Know thy Building


Know thy Building

The hunt is on for the perfect condo or townhouse in New Westminster and the surrounding areas.

Where do you start?!

Well ‘perfect’ might be something different from one buyer to another so we’ll skip over whether you are looking for a river view or greenbelt, penthouse or ground floor patio suite. What I’d like to give you some insight into is due diligence. Detached houses have specific conditions & components to look for as do strata properties. When you purchase a strata apartment or townhouse, you are essentially agreeing to cover your share of the expenses & responsibility to maintain the entire building. Your share of the cost is divided up based on your unit entitlement. IE. The larger your suite in comparison to the other suites, the higher your monthly strata fee.

If you live in a smaller than average suite, you would pay a smaller portion. It’s important once you find a suitable unit, that you review 2 years of the strata corporations documents including but not limited to strata meeting minutes & general meetings, rules/regulations, bylaws, financial statements, third party reports & depreciation studies if available (also known as contingency reserve fund studies). Each suite is untitled to 1 vote as a member of the corporation & those members elect a strata council to represent the whole. Regular strata meetings are held throughout the year to discuss the maintenance of the building, any issues & possible ways to improve the building & grounds. Most often, the strata employs a management company & would have a representative at the meeting but this isn’t always the case, some buildings are ‘self-managed’. On average, buildings have about 10 meetings a year, often skipping a month or 2 in the Summer &/or December. Reading through 2 years of these minutes gives a buyer an insight into the behind the scenes care of the building. Each building has regular maintenance to deal with plus extra ordinary attention needed from time to time.

Some buildings might be experiencing a security issue that needs to be addressed or a landscaping company that doesn’t seem to be working as hard on keeping the grounds neat as they once did. All common to buildings everywhere. What is important is to ensure you feel there is a consistent pattern of addressing a given issue & solving it. You are also looking for signs of issues that might make you step away from the building. Are they ongoing problems that you are uncomfortable taking on? Are there issues with the structure that might make an unfortunate maintenance issue an opportunity for you? Have you agreed on a price for a building that needs a major repair that puts you in the win column once the work has been performed? I sold a townhouse at The Quay in New West many years ago that was under scaffolding and tarps at the time. The levy for the work was paid for by the seller but the prices had crashed since it was scary to look at & everyone was living undercover at the time. By the time, my buyer moved in, the tarps came down, the water front river view was back & the building had a new warranty on the exterior. A rebound in values followed & my buyer won big.

Another consideration are the building bylaws. Make sure you aren’t trying to move into a building that only allows 1 small dog &/or cat when you have 2 golden labs. Most rules are common sense. Respect the building & your neighbours, don’t let strangers walk through the secure areas unattended & please park in your designated space. Give some consideration to your future too. If the building is age restricted, you may be forced to move if you plan for a family or if the family you thought you got rid of decides to come back! Lastly, the Form B information certificate that you will want request is a document specifically filled out for the suite you are looking at by the property manager.

We like to see this document as current as possible as it contains updated financial information like the current contingence fund of the building, if the owner of the suite you are buying currently owes money to the strata corporation & confirms the monthly strata fee. It also shows the number of suites rented out to the best of the knowledge of the manager & if there is any litigation effecting the strata corporation. Management will have to also identify how parking stalls & lockers are allocated to the strata lot. It’s important to know what you’re getting into, so spend some time reading up on the building! It also may help to work with a Realtor from the area.