Condo-buying mistakes

I have been re-assessing my living situation lately. I mentioned in a previous post my building underwent major repairs that directly impacted my unit. The bulk of the work is done, but deficiencies have yet to be addressed. That was not a fun experience, and the contractor doing the work was just plain dreadful.

Unfortunately, this was only the first of a series of repairs our building needs. It has been estimated each unit will have to fork $ 29 000 over the next 10 years or so to fix the building envelope and the roof. This does not include any repairs of the mechanical components such as the furnaces or the pipes.

Needless to say I am thinking about selling my unit, which was not exactly what I had planned on doing just yet. Back in 2013, when I bought, the engineers had just started doing the building envelope assessment. Their final report and recommendations came in in April 2014. There was no way I would have known the condition of the building before buying.

That being said, I realize I made a few mistakes and oversights when buying my condo:

  • Getting a 5-year fixed rate mortgage: The majority of first-time home-buyers do this. I thought it would be easier to have a fixed payment each month, but I am paying a wack load more in interests. The Bank of Canada lowered its rate twice….I didn’t benefit from it. If I want to break my mortgage, I will be faced with a stiffer penalty (I.R.D.).
  • Buying with a 5% down-payment: Unfortunately, 5% is really low. I had to pay for mortgage insurance and it will take me more time to see some significant equity in my condo. I may have to hold-on selling or turn down offers if I can’t “break even”.
  • Not paying sufficient attention to the Contingency Reserve Fund (CRF): Each strata corporation must set money aside each month to fund for larger repairs. When I bought my condo, the CRF had about 10K, and no major repairs had been done.
  • Buying into a “rental building”: Almost half of my building is tenanted and there is no rental restriction. The majority of owners is uninterested in the building and don’t want to spend any time or money on it. The turn-up at our AGMs is very low, except when money is asked for. Tenants don’t care and have no problems damaging the property.
  • Not fully considering whether condo living actually suited me as an owner: in a condominium building, you cannot choose your neighbors or do what you want. More and more things are just irking me. I bought on the ground floor, meaning constant pacing, stomping, vacuuming from the unit above. When buying, I didn’t meet with any Council member or other owner. Most people don’t.

After being a Council Member for over 2 years, I can also add the following points to consider:

  • Most Council members have no clue what they are doing: this probably sounds very negative. What I mean by this, is that Council members usually volunteer their time and come from all walks of life. They are not necessarily licensed Realtors, property managers, engineers etc…No formal or informal training is provided on how to manage a strata corporation. If you think it is scary, you are right!
  • Consultants, contractors and other agents are not always acting in the strata’s best interest.

This definitely gives me a lot to ponder. If I sell my unit, I may not be able to buy again in Vancouver. On the other hand, I am not sure I want to fork $ 29 000 over my building.


  1. As a single woman in Vancouver, it is unlikely you would have been able to afford a house. In fact, most people can’t. I am glad my husband and I could afford to buy a house. Condo living is just not for us at all.
    A lot of folks don’t fully understand what condo living actually means.


  2. Don’t beat yourself up. From my experience, condo-buying and living is a bit like Russian roulette. You can never fully know what you are getting, even if you review all the documents, talk to Council and residents etc…


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