Guide: What to know before and after buying a condo



Whether you’ve never purchased a home before or are a well seasoned expert, we think that being well informed with the most current information is the best thing you can do for yourself when looking to buy a new home. If you’re in the market for something in downtown Toronto, chances are you’re going to be looking at a lot of condos, yet many people still don’t really know exactly what a condo is or what owning one means for them.

To help you make an informed decision, we’ve put together a little guide to condo ownership – based on information from the Ontario Ministry of Consumer Services website.

This is Part Two:

“What to know before and after buying a condo”

While many buyers are primarily concerned with location and the unit itself, when buying a condo, you should also be aware of other factors like the “financial health of the condo corporation, the amenities, the maintenance of the common areas and the community rules” (OMCS).

Factors to consider when comparing condos:

  1. Listed and unlisted utility costs: Make sure to check operating costs (legal fees, utilities, property management services and landscaping), and if any fees need to be paid up front.

  2. The reserve fund: A percentage of your condo fees goes into the building’s reserve fund to offset major repairs and replacements of common elements. This must be re-evaluated every three years. You might want to ask about the state of their current reserve fund and whether or not they’re expecting any major expenses soon. For example, a small reserve fund might mean chipping in if a roof needs to be repaired.

  3. Special assessments: This is a common type of expense fee for the example I used. These funds may be used to help pay for unexpected repairs or shortfalls in the reserve fund. (OMCS)

Typically, the size of the unit will determine the amount of fees paid (percentage-wise). Ask to see the condominium declaration for clarification on what exactly you will be paying for the unit you are interested in. Remember that although a developer will estimate costs in a newly-built building, it won’t be until the board of directors takes over that you will know the true maintenance costs or how much will be going towards the reserve fund.

Buying a newly-built condo has different stipulations to it than buying a resale condo

When buying new, you will have specific protections in place from the Ontario Condominium Act. For example, with a newly built building, you have a 10-calendar day cooling off period within which you can cancel the purchase agreement; with a resale condo, you do not have the same amount of time to “cool off”.

For more information on these protections and for a great list of questions to ask before buying, take a look at the Ontario Ministry of Consumer Services website.

Living in a condominium

Now that you are the proud owner of a new condo, what are your rights and responsibilities? As listed by the Ontario Ministry of Consumer Services, and as we mentioned in Part One, you are responsible to be present at owner’s meetings; to elect board members; to pay monthly fees; to maintain or repair your own unit; and to follow the condo’s declaration, by-laws, and rules.

You are solely responsible for the maintaining of your individual unit, but since condos are also run as a small municipality, as the Ontario Condo Guide puts it,

“An elected board of directors, like a town council, makes decisions on behalf of the owners, and often hires staff to carry out the work. Just as towns have a town manager, condominiums often have a condominium manager.”

If there is a disagreement with the condominium board or corporation, you have the right to:

  • Discuss your concern informally with members of the board
  • Write to the board requesting formal consideration of your concern
  • Raise your concern at an AGM of the owners
  • Make your concern the topic of a special owners meeting
  • Enter mediation or legal proceedings to resolve dispute

Again, being aware of your rights and of your responsibilities is your greatest asset for enjoyable home ownership.

We hope that you’ve enjoyed this guide and that it helps equip you as you hunt for a condo.

If, at any point during the process, you would like the opinion of a condo electrician on a unit you’re considering or need us to help once you’ve purchased, we have condo-specialized electricians waiting for your call!