Every buyer should have a specific checklist for the property they want. Gathering as much information as possible will allow you to make a well-informed decision on which condo to purchase. Here is a suggested checklist to start you off.
Getting pre-approved will indicate the budget to work within. It will narrow down options and point in the proper direction. Keep in mind that in addition to a mortgage, there are monthly condo fees to pay—budget extra for initial expenses, including a potential home inspection.
Consider both the floor plan of the individual unit, as well as that of the whole building. There are many different floor plans to consider when buying a condo, including high-rise units and townhome styles. How many bedrooms would you like to have? Does the layout appeal to you? Consider shared walls and access to the outside. Does it come with a balcony or offer pleasant views from windows? A condo unit near elevators may have additional noise from traffic. Is it beside the maintenance room or tucked away in a corner away from everything?
Talk to the Neighbours
While the viewing and the brochure may give you the specifics of the condo building and the unit, it is the neighbours who will be able to provide you with the details you may want to know. Asking them questions about how the condo board operates, how quickly maintenance deals with repairs, and any concerns they may have is an excellent way to gather information.
Condos come with fees. Understanding what the fees cover and what they don't is vital to any ownership checklist. Not all condo fees are created equal. Some condos may boast a lower fee, but that may mean when the time comes for repair and maintenance, the board is reaching out to the owners to cover what isn't in reserve. Check to see what the reserve account looks like – is the money invested? Has it been used wisely in the past, or are there concerns?
Know the Rules
Even as the owner of the condo unit, there are still rules to be followed. Maybe the board has a pet policy, or there are restrictions on overnight guests or in-suite renovations. Learn what the rules and boundaries are before becoming an owner. Knowing the expectations of the condo will avoid having to abide by rules you are not fond of or disagree with.
Take a walk around the condo building. What is the traffic like during various parts of the day? Does the traffic impede building access? Is it hard to get guest parking or even a second stall for owners with multiple vehicles? Will your vehicles be secure, or is the parking lot open to the public? What is the neighbourhood dynamic? Is it somewhere you would like to live and work? If you don't have a car, is the building close to public transit if that is something you need for commuting?
Talk to the Board
Condo owners have rights, so ensure you talk to the board to see how they operate. Do they have a clear governing policy, and are owners able to speak about their issues? How does the board communicate – is it practical, or are things unclear? Do they respond to concerns quickly? How easy is it to become a member of the board if one should wish to do so? What kind of insurance do they have? Insurance for condo owners will differ from homeowners, but the building should also have insurance. Are they in good standing should something happen? What are the expectations of the condo owners for emergency repairs?
Working with a real estate agent specializing in condo ownership can help give peace of mind while navigating the checklist for buying a condo. Having an expert in your corner is the best tool a condo buyer can have.