Note: This article is written in first person after interviewing several individual condo owners in Winnipeg.
Buying a condo can be a wonderful experience, but there are plenty of variables to influence that decision. There are several things I wish I knew before I bought my first condo. The information would have helped me navigate the choices and feel more confident about the purchase. I was sometimes intimidated by the process, and others may be, too. Learn all you can before diving in to evaluate information and not regret your decisions.
I Didn’t Have To Do It On My Own
The time and energy I invested in looking for a condo were exhausting. It took over my free time. When I should have been sleeping, my mind was racing with thoughts about it. I worried about not buying a condo I saw because I knew someone else would. I worried I was too picky and it would take me a long time to find the perfect place.
I wish I knew then that I didn’t have to do it alone. It would have been worth my time to talk with a professional in the real estate niche. A great realtor will do the legwork for you. They will find condos in your desired area, your price range, and the amenities you seek. They will help you with the paperwork involved, too. They will reach out when they find a good match, and you can see those places in person.
See my other related articles: Condo Myths Debunked, Why Buy A Condo and Condo Buying Checklist.
The condo I purchased isn’t brand new but it isn’t very old either. I wish I had understood more about the reserve fund and how that works. I assumed my monthly condo fees covered everything, and for the most part, they do. With the reserve funds, the money goes to pay for additional expenses the building incurs. This can be a new roof, replacing the HVAC system, or anything else that comes up.
The condo owners have to pay if there isn’t enough money in the reserve funds. So far, nothing extra has occurred for me to cover. The reality is that within the next ten years, there will likely be some repairs or replacements that have to come out of that reserve fund. There is no way to know if there will be enough money to cover them. We will have to wait and see. Still, if I were in a home, I would also have expenses like that to cover.
I knew that by buying a condo, I would have to adhere to the set bylaws. I should have realized that so many of them can be interpreted differently. I read specific policies and envisioned them one way. When I attended a few board meetings where people were discussing this and the bylaws, I understood there could be some misunderstandings about what they meant.
Getting new bylaws added or getting current ones changed takes time. It is a process, and I wish I had known how everything worked before buying a condo. I have supported a few attempts for changes within my building and worked with other condo owners to make positive changes to make the place better for all of us. You will never make everyone 100% happy, but it is crucial to fully understand all the bylaws before buying a condo because you must abide by those policies when you live there.
Renting Out My Condo
When I bought my condo, I planned to live in it all the time. Later, I wish I had checked more into renting out my condo. Again, the bylaws play a role in all of this. Several months out of the year, I stay with my daughter and visit my grandkids. I like the warmer weather, so it works out well all the way around.
Rather than leaving my condo empty, I rent it out. It was a headache at first, so much to learn. There were some hoops to jump through, and a deposit was required through the board for my building. Not everyone in my building likes the space rented out, either. They prefer to know everyone living there. I get that, too, but when someone stays there during those months annually, it helps me have extra money.
I don’t own any pets and don’t want to live in a condo where they are allowed. I am allergic to several types of dogs and cats. I should have thought about this information when narrowing down my options. Thankfully, I am in a pet-free building. I know other people will only buy a condo if it allows pets. They have dogs or cats they don’t want to leave behind, and they value that companionship. Find a condo that aligns with what you want, regardless of your position on the pet policy.
Red Flags When Buying A Condo
There are some red flags to watch for when buying a condo. Any time the offer seems too good to be true, find out why. There must be underlying reasons if a condo is sold for far less than the average price in that neighbourhood. If someone pressures you to complete the purchase fast, that is also something to look out for. Take as much time as you need to decide on such a purchase.
Paperwork should be easy to understand. If the wording is difficult or essential details are missing, you could have trouble later on with your condo. A well-written contract will give you the peace of mind you need. Likewise, the bylaws and other details for that specific condo structure should be in writing for potential buyers to read before they buy.
Don’t get in over your head financially with a condo purchase. Make sure it fits well in your budget. Remember, condo fees can go up annually. If you are already stretched thin, such an increase can be too much to keep up with. If you incur repairs and costs due to a low reserve fund, that can also put a crunch on your budget. Always make sure you can reasonably afford the place.
A complete inspection of the place is essential; only buy with that being conducted. The place should be inspected for mould, pests, plumbing, and electrical issues. The foundation of the building should be evaluated. A thorough inspection can prevent severe problems for you after buying a condo.
I Regret Buying a Condo
At times, I regret buying a condo. It’s not the one I am in now but the one I bought before! I was worried it would be gone before I could investigate everything, so I put an offer on it and a downpayment. Over the next few days, though, I found out the place needed lots of work, and their reserve fund was low. I found out several of their bylaws weren’t policies I would be happy following either.
Thankfully, Canada has a 7-day cooling off period when you buy a condo. If you have any regrets during that first week, you can cancel your offer and get your money back. You don’t have to give a reason, and there is no penalty to you. If anything changes during those 7 days relating to the contract, your 7 days start over. Knowing your rights with this can help you avoid regrets about the condo you buy.
I am glad I withdrew my offer and spent the next few months talking with a realtor. They helped me find the ideal location, a great space to call home, and a fantastic price on the condo I purchased. It continues to increase in value. I enjoy the community where I reside; they take care of all my maintenance. Condo living is a good choice, but know the ins and outs of the concept. Find out all you can about a specific condo building, too, because what it offers and the bylaws vary from place to place!