Condos: What You Need To Know

When it comes to buying a condominium, the devil is in the details.


In the last decade, Canada’s condominium industry has exploded, led in part due to voracious demand by downsizing Zoomers who are snapping up units in metropolitan, suburban and recreational communities across the country. Before you buy your dream unit, you’ll weigh all the options – price, size, style, amenities and location – and eventually choose one that best suits your budget and lifestyle.

But many overlook one important consideration: the legal fine print. Every new owner will receive a 200- plus page document when you enter into a conditional agreement to purchase a condominium. As intimidating as this legal leviathan may seem, it’s a beast that can be tamed, with the help of your lawyer.

How well-managed the new property is will be found in the Condominium Status Certificate, which contains a snapshot of the building’s financial health. Think of it as an MRI outlining a condominium corporation’s health.  The reserve fund, financial status, existing bylaws and active litigation claims are all outlined among other important items. Here are some general definitions to look for.


Confirm the reserve has sufficient funds to pay for any major work, represented as any extensive retrofit or upgrade of common elements. If a budget shortfall occurs, then all owners would have a special assessment fee levied on top of regular monthly maintenance fees.


The yearly audited financial statements will provide an income-versus-expenditures analysis. Knowing ahead of time the building’s expenditures could help you identify a potential maintenance fee increase.


If you have never lived in a condo, then consider these the house rules. Whether you can have a homebased business, limited hours the grandchildren can swim in the pool or a barbecue on your balcony are some of the issues which be specifically and legally addressed here. For example, you don’t want to move in and be informed that your faithful canine companion is doggie non grata.


Any claims before the courts against the condo corporation have to be disclosed. If a hefty lawsuit against the building is active, then you may want to seriously reconsider your purchase. Remember, this is going to be your new home so learn the rules of your new collective living arrangement. Your realtor and lawyer should review the document and provide a comparative snapshot of how it stacks up against other buildings.


In an effort to put a lid on our home borrowing frenzy, the government announced three big mortgage-lending changes this past July.

— Lenders will only issue home equity loans up to a maximum of 80 per cent of a property’s value – down from 85 per cent.

— The maximum mortgage amortization period will drop to 25 years from 30 years. This means you’ll be paying less interest over the life of your mortgage.

— Government-backed mortgage insurance will only be available on homes with a purchase price of less than $1 million.