Condominiums

This page is divided into several sections. Most of the content deals with items you should consider and things you should know when purchasing or selling a condo. The final section, however, highlights specific condo corporations in Halifax, Dartmouth, Cole Harbour, and Bedford as well as featuring projects that are in the works across the HRM. There are a lot of advantages associated with buying into a condominium project in the early stages. By checking this site regularly, you will be kept up to date on new developments. For that reason, you may want to subscribe to the condominiums newsletter. To do so, simply click the box below.

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Topics:

What is a Condominium?

The Purchase and Sale of Condominiums

Condominium FAQs

Glossary of Condominium Terms

Types of Condominiums

Your Condominium Checklist

CMHC Condominium Buyers’ Guide

CondominiumsHRM.ca Newsletter

What is a condominium?

This seems like a simple enough question, but many people have the wrong idea about what exactly a condominium is. Condos in Halifax, Dartmouth, Cole Harbor and Bedford are a relatively recent phenomenon, and much of the public still does not fully understand them. For starters, it may help to know what a condominium is NOT. It is not an apartment that you own, or a large building comprised of many individually owned units. Granted, this is the form that condominiums often take, but a condominium is actually the term given to a form of legal ownership arrangement. Those who purchase condominium units technically own everything from their walls inward. All of the individual homeowners have shared rights to most common areas, such as the elevators, hallways, pools, gardens, and club houses. Maintenance of these areas becomes the responsibility of a condominium association. Every owner owns a share of interest in the condominium association, plus an obligation to pay monthly dues or special assessment fees for larger maintenance problems. With all this in mind, it becomes clear that a condominium property does not need to be an apartment-like complex. If can actually be – and quite often is – a townhouse or even a group of detached homes.

The Purchase and Sale of Condominiums

Condo or House? Exploring the Differences in Ownership

More than ever before, condo ownership represents an appealing alternative to traditional home ownership for all types of residents – especially in the downtown areas of Halifax and Dartmouth. That said, the flexibility of condo projects have seen them spread to all areas. Though condominiums have conventionally been the choice of singles and families without dependent children, more traditional families have begun experiencing the unique benefits of condo ownership. However, condos are certainly not for everyone. While condo ownership may provide access to certain amenities and limit time spent on upkeep, there can be certain restrictions few of which are experienced by owners of single family homes.

Two of the most important factors in determining what type of home is right for your family are location and lifestyle. If your family is looking to move to an urban environment where single family homes are scarce, a condo could be a good choice. In such markets, condos are always in high demand and appreciation often matches the best single family homes.

Additionally, if you live a busy life and can live without a large yard, a condo could help you live simply and happily. While most families with young children prefer single family homes for the added space, condos often provide amenities such as swimming pools, tennis courts and large open areas to help families relax and play. They are also often located in downtown locations- perfect for professionals working in those areas.

However, there is far more to consider than location and lifestyle when deciding which type of property is best for you and/or your family. Nearly all of the differences between houses and condos stem from the different types of ownership. In the simplest terms, owners of single family homes are entitled to exclusive ownership, while most condo owners are subject to certain forms of shared ownership. In regards to single family homes, exclusive ownership allows home owners to alter their home and surrounding property in nearly any way.

The owner of a condo is not always allowed to make such radical changes to their property. When purchasing a condo, owners are subject to the rules and regulations of the condo association or board. Typically composed of fellow residents, this governing body collects dues from condo owners to conduct ongoing maintenance of shared areas and perform any unexpected repairs. As part of the agreement with the condo board, new owners will be informed of what types of changes can be made to the interior and exterior of their property. In most cases, condo owners possess the same type of exclusive ownership inside their condos as homeowners, yet are limited in exterior alterations to maintain the uniformity of the community.

If you are thinking about purchasing a condo, it is important to read the Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions (CC&Rs) before making a commitment. These documents include all the rules condo owners must follow and can vary widely between complexes. If you have indoor pets or other specific needs, make sure these are addressed in the CC&Rs to prevent any unwanted surprises.

While the concept of shared ownership might seem limiting to potential owners, there are certainly plenty of benefits. For instance, the owner of a single family home is solely responsible for any problems with the properties, incurring all costs of needed repairs. However, the dues paid by condo owner cover many repair costs – both inside and outside the home. Furthermore, condo ownership can also provide access to amenities- such as pools, spas and recreation equipment- outside the budget of a home owner.

