Going to look at my first condo tomorrow/what to look for/ask?

Discussion in 'After Hours Lounge (Off Topic)' started by McPaul, Feb 24, 2004.

  1. McPaul

    McPaul Screenwriter

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    So I'm going to buy a place, either a townhouse or an apartment style condo, and have been browsing the mls pages and for sale by owner websites for quite some time, but never really acted on anything (mainly because of my finances). Tomorrow I am going to go check out the first possibility. It's an apartment style condo, about 1000 squarefeet, in a good location for me (I don't drive at all, and it's right near a big shopping area/future c train station. For anyone familiar to Calgary, it's on the top floor in the Gateway Shawnessy.)

    As it's my first one, I'm looking for advise from you on what to look for and ask while I'm there. It's a new place, so is it necessary to have a home inspection done? I know I should be looking for the condo fees, what they include, make sure everything works, what is/is not included in the house, etc. What else should I be looking for?

    Also, when talking price, how much will I be able to knock off of the price? What % off should I make my first offer?

    Any other rules of thumb I should keep in mind, or questions to ask would be appreciated!

    Thanks!
     
  2. Bob_Bo

    Bob_Bo Agent

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    Congratulations Paul!

    My biggest concern with a Condo, would be the attitude and power of the condo association. If you can, try and talk to some other owners to get a feel for what realistic limitations you'll have with regards to remodeling, parking, etc.

    I'd have a home inspection done for my personal knowledge if nothing else. Try to find one that specializes in condos.

    Only other things that I can think of would be to find out what options are available for Internet access, media reception (cable/satellite), how sound proof are the walls, are there any security services provided, etc.


    Have fun!
     
  3. Kirk Gunn

    Kirk Gunn Screenwriter

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    Definitely review the HomeOwners Association by-laws thoroughly. While most entries are common sense for "communal" living, there may be some wacky covenants. Our community of single family homes won't let you leave your garage door open for extended periods of time, or have a shed in your backyard. Insane.

    Agree with the home inspection, you never know what was left undone by the sub-contractors.

    Good Luck !
     
  4. Leila Dougan

    Leila Dougan Screenwriter

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    Are you going to work with a realtor at all, or are you going to do this on your own?

    In any case, my suggestion is to read up on the process as much as you can. I picked up a homebuyer's book at a local bookstore which has been helpful. I've also read a lot on the internet. The Motley Fool (www.fool.com) has some really great advice on the entire buying process, from looking, to getting your offer accepting, and closing.

    I'm in the middle of buying my first house, in fact I'm closing in 2 weeks. One thing I've learned is this process is extremely complicated but having a realtor does simplify things a great deal. The commission is paid by the seller/builder (builders are generally very open to working with realtors) so it was worth it to me, as a first time buyer, to use one.

    If you choose not to use one, definitely still hire a real estate attorney. You do not want to rely on the sellers/builders side and it really pays to have someone representing *you*. The attorney will just make sure all the legal angles are covered and that you're good to close.

    It really helps to analyze the area you're looking in and similar priced/sized properties. You'll want to know going into it if it's a buyers or sellers market, and get a good idea of how long houses sit on the market before being sold. That way, when you find something you like you will have an indication of whether you should make an offer immediately or if you can spend time thinking about it. For instance, in the area I was looking for a house, the houses typically sold within a week. I made an offer on my house the 2nd day it was on the market and still had to compete with someone else. If you're lucky, houses might sit longer so that you can visit the place a few times before making up your mind.

    Also, keep an eye on what similar condos in the area are selling for. You want to know if the asking price is fair or not, which will give you an indication of how much you should offer. My realtor said that agents typically try to sell houses for 97% of the asking price.

    This is, of course, in addition to the previous posts. You definitely want to talk to others who live there and make sure that all the covenants and by-laws are acceptable to you.
     
  5. Francois Caron

    Francois Caron Cinematographer

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    If it's a new project, there could be a few surprises in the first couple of years. When my building was converted to condos (old textile mill built in 1909), there were a few problems with the building's roof. The repair job was paid for through a special surcharge. There was no way to be reimbursed by the contractor; he went out of business a while after the job was completed. Since I bought my unit only five years ago, I pretty much avoided the whole mess.

    Not only you should read the condo association's document, you should also check out the documents from the previous meetings. They'll reveal a few things not reported in the condo association document.
     
  6. DaveF

    DaveF Moderator
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  7. Cary_H

    Cary_H Second Unit

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    Couple of things Paul.

