06/25/2012 03:37 EDT | Updated 08/25/2012 05:12 EDT

Condo-Shopping? What to Look For

Since the early 2000s, condo development has helped change the skyline in Canada. People from all demographics are choosing to live what I refer to as "the condo lifestyle." If you are thinking about joining this growing crowd that prefers parking underground and chooses location over square feet, here are some tips to implement while shopping for your next home:

Age of the Building

Whether brand new or older in age, there are arguments to justify purchase in any building. New buildings are in better shape, generally have more amenities, and are built using modern materials that are in style with the buyers of today. Older buildings often have larger floor plans, have stood the test of time, and can have a more established demographic living there.

Builder reputation

There are countless developers all trying to get a piece of the condo boom profit. Some have great reputations and some get mixed reviews. Do your research and ask the experts which names to trust and which have established good reputations in the industry. Making a condo look pretty is easy; doing it while not cutting any corners and sacrificing quality takes a lot more planning and results in a better product for the consumer.


With everything from rock climbing walls, to movie theatres, to state of the art fitness facilities, developers have a project out there to meet the needs of even the most demanding client. Things like a pool can make maintenance fees higher since they need more upkeep and money spent on them. Before starting your search, select which amenities are most, somewhat, and not important to you so that you can rule certain buildings out right away that won't meet your criteria.

Maintenance Fees

Condominiums cover maintenance and repairs by charging a monthly fee often referred to as a condo fee. Since you are buying a slice of the building when you purchase a condo, you must contribute to this fund every month. Fees are calculated on a per-square-foot basis and from my experience. I've seen everything from under 50 cents to well over a dollar a square foot depending on what the fee includes, (utilities, cable, taxes, etc.) the age of the building, and what amenities are available. There is no set rule for what a building will charge but be aware that a really high maintenance fee compared to other buildings in the area can have a negative effect on price appreciation.

Condo Documents

So you've done your homework, searched the city high and wide and found the perfect condo. Congrats! If you or your realtor has structured the offer right, it should be conditional on your lawyer reviewing the financial and legal documents of the condo. The main things they are looking for is to ensure the building is not suing or being sued by anyone and that the amount of money set aside for upkeep and repairs is sufficient. A poorly run building can lead to higher maintenance fees and/or trouble selling at a later date.

Shopping for a new place to live should be a fun and exciting time. If you are working with a real estate professional, make sure you have one that understands the kind of lifestyle you are looking for. It makes finding the perfect building a much easier and smooth process. Do your own homework and, when you find what seems like the right place, I encourage you to speak to the neighbours and ask how they like the building and area.

This is far from a complete checklist of what you need to know about purchasing a condo, but it should help you get started. Good luck!