What to look out for when buying a strata property

How to read a listing for a strata property
Listing with maintenance fees and restrictions

Apartments, townhouses and in some cases duplexes require a few additional considerations when you are buying. This little guide will help make your purchase a safer one.

Collectively apartments and townhouses are defined as strata properties. These are multi-family properties where some of the property is owned in common. In an apartment building that will be the hallways, entrance, gardens, roof, and parking structures. You, as an owner, have your own apartment but the common areas need to be looked after and this is done by means of a monthly maintenance fee. Also called a strata fee.

If you look at the MLS listing above, the maintenance fee and related items are highlighted in green. The fee in this instance is $375 a month, which is something you’ll need to allow for in your budget.

A straightforward comparison of maintenance fees however is not the whole story, because what is included in your fees can vary widely. It is worth looking into this in detail. The bare minimum that is included is usually “Management, Garbage Pick-Up and Gardening”. In the example I’ve shown the maintenance fees include more than this as there are also “Caretaker, Gas, Hot Water, Playground and Recreation Facility”.

So in this case your fees will be providing you with hot water, the gas for your stove, and some recreation facilities. Now you are in a better situation to judge whether this is good value or not.

Another element to check is the Bylaw Restrictions, which I’ve highlighted in red. It is another fact of life when living in a strata property, that there are rules that will apply to you. The biggest ones of these are included in the MLS listings. These are:

  • Rental restrictions – None
    This means any unit can be rented. Beware that this can be changed at any time by 3/4 vote of the owners of the strata (you’re one). If that happens you will no longer be able to rent the place.
  • Rental restrictions – Partial or Complete
    Renting may be restricted completely or by some other formula. Usually that is an absolute number or a percentage of the units in the building. If you need to rent the unit then it is safest to avoid places where there are any restrictions.
  • Pet Restrictions
    Many places have some kind of restrictions. The most common that I see is a limit of 2 dogs or 2 cats or 1 of each. You may find weight limits on dogs too, so that larger breeds are not accepted.
  • Age Restrictions
    These are rarer to see, but some places will only allow owners over 55, or even over 19. You may want to live in a place without children, or with seniors only of course.

With all these restrictions the easiest thing is for your realtor to set you up with a search that excludes places with restrictions that you don’t want. There is nothing more disappointing than finding the right place only to discover that your children or pets are not welcome.

There are a lot of other considerations in buying a strata property and I am used to taking my clients through the whole process of buying this kind of property, so feel free to contact me for specific advice.

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