Regardless of location, either a single family home or a condo can be the right fit for you. To make the most informed decision, all prospective homebuyers should reflect on their own lifestyles and priorities and how they relate to the different types of property ownership. While there may be many differences between house and condo ownership, the goal is always the same-finding the best home for you and your family. If you already know what you’re looking for, then tell me and I will find you YOUR DREAM HOME or DREAM CONDO!

Five Topics to Discuss With Your Real Estate Agent When Buying a Condo

If you’re looking for home-buying information, you’ve come to the right place. One of the first questions in deciding to buy a home is house or condo? If you’re leaning toward a condo, read on. In fact, if you already know what you’re looking for, then tell me and I will find you the perfect condominium. Otherwise, here are five important topics I discuss with clients thinking of purchasing a condo unit in Halifax, Dartmouth, Cole Harbour, Bedford, or surrounding areas. *Note: You may also find it helpful to consult the Condominium Checklist below.

1) What You Can’t Live Without
If you can’t live without a back yard, a condominium may not be right for you. But if your priorities are location and amenities, a condo can be the perfect option. Condominiums are often located in urban centres – ideal for professionals. They also often have gyms, swimming pools, conference rooms, and other amenities that may appeal to you as a Buyer.

2) Schools and Family Needs
The quality of school systems has long been important information for home-buying families – regardless of the type of home. If you have children or are thinking about having children in your new condo, we will discuss school information and statistics for the area.

3) Commuting
For many homeowners, commuting from home to work and back is a necessary evil. In some cases, a condominium can lessen the burden of a long drive to work. If you need to be in a certain area, I will find a condominium near by.

4) Community Details
Whether you hope to buy a condo in a vibrant urban neighborhood or a charming rural town, the demographics, details and community statistics of a particular area are almost as important a consideration when buying a home as the details of the house itself. Even more significant in a condo-living situation is information about your condominium’s own community. Are most of the residents retirees? Recent college graduates? The community information and statistics of both your condominium and the area in which it is located are crucial factors in your home-buying decision.

5) Budget and Condo Fees
For some, the decision to purchase a condo is based primarily on the convenience a condo lifestyle offers. For most people however, the most rigid constraint of home-buying and the central reason for choosing a condo is their budget. While condos are generally less expensive than houses, a Buyer should be aware of additional costs. It will be crucial that we go over the condo association’s dues and exactly what those dues include.

Four Topics to Discuss With Your Real Estate Agent When Selling Your Condo

Thinking of selling your condo? Whether you live in the condo or own it as an investment property, if you’re ready to sell your home, it’s time to talk. By evaluating several criteria, including regional markets, time of year, features of your condo unit, as well as your specific needs as the seller, I can create a customized marketing plan for your condo. Here are five important topics I discuss with clients thinking of selling their condo in Halifax, Dartmouth, Cole Harbour, Bedford, or surrounding areas. If you would like me to conduct a complimentary Comparative Market Analysis on your condo, simply complete this form.

1) Best Time of Year to Sell Your Condo
The specifics of your area do more to determine the best time to put your home on the market than whether you’re selling a condo or a house. While the conventional wisdom is that spring is the best time for selling a home, this belief simply doesn’t ring true in every locale. In recent years the historic patterns have eased, and in some cases, totally disappeared. What is most important is the state of the current market. If you’re curious about the current market value of your home, simply complete this form.

2) Open House Strategy and How to De-Clutter
A condo that shows well will sell faster and bring a higher price. Small cosmetic touch-ups can make a big difference. Buyers often suspect that more serious problems may exist if they notice the need for minor repairs. If you want to sell your home, it’s important to make sure your condo is clean, tidy and free of personal clutter.

3) Features to Accentuate
One of the best features to accentuate when selling a condo is the lifestyle of ease that comes with condominium ownership. Many buyers are looking for the hassle-free living experience that they can’t find with a single-family detached house. Another important attribute of any condo is the amenities of the association, which can include a hot tub, fitness center, owner’s lounge, covered parking and even concierge services. Together you and I can determine which features of the actual condo unit should be accentuated in the marketing plan.

4) Desired Price and Bottom Line Price
When setting the price for your condo, it is important to identify your desired price and your bottom line price. By assessing recent condo sale and listing statistics in your area, I will estimate your house value and recommend an appropriate target price range. Determining your bottom line price is key to the negotiating process.

