegal.com

Jennifer Lynn Walker has specialized in buying and selling residential and multiplex properties since 2003. She’s also the founder of Montreal Real Estate Investor’s Group with 1,300+ members and Jolly Green Homes, a resource-series devoted to helping homeowners build an eco-friendly life. For more, visit www.montreal-realestate.ca

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