First-time buyer? Downsizer? Just someone tired of all the yard work that goes with owning a detached home? There are many reasons to consider strata living.
But if you’re thinking about it, be sure to go in with your eyes wide open.
Such is the advice from two local realtors whose know the ups and downs of strata living.
Carole Caffrey is a real estate agent with more than 20 years experience in the buying and selling of strata units.
She is also co-owner of Fraser Property Management, which handles such duties for more than 80 strata complexes throughout Maple Ridge, Pitt Meadows and beyond.
Frank Budd is a real estate agent with Maple Ridge’s Re/Max Lifestyles office, and he also has years of experience with strata units. And he lives in a strata.
Budd says the most important consideration when contemplating the purchase of a strata unit is to understand that you will be living in close proximity to other people.
“You have to realize it’s going to be like that, and you have to make the mental adjustment,” he says.
That’s not to say you won’t have privacy, but you are more likely to hear other people’s noises, smell their cooking, and so on.
Another key consideration, he adds, is to realize there are going to be certain restrictions on what you can and can’t do.
“You have to follow the rules, and if you can’t follow rules, you might want to reconsider [the notion of strata living].”
Caffrey agrees with both points, and notes that it’s also important to get as much information as possible before purchasing a strata, or any home for that matter. Is there adequate insurance? Do they have the funds for capital repairs and regular maintenance? Do they have a depreciation report and what does it say?
“The depreciation report is going to be very important for buyers in the future because it can point out all kinds of potential problems,” she offers.
“Check the minutes and bylaws thoroughly to see whether there is anything coming up that you, as a buyer, should know about – especially special assessments. Your realtor should be on top of that, but due diligence is important to avoid surprises.”
Strata meeting minutes are also useful, says Budd, because they can give you a good idea about what living there is going to be like. Does there appear to be a lot of rancour? Does everyone get along reasonably well? Are there lots of problems?
“[The minutes can] give you the flavour of day-to-day living in a particular strata,” he notes.
Caffrey says some of the other things to investigate are issues like pet and parking restrictions, places for children to play, and even seemingly innocuous items like being allowed to hang washing to dry or not.
Also, potential owners need to be aware that just because the bylaws say one thing on the day a person moves in, they can change.
“Strata living is community living,” says Caffrey.
The only way to influence the direction those things will change is to be involved, she adds.
That doesn’t necessarily mean you have to join the strata council, but you should be paying attention to what’s happening as things occur, or before changes take place.
Budd says strata living should be a lifestyle choice. It’s great for first-time buyers, but some people don’t want to, or can’t, mow lawns anymore, so they opt for a townhouse or condo.
Some people like living in close proximity to others for the sense of community or for security.
“There are advantages and disadvantages,” he says. “The important thing is to be aware of both before signing a purchase agreement.”
Caffrey concurs, based on her observations of strata owners over the years.
One of the most common things she’s noticed, she says, is that too many new strata owners don’t understand what it strata living entails, and she advises that the only way to remedy that problem before it’s too late is to ask plenty of questions of your realtor, people who live in the complex you’re thinking about buying in, and friends and family who have already crossed over.
Robert Prince is a freelance writer who lives in Maple Ridge.