Vancouver Condos – First Time Home Buyer Tips

When looking at Vancouver condos, initially, you’ll have more questions than answers, especially in the competitive Vancouver condo landscape. In addition to the wish list, new homebuyers go through a number of challenges en route to making a firm first time home buyer decision. To feel good about your investment, obviously you need to have most or all of your questions answered.

In this piece, I provide a list of realistic expectations, in the form of first time home buyer tips so that you can be equipped with the details you need to know before you make that condo investment.

1. When you buy into a Vancouver condo, you no longer have control over how much you will have to spend on maintenance, upgrades and emergencies. Condo living is shared living, especially when it comes to big repairs such as the roof, exterior building envelope, underground garage leaks, plumbing or unexpected costs.

2. Be prepared to pay more than expected for strata fees or emergencies than listed on the data sheet. Over time, strata fees will always increase and you must anticipate extra costs. Budget accordingly.

3. The minutes you get do not reveal the whole picture. Vancouver condo sellers only have to go back 2 years, so you may not know the true history of the building or unit you want to invest in. When you look through the minutes, pay particular attention to assessments from engineering companies, rehabilitation exterior work or major repairs needed. Fortunately, however, there is new legislation in place for you to get a depreciation report.

4. Be aware that a home inspection for a condo only includes the unit and none of the common areas or even the appliances. Some inspectors will go beyond the standards to put you in a better position to know what you are buying into. By going beyond the standards, home inspectors increase their liability. Be sure to find out exactly what the inspector will do for you in advance.

5. Be aware that home inspectors may not be able to get access to all common areas, even when they go beyond the standards. It is really up to the real estate agent to ensure that the inspector is provided access by asking the strata or property management company what can and cannot be inspected. Furthermore, some building managers have special rules around what common areas, if any can be inspected. So find this out in advance.

 6. Be aware of the history of your unit to ensure that any renovations were completed legally & with the proper city permits. On the flip side, if you want to renovate, be sure that you are allowed by asking the strata in advance if such renovations are allowed. Sometimes people buy into condos that have been “illegally” renovated because the seller may not have disclosed this information.

 7. Not all Vancouver condo strata boards have property management companies taking care of their buildings. Ideally you want to have a company in place. In addition, you should do some research to find out about their reputation and history. A red flag should go up, way up if a properly that has no history of a property management company… or one that has changed hands several times.

8. Try to be objective and look beyond the aesthetics. Before you make a firm commitment, try to look at it as an investment, before a dream condo. It can be tough, but be willing to walk away instead of denying certain truths. Decide if will you actually be using the amenities like a pool, sauna, gym, etc. Regardless, you will still have to pay for them.

9. If the Vancouver condo is new, see if it is covered by a 2, 5 and 10 year warranty and exactly what this warranty covers. The homeowner protection office can give you some information on this. Find out about the building contractor, and then do some research on the BBB or online to see if the builder has a reputable history.

10. Vancouver Condos built with a stucco exterior, from the late 80s to mid 90’s were the most problematic regarding the leaky condo issue. Simply put, the leaky condo issue has been expensive for condo owners due to rehabilitation costs resulting in trapped moisture causing damage to the structure.  Ideally, you want to find out of the building has been inspected by an engineering company, or if it has been rehabilitated and properly rain screened.

11. Find out the condition of the exterior, plumbing, roof & underground be before you buy. These are the “big ticket” items that may end up costing you over the long run when they need to be replaced or repaired. As mentioned before, the depreciation report will provide a break down of when and approximately how much it will cost for maintenance, repairs & replacement.

Hopefully, after reading this you’ll have a bit more to go on when looking for your next Vancouver Condo. If you have any questions on this article or any others on my blog, call me or contact me on Facebook. I’d be happy to help you out!