Strata properties are a popular real estate choice for many in B.C. for the security, amenities, location, and lifestyle they can provide. Buying a condo can be a great option, whether you’re a first-time home buyer, just starting a family, or looking to downsize to something more manageable. However, condo living isn’t for everyone, personal preference, practicality, and affordability are just some of the factors that will play a role in your decision. Let’s look at the pros and cons of living in a freehold strata condo in B.C.
What is a Strata?
In strata housing, the owners own their own strata lot along with their individual share of the common property. In condos and townhouses, the strata lot most often ends at the center of the walls, floors, and ceilings, but each strata plan of a condominium or townhouse will show the exact boundaries of your own personal lot.
What is considered strata common property?
Any part of the land and buildings shown on the strata plan that is not part of your personal strata lot is considered common property. For example, the common property typically includes elevators, hallways, amenities, and exteriors such as the roof. Common property is owned collectively by all the owners as tenants in common.
Pros of Living in a Strata Condo
One of the major reasons for choosing a condo over a house is the potential choices in location. If you want to live in downtown Vancouver or a high-density commercial area, buying a detached property at an affordable price is next to impossible. Condos however are a much more affordable option for those that want to live close to work. Commuting from primary residential areas to work can take 40 to 60 mins during rush hour. Living close to work can not only save you a lot of time in your daily morning and evening commutes but can also save you thousands of dollars each year in fuel and car maintenance costs.
TomTom’s Traffic index looked at 416 urban areas in 57 countries. Vancouver is ranked 40th place worldwide for worst traffic and the worst traffic in Canada when it comes to congestion. Similar to the first benefit in living in a strata condo, living in a condo usually provides you with better transportation options such as the Skytrain instead of being stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic every morning. Strata condos are also usually built in major urban centers giving you the option to walk to your favorite restaurants, grocery stores, and entertainment.
A mid-sized condo is perfect for those who want to downsize or are just looking to get into the real estate market for the first time. If you're the type who doesn’t like to spend much time at home and instead enjoy spending your evenings outside trying out new restaurants and bars then a condo matches your lifestyle much more than a detached property. A smaller space also provides more freedom for individuals who want to spend more time traveling. At the end of the day finding the perfect type of property is about finding a property that matches your lifestyle.
4. Low Maintenance
If you live in a detached property you understand how much time it requires to maintain your house. A few examples of home maintenance and repairs of a normal detached property include roof cleaning, furnace, and air conditioning maintenance, snow removal, landscaping, gardening, and gutter maintenance. One of the biggest benefits of living in a strata condo is that other people maintain the property for you. If you're in poor health, busy with work, or just don’t want to deal with house chores every week, living in a strata condo provides you peace of mind and freedom from repairs and maintenance.
The amenities in most modern condo properties are amazing and mostly out of reach of detached property owners. Most modern condos offer features like gyms, pools, yoga studios, BBQ areas, community/party rooms, study rooms, and underground car wash stations.
Most strata condos offer a mix of security tools that reassures even the most anxious homeowner. Strata condos usually have concierges, 24/7 neighborhood security, buzzer locks that only take you to registered floors, and cameras around the entire property. In addition, living in such close proximity to many others usually deters any potential criminal activity from happening.
Strata condos are priced lower than single-family homes as one would expect. The simple truth is there are far fewer detached homes compared to condos. Although condos are usually considered an entry-level property type, many individuals that could afford a single-family home actually prefer condo living. Strata condos also provide buyers with the opportunity to get onto the property ladder as either a permanent home or a stepping stone towards a single-family home.
8. Homeowners Share Costs
Just like any property, maintenance and repairs are essential as the age of property increases. An average roof needs to be replaced after around 20 years, having shared costs make it cheaper than repairing a property alone.
Strata condos were originally built as a cheap alternative to single-family homes. However as demand for housing continues to grow in Canada, condos have solidified themselves as an integral part of Canada’s housing market. In the past 5 years, detached properties in Greater Vancouver increased by 33% while condos in Greater Vancouver have increased by 41%. Investing in a condo in a great location with great amenities and management can be a great investment.
Most condos have communal spaces, such as community rooms, study areas, patios, gardens, and gyms where residents can mingle. Unlike a single-family neighborhood where you may know your neighbors right next door, in a condo, you will constantly bump into the residents of a building. Meeting other residents at the gym or patio can be the start of a lasting friendship as you continue to see each other.
Cons of Living in a Strata Condo
1. Strata Bylaws and Restrictions
All strata corporations have bylaws and rules. Bylaws govern the maintenance, management, and control the common property. For example, the Standard Bylaws state that an owner must get approval from the strata corporation before making an alteration to common property, including limited common property. In this case, if you want to do any major renovations that affect the common property such as walls you may be restricted from doing so. Other restrictions that may affect you could be restrictions on pets, such as the restriction of certain dog breeds or a limit on the number of pets you may have.
2. Limited Parking
Strata condos are usually built-in high-density locations that limit the amount of available parking. Most condos provide the residents with one parking spot, however, if you have more than one car it could be difficult to find additional parking. Another problem related to parking is when you want to invite friends or family over. Guest parking in condo towers is limited to one or two guests. This can be a major problem if you want to invite several friends over.
3. Noise & Privacy
In a condo, you have neighbors on both sides of your walls. Although most new condos are built from steel and concrete and often have good soundproofing, no amount of soundproofing can completely block all sounds. You may hear a barking dog or loud stomping. If you're looking for total peace and quiet, a condo may not be the right choice for you.
4. Lack of Personal Green Space
One of the major benefits of living in a single-family home is a private backyard. If you’re the type that likes having your morning coffee next to a rustic environment, this could be a problem living in a condo. Although most condos have a patio that can be used as a garden they are usually quite small.
5. Mismanaged Funds
Condo owners pay strata fees every month that goes towards community amenities, building maintenance, and cleaning services for common areas. The fees you pay go into two different funds. The operating fund is for commonly shared expenses that occur once a year or more, and the contingency reserve fund is for common expenses that occur less often than once a year or usually don't occur.
A well-managed strata council will make sure both these funds are well balanced so that there’s enough money to meet both regular expenses as well as for long-term or emergency projects. However, if the strata council is not well managed, special assessments may be issued to every owner requesting additional funds.
6. Cost for Unused Amenities
Having a large pool, sauna and gym are great if you use them often. However, if you rarely use any of the amenities that your condo provides you are essentially paying for services that you don’t use.
There are many more options for condos than for single-family homes. This means that buyers have many more options to look at when looking to purchase a condo. When you decide to sell your condo, buyers will compare your condo with similar units in the same building which are virtually identical. In comparison no single-family home is exactly the same, each single-family home has its own unique selling point. Selling a condo can take longer than selling a single-family home and the price will be more dependent on what other units in your building are selling for.
Should you buy a strata condo? Ultimately buying any type of home depends on your lifestyle, budget, and your goals. No two buyers are ever the same, everyone has different circumstances and obstacles. A condo can be a great option, whether you’re a first-time home buyer, just starting a family, or looking to downsize to something more manageable.
If, after weighing the pros and cons of living in a strata condo, you decide a strata condo is right for you I would love to assist you in your journey of finding your dream home. Buying a strata condo involves an in-depth analysis of the potential cash flow of a property, projection of future growth and appreciation as well as examining all the strata documents to make sure your interests are protected.
If you have any questions about buying a strata condo in British Columbia, please don’t hesitate to contact me.