What makes Condos Different than Houses?

With a family home you are the owner of the building and the land it sets on.This is called “fee simple” ownership.

With a condominium you only get the exclusive right to the interior space of your dwelling unit, but the land, walls, grounds, fences and facilities are owned in common with the other owners in the complex. What is considered as part of the common elements are: windows, electrical, plumbing, and heating. It’s common forms are: condo-townhouse, apartments, co-operative apartment building and a resort property. A condo can offer a lifestyle that is quite appealing to those who want an “all-in” living experience. Many are located by a scenic body of water, city centre and/or attraction.

When buying a resale condo, your REALTOR® will put some conditions in to protect your interest. One in particular for a condo purchase is the inclusion (within 10 days of the acceptance of an offer) of a status certificate. This is initiated by the selling agent and usually the cost of about $100-$150 is transferred to the seller. The status certificate funny enough has nothing to do with certificates and to determine a “status” on the property is not black and white. It is usually a lengthy document detailing:

all the uses of the property

what is covered in damage

financial status of a unit and of the condo corporation

inform a prospective owner of the fees

any large increase that is going to come into effect

any special assessment that is being contemplated by the board

any arrears or lien that a particular suite might have.

In addition, it contains the condo declaration, by-laws, budget, reserve fund, insurance, management contract, rules, minutes of the last annual general meeting, and mention of any lawsuit involving the corporation. This document can run into one hundred barely legible pages.Your real estate lawyer will call you in to review it and ensure the condo is run properly and there are no surprises or indications of a substantial rise in fees. Typically this activity is written in the conditions and you can decide to move forward or decline the purchase based on your lawyer’s opinion of the Status Certificate details.

Any costs for repairs or upgrades of the structure or mechanical systems of the condo should be covered by the condo corporation. Other interior reno’s that include changing the plumbing or electrical are expected to be at your cost (eg: kitchen or bathroom reno).

Condo fees can vary in cost and are a big consideration when applying for a mortgage and weighing out your monthly ownership costs. The fees will typically (but not always) include building insurance, a parking space, building and property maintenance, use of facilities (gym, entertainment room, pool) and sometimes heat/hydro/water. Typically your ownership costs per month would be:


property tax

condo fees

heat/hydro/water (if not included in the condo fees)

home insurance (not typical but sometimes recommended)


large graph for house vs condoIn this example consider the monthly costs for both a home and a condo. Having an equal mortgage payment and property taxes does NOT indicate that your costs will be the same between a house, or different condos. One must take in all the factors when deciding even between one condo and another. Sometimes condo fees are higher because buildings are getting older and require repair… it is NOT indicative of a BETTER building.

condo vs house mortgage costs

A “Property Maintenance” cost was added to the house to consider the cost of exterior maintenance. This is such because one would either pay for the service or have to use their valuable time to do the work. Time is money. With condos these duties are being paid for within your condo fees.