    Get yourself a realtor. One way or another, someone is going to collect the selling portion of the commission. I don't know if Alberta adopted new rules of 'Agency' like B.C. did a number of years ago, but you'd be better off in my opinion to have your own working for you regardless of what rules Alberta follows.
    First off, have he/she run off the municipal stats for the building you're interested in. You want to see how many absentee owners there are. Match the names to see how many reside there. Renters and/or absentee owners can be a pain. Renters have little or no investment in the place, absentee owners can make it tough to push through attempts to spend money for improvements.
    A realtor who's on the ball will know which buildings are best avoided and the good ones.
    Get minutes of council meetings. At some point they are obligated to see that a buyer gets them along with the Strata rules and Bylaws. But you want to see what's going on around where you might be living.
    See what is sitting in the contingency fund of the building.
    Find out who manages the property. Some companies are better than others; some downright suck.
    Hang around the property off hours. See what comes and goes and what goes on that you might miss during regular hours.
    Talk to folks who live there. It won't take too much probing to get the goods on whether the residents are happy or otherwise.
    Find out who built the place. See what other buildings they've put up. The good realtors ought to know that stuff, especially the ones that specialize in the strata market. If they don't know, get one who does...this is part of what makes the top ones the top ones.
    You're usually better off buying a lesser suite in a better complex than you are buying the higher end in a lesser building. Kinda the same as buying the worst house on a good street in a good area beats buying a better one in a an area where the neighbourhood brings you down.
    Last, but not least....I'd be wary of places built in the Calgary boom years. Supply had to keep up to the demand and a lot of junk got built 'cause they could get away with it.
     
  8. Tab Nichols

    Tab Nichols Stunt Coordinator

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    Make sure you set a condition that you get a copy of the condo bylaws, and the purchase is subject to your approval of them.

    Youd be surprised by the stupid small things they put in there. ie:
    -No loud noise/music after certain hours (sometimes as early as 7:00pm)
    -No bags/boxes/etc... allowed on patios
    -No Xmas lights on patio, no wreaths on doors, etc...
    -Window coverings must be certain colors/styles/quality
    -Types and amounts of animals allowed for pets.. (No cats dogs or Fish?!!)
    -No renovations to be made without board approval

    etc, etc....
     
  9. Philip_T

    Philip_T Supporting Actor

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    Some good advice has already been listed above. Some other things that I looked for in my 1st condo were:
    1) Southern exposure. Especially if you only have windows along 1 wall. It helped me alot when I was selling as well. People would prefer my unit over an identical one on the north side.
    2) Inquire with the HOA if there are currently any special assessments or any planned in the foreseeable future.
    3) If buying new, and you have an option to get a garage unit, get it. Sometimes parking can be a bear in condo developments as the builder will always try to maximize building space over parking. Nothing worse than coming home and not being able to park within 5 blocks of your home. Plus, it helps with resale value and marketability.
    4)If you think that hearing the person above you walk around would annoy you, get the top floor. We ended up on the 2nd floor in our unit with 1 floor above us. They guy above us stomped everywhere he went. It was what eventually drove us to sell it. Never trust the builder that units are very insulated from each other and you cant hear through the walls. Find out for yourself first.

    Whatever you decide, Good luck Paul.
     
  10. DustinLC

    DustinLC Supporting Actor

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    Man, this condo I checked out has only basic cable and you can't upgrade, you can't have a disc.... sucks! So look out rules like that.
     
  11. Francois Caron

    Francois Caron Cinematographer

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    YES!!! Definitely! My building has fifty units, but only twenty-five indoor parking spots. I rent mine out. The resale value of my unit is significantly higher because of it.
     
  12. DavidY

    DavidY Supporting Actor

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    As others have discussed, the strata's bylaws are very important especially with respect to rentals (if permitted....some are limited to a certain % of the total units), satellite dish (most don't allow it), at least one parking spot...important for resale value (secured or video survelliance?), monthly strata fee, soundproof walls/floors/ceilings since you have a HT system? [​IMG] , the pros still typically recommend to a place home inspected by a qualified person. IMO, prices are more dependent on the surrounding area current prices (similar units). What kind of unit are you looking at? IMO, studio and one BR units are harder to resell generally....consider at least one BR and one den or two BR instead. How's the neighbourhood? Based on what I have read, it's better to buy a modest place in a nice neighbourhood than a very nice place in a modest neighbourhood....better investment value. Are you considering a high ratio mortgage (less than 25% dp)? Do you plan to use up to $20K from your RRSP via Home Buyer's Plan?

    Dave
     
  13. Drew Bethel

    Drew Bethel Screenwriter

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    Open all the doors, pull open the windows, open up the cupboards in the kitchen...run the shower water, flush the toilet, etc etc etc. In other words - act you live there.
     

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