Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Secrets of Buying a Great Condo...

Wow!  Can you find a condo building in Edmonton that hasn’t had special levies?  And I don’t mean the ones just recently built that shouldn’t.  Too soon?  Too soon?  (I had to quote Jeff Rose).  What happened to quality of craftsmanship?  Can we still build well and build to last?  You would think that with present engineering and technologies we should be building better that those who constructed all the Pyramids, ancient cities, castles and churches that are still standing till now.  You may say; we live in the age where quantity has replaced quality, I guess the latter costs too much, or does it?
It’s almost impossible to protect yourself from future special assessments or levies as a condo buyer or an owner.  For some it has been a nightmare, for others who have been luckier a pleasant experience.  In Downtown and surrounding neighbourhoods like Oliver, Rossdale, Riverdale, Westmount and Queen Marry Park, a disturbing number of the condominiums built after 2000 have had or are having deficiencies that are past developer’s warranties and have to be fixed with extra funding from the current owners.  Here just some of them: Grandin Court, Terrace Court, Parkside Court, Omega, Imperial, the View, Rossdale Court, Glenora Gates, and St. Lawrence Court.  Some of them were built by TESCO, we’ve all heard that name.  I haven’t heard anything bad about Alta Vista or River Vista built by Christenson Development, so far so good.  What about the Icons?  Great location and design, not too fond of either of their lobbies constructed by Langham Properties from Edmonton.

The amount of special assessments can vary from $1000 to $30,000 and even higher.   In some cases, the board will rather increase the condo fees than call for special levy.  I suppose I wouldn’t be upset about couple of grand over say 5 years but $10,000 or $20,000 would definitely spike the blood pressure in my veins.  It seems like the magical timeline of some of these major and expensive deficiencies appearing would be between 5 to 10 years down the road, when warranties are out, convenient for developer.  I say, let’s implore the builders to give 10 year warranties on major items like structural, exterior, windows, roof, elevators, heating and cooling systems, main electrical and plumbing.  Would that be nice ?!  It’s going to cost you!

So what is the secret to buying well?  Older than 10 year? Like wine, condos get better with age? LOL!  I would say yes to some and no to others, anything newer than 2002, give or take couple of years, and you are taking a chance.  Anything older than 1990 and you are looking at possible levies to put new windows, roofs, upgrading the elevators, boilers, etc.  (Keep in mind some of the older high-rises, lofts and walk-ups had the majority or some work already done).  The funny thing is that there aren’t many condos in Downtown area that were built between 1980 and 2000, most are from 1960’s, 1970’s, and 2000 plus. 

Conclusion:  All this info does sound confusing and trying to generalize and find a definite answer to this puzzle maybe impossible.  However, all things being equal, the secret is to take every building under the microscope and examine separately.  Then, after doing your homework take a plunge and hope for the best, you are not alone.   There are definitely great condo buildings out there and there are those that I would stay away from and would not recommend to my clients, but we are not here in business of bashing but just trying to provoke a discussion and find more information on this subject.   By the way, I would be happy to hear what you have to say, just comment to this post or give me a callJ


Derek H.


Anonymous said...

We had 2 assesssments in Omega in the last 2 years.


Anonymous said...

We had one in Terrace Court. It sucks.


Anonymous said...

I agree. The builder should have 10 years warranties and not 5.


Anonymous said...

Great article Derek, very helpful.