Condominium FAQs

What exactly do I own when I own a condo?
For most practical purposes, you own the unit in which you live, and you share everything outside of your unit – the hallways, the grounds, all common elements. However, it is more correct to say that you own the space inside your unit – “from wall to wall, but not the wall” is a good way to think of it. Even under the floor and the outside of windows may fall under common elements. What you own though is the exclusive use of you space/unit.

Are there any limits to what I can do as a unit owner?
Almost every condominium corporation will have something in its Declaration or By-Laws which limits the way in which the unit owners can use their units and the common property. This might include restrictions on pets, hours of operation for common elements, balcony and patio use, renovations, or other matters. Remember, you’re joining a community and every community is different. It is important to investigate these matters before buying.

Are condos cheaper than a regular home?
It depends on how you look at it. In terms of price per square foot, condominiums are more expensive than most ‘regular’ homes. When you add your condo fees, many people believe condo living can actually be more expensive. However, a lot of what you’re paying for is location. Often condos are found in areas where no other residential options exist. A downtown condo might cost you $300k, but imagine what a home downtown would cost if it existed (which it usually doesn’t). Also, your condo corporation might include a pool, gym, and other features that would cost extra in a home.

What additional costs are associated with purchasing a condo?
Condos require downpayments and closing costs just like any other property. The minimum downpayment for financing right now is 5%. Some condominium corporations require more. On closing you will have to pay deed transfer tax (usually 1.5%), legal fees (vary from $700 to $2000 usually), and a property tax adjustment for resale condos or initial property tax for new construction (based on assessment). Most condos will also require you to make an immediate contribution to the reserve fund.

What is included in my condo fee?
(*See glossary of terms: condo fees) This depends on your particular condo corporation. However, a good way to think of condo fees is to imagine you’re living in a ‘regular’ home. If you want it painted every ten years, the roof shingles replaced every 20, the driveway repaved every 8, and the landscaping tended to each Spring, it would be smart to put a little bit of money away every month, right? Add in a little extra for regular upkeep and some more for ‘a rainy day,’ and that is essentially what a condo fee is. Often when a major expense comes up, homeowners aren’t prepared for it. If a condo corp is running smoothly, major expenses are simply taken out of the reserve fund at no additional cost to you.

Is there tax on the price of my condo?
If you’re buying a resale (not new) condo, there is no tax on the price. For any new construction, you’re going to pay tax. However, there are numerous tax rebates that you are eligible for, and a good developer will have the paperwork all prepared and should quote you the ‘after tax and rebate’ price. *If you’re a first time Buyer, you may qualify for even more rebates.

What about property tax?
Each condominium unit is assessed for tax purposes much like any other property. However, the assessment will normally include an appropriate amount for the unit’s share of the common property. As a result, there is not a seperate tax paid on common elements.

What does ____________ mean?
See the glossary of terms below, or contact me directly.

Glossary of Condominium Terms

Board of Directors: Each condominium has a Board of Directors that is elected by, and generally made up of, the unit owners. The Board is responsible for administration and management of the condominium corporation, including policy and finances, as well as decisions about the maintenance and repair of the common property. Some decisions will directly affect your use of common property elements and your condo fees. Unit owners are usually entitled to one vote for each unit they own for each position on the Board of Directors.

Common Elements: Common Elements (or Common Property) are the portions of the condominium that are not owned by a unit purchaser as part of his/her individual unit. They are shared and co-owned by all the individual owners of the condominium corporation. They usually (but not always) include such things as corridors, elevators, recreational facilities, playgrounds, lobbies, the grounds, central heating and airconditioning systems and parking. What is and is not included, as part of the common property elements, must be listed in the condominium’s governing documents. It is possible that some of the common elements may be reserved for the personal use of one or several owners. They are known as restricted or exclusive use common elements (for example a rooftop patio or features associated with penthouse units).

Condo Fees: Condo owners pay a monthly fee that is usually calculated as the annual operating cost of the entire condominium divided by the percentage of your contribution to the common expenses (your unit factor) as outlined in the condominium governing documents and/or local legislation. These fees may include:

  • Day-to-day care and upkeep of the common property elements (e.g. snow removal, landscaping, cleaning of common elements)
  • Contributions to the reserve fund
  • Property management fees and the salaries of condominium employees
  • Building repair and maintenance
  • Amenities (e.g. use of pool, recreational facilities, party room)
  • Utilities, Cable and/or Internet access.
  • The corporation’s insurance policies.

