With over 29,000 registered strata corporations and over 350,000 strata units in B.C., strata properties are a significant and increasing type of housing.
My name is Julia Krause, I live in Kelowna, and I’m a townhouse owner. I’ve served on my strata council for about 15 years now, which has been a great learning experience not only as a homeowner, but also as a mortgage broker, which has been my job for just over 20 years.
Experience has taught me that many buyers who purchase a condo or a townhouse often do so without taking time to read the information about the complex, which is always provided to a buyer by their realtor and/or lawyer. Of course, every homebuyer gets buried in paperwork during the purchase and mortgage process and granted, it’s not exactly riveting reading material. But as you begin to learn more about the complex in which you now OWN… the phrase, “But I didn’t know that!” is not going to help you.
Rather than ‘buyer beware’, I prefer to say ‘buyer be aware’. By writing this column, I hope to provide some “I wish I had known that BEFORE I bought!” information for those considering buying a condo or townhouse, but also for those who already own a strata property, and perhaps don’t quite understand how it all works.
Let’s start with the terminology…
In B.C., condominiums and townhouses are referred as strata properties. Individual owners have title to their condo or townhouse plus a proportional share of the common property. The common property belongs to all the owners, and all owners share the cost of maintaining it.
A strata corporation is made up of all the individual homeowners in a particular complex or building. The B.C. Strata Property Act is the framework under which a strata corporation operates. A strata corporation is required to make decisions using democratic principles (“majority rules”). A strata council is a group of homeowners who volunteer their time to ensure that the building or complex is properly maintained, that rules (strata by-laws) are being followed, and that the finances (strata fees) are handled responsibly.
Living in a strata property is not for everyone, and that’s OK. We are all unique individuals. For others though, it can be the perfect living situation. Here are some important questions to ask yourself when you’re considering buying a condo or townhouse, which will give you an idea of the reality of strata living:
- Can you live in a complex/community where you do not have total control over your own home?
- Can you live in a complex/community where decisions are made democratically, and you may not always get your way?
- Are you willing to be cooperative and help with the running of a complex/community?
- Are you willing to share the cost of maintaining common areas that are for the use of all owners?
In future columns, I’ll get into more details about things like strata fees, by-laws, management companies, etc.
Thanks for reading!
A townhouse owner since 1996, Julia Krause has served on her own strata council for 15 years. There is more to owning and living in a strata property than meets the eye, and Julia’s hope is that the information in her column will help homebuyers make an educated, informed decision. Also a licensed mortgage broker since 1996, Julia has written articles for industry publications, as well as training courses and educational material for mortgage professionals across Canada. She has served on the Board of Directors of the Mortgage Brokers Association of B.C. and the Okanagan Mortgage Lenders Association. If you’re considering purchasing a townhouse or condominium, Julia is the mortgage broker for you.
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