Disclosure Statement: In some jurisdictions, the developer of a new condominium must provide you with a disclosure statement before the agreement of purchase and sale is binding. The statement includes, among other things, a summary of features/amenities, proposed commencement and completion dates for construction, the condominium’s governing documents and budget for the first year after registration. This is a very important document to review during the buying process.

Estoppel Certificate (or Status Certificate): The estoppel certificate is the most important document to review when buying a condo. It contains information regarding the common expense obligations of the owner and other regulations. Most jurisdictions require condominiums to issue such information in packages to prospective buyers. This package can contain the declaration, by-laws, rules and regulations, insurance information, reserve fund balance, other financial disclosures, legal description of the unit and management contract (if applicable). It may also include information about any legal filings or judgments against the condominium corporation, the possibility of common expense increases, special assessments or insurance claims, all of which could affect condominium fees.

Governing Documents: These are the documents that describe how the condominium is organized and operated. They have different names in different provinces, but they can include declarations, by-laws and rules. They can contain provisions setting out the boundaries of the common elements and the individual units, the percentage of ownership each owner has in the common elements, the by-laws/budget and common expenses. Governing documents vary from one condominium to another and are filed with the land registry office when the condominium corporation is created.

Interim Occupancy Fees: These are only applicable to new construction. The Condominium Act requires condominium developments to be constructed to a substantial level prior to registration of the condominium plan. Title to a unit cannot be transferred until the condominium is registered. As a result, it is typical for condominium units to be ready for occupancy well before any sales can close. The Act permits developers and unit purchasers to agree that the purchaser may, or must in some cases, assume occupancy of the unit when it is ready for occupancy even though this is prior to registration and closing. This period of occupancy of the unit is called “interim occupancy”. When a purchaser goes into interim occupancy, the developer is entitled to charge a monthly fee. Unfortunately, it is sort of like paying rent for a place you will later own.

Property Manager: The property manager handles the day-to-day running of the condominium, such as hiring of staff, maintenance and repairs. The property manager is under contract to the condominium corporation. A representative from the property management company usually attends board meetings. Some condominiums may not have a property manager. These are sometimes referred to as self-managed condominiums. The Board of Directors, with the help of volunteers, will assume responsibility for the day-to-day management in these cases.

Reserve Fund: This is a fund set up by the condominium corporation in a special account to cover the costs of major repairs and replacement of the common property elements over time. Usually it is at least 10 per cent of the corporation’s total operating expenses, although the criteria vary between provinces. Reserve fund amounts and contributions are more accurately determined by a technical audit and reserve fund study undertaken by a qualified consultant. Contributions to the condo reserve fund make up a portion of your fees.

Special Assessment: This is the most dreaded of all condo terms because it means money out of your pocket. If the reserve fund cannot cover an urgent repair, then the board may levy a special assessment to cover the expense. Every owner is then required to pay a share of the total cost. An example may be a common roof that needs replacing. If the condo was built well and is being properly maintained and the condo fees have been well managed, special assessments should not be a great concern.

Unit: Home sweet home. The unit is the area that you actually own and hold title to. Repair and upkeep of the unit are generally your responsibility.

Types of Condominiums

If you drive around the HRM you will notice that development takes different forms. As already mentioned, condos are not always a single large complex. Quite often they are created through the conversion of older buildings into several residential units, or as seen more and more in downtown Halifax, they take the form of townhouses.

Your Condominium Checklist

If you’re deciding between a few different condominiums, this checklist may be helpful. It outlines things to consider when making your choice.

Checklist
Condo A Condo B Condo C
Builder Reputation
Total Price
Price per Square Foot
Condo Fees
Common Elements
Parking
Travel Time to Work
Travel Time to School
Overall Location
Condo Community Feel
Resale Potential
Recreation and Shopping
Overall Design of Project
Unit Layout
Inclusions with Unit
Kitchen
Living Area
Number of Bedrooms
Number of Bathrooms
Finishes and Features
Storage Space
Ceiling Height
Landscaping
Patio(s)
Roof
Furnace
After Sales Service
Disclosure
Rules and Regulations
Other
Other

CMHC Condominium Buyers’ Guide

The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) has published a Buyers’ Guide. If you are thinking of purchasing a condominium, you may find it informative. The guide is available in its entirety here.

CondominiumsHRM.ca Newsletter

You can have the CondominiumsHRM.ca Newsletter automatically sent to your email. In it, you will find condominium development news, featured projects, and updated information from this page. To subscribe, simply complete this form.