The Beginner’s Guide to Buying a Condo

Today we are going to take a look at everything involved in buying a condo.

We have a team of highly experienced real estate agents and we would love to put our expertise to work for you.

Buying a condo is different from buying a house. In this post, we’ll let you know everything you need to know if you are buying a condo for the first time. Let’s get started!

buying a condo
Buying a condo is different from buying a house

Buying a Condo

Whether you are a first-time buyer, buying a condo as an investment, or you’ve decided to downsize, a condo can be a great choice. However, condos have some distinct differences from single-family homes.

What Exactly Is a Condo

You’ve probably heard the term used often enough, but do you know what condos are? “Condo” is short for “condominium” and refers to a property that is shared by a number of different people who own their individual units, or condos.

A condo is a property shared by different people who own their own units

Condominium Management: When buying a condo, you are also getting “nonexclusive interest in community property” that is run by a board of condo owners who are responsible to look after the daily operation of the condo complex, including things like snow removal and landscaping.

Shared Extra Services: Often, condos will offer you great additional shared services such as fitness centers, tennis courts, pools, etc. These can be great selling features for a condo.

Condos often have shared extra services like fitness centers for you to enjoy

Each Condo Is Different: You need to know that each condo will be different. They will have their own rules, association fees, management company, and amenities. When you are considering buying a condo, you should make sure that you know what the condo you are looking at has to offer.

How to Determine Whether Buying a Condo Is the Right Fit for You

If you are not sure whether buying a condo is the right thing for you, you can ask yourself the following questions to help you with your decision.

yoga room
If you are a social person, then condo living may be perfect for you

Do You Like Being Part of a Community?

A great advantage of buying a condo is that you immediately become part of your condo community. 

If you are a very social person and like the idea of being part of a close community, condo living may be the perfect choice.

Many condos have amenities that you can enjoy along with your condo neighbours, such as a pool or gym.

Do You Like Being Close to Your Neighbours?

When buying a condo you need to remember that you will probably have other condos attached to yours. It’s not like having a single free standing home where you have a definite separation between yourself and your neighbours.

If you don’t mind or even like the idea of having neighbours living very close to you, then buying a condo could be a very good option for you.

condo living
Do you like to live close to your neighbours?

Do You Hate Shovelling Snow and Doing Yardwork?

If you are not a fan of outside maintenance, then buying a condo could definitely be the right thing for you.

Condos usually charge a maintenance fee that covers tasks such as shoveling snow, which is a great advantage in southern Ontario where we receive ample snow every winter.

The maintenance fees usually also cover cutting grass and other yard work – another task that you may not enjoy. However, if you have a real love for gardening, then condo living may not be for you.

If you hate yard work then condo living may be a great choice for you

Do You Worry about Unexpected Maintenance Costs?

Part of your condo fees usually also go towards any large building maintenance fees such as replacing your roof.

If you worry about large and unexpected maintenance bills cropping up, then paying a set monthly fee to cover those types of costs may be more reassuring for you.

Are You Looking for an Investment Property?

Because condos are generally lower in price than single family dwellings, they may be a great option if you are looking for an investment property that you want to rent.

Make sure, however, that the rules of the community allow for you to rent out your property before making your purchase.

rental condo
A condo could be a good investment opportunity for you

Are You Looking to Retire and Downsize?

If you are an empty nester or are retiring, a condo may be a great choice for you. Not having to do outdoor maintenance can really free you up for travel and relieve you of having to do heavy work that becomes more difficult as you get older.

Make Sure You Find Out What the Fees Are and What They Include and Don’t Include

Always find out how much your condo fees are going to be and when they are due. Are they monthly, quarterly, bi-annually, or annually?

Also find out what exactly your fees include. Most fees cover exterior maintenance and insurance, but remember that each condo is different.

Find out if your condo includes things like underground parking

For example, you should find out if your fees include things such as:

  • Lawn maintenance, landscaping, and snow removal
  • Water and sewer services
  • Road maintenance and garbage pickup
  • Heat and electric
  • A reserved parking spot – parking outside or in a covered garage
  • Additional parking for your guests and if they can park overnight
  • Storage space

Before Buying a Condo Find Out Who Is in Charge of Maintenance

Ask who is responsible for maintaining your condo common areas. Is it a private company or are the residents asked to help with keeping them clean? A condo community that isn’t maintained properly may affect your condo’s resale value.

condo maintenance
Find out who is responsible for maintenance

Find Out the Condo Rules

Most condo associations have rules that you need to be aware of before you make your decision. 

Because you are living in a community, the rules need to be followed to keep the peace among residents. Some of the types of rules that you may encounter could include:

  • The type of pets you are allowed or not allowed to have
  • Whether or not you can rent out your unit
  • Any quiet hours that you need to respect

Most condo rules are set in place to benefit the residents, however if you are buying a condo and some of the rules don’t suit your lifestyle, then maybe you should look at another community.

condo ownership
Ask about any special condo rules

Before Buying a Condo, Ask about any Special Assessments

A special assessment is a large fee that is charged in order to cover a bigger project within the community, such as replacing a roof or repairing structural damages to your building.

If your community is planning a larger project in the near future then you condo fees could go up for a period of time. 

For example, if you normally pay $500 a month in fees, they may go up to $600 a month for a year to cover this cost. You should make sure that you know about this possibility before you purchase.

Ask about special assessments

Financing Your Condo

With the ever increasing cost of purchasing a single family home, a lower priced condo can be a great alternative.

Qualifying for financing for your condo in Canada is slightly different from qualifying for a single family dwelling. This is because your condo fees are taken into consideration when you are applying for your mortgage.

Lenders will calculate your Gross Debt Service ratio by adding together the cost of your mortgage principal and interest plus your property taxes and your heating costs plus 50% of your condo fees and divide this number by your pre-tax income.

The resulting number needs to be less than 35% in order for you to qualify for a mortgage. They will also look at your Total Debt Service ratio.

This ratio is calculated by adding your Gross Debt Service ratio that was just calculated, plus your car payments, plus alimony and other loans, plus the remaining 50% of your condo fees. Then, they will divide this number by your pre-tax income.

This number needs to be less than 42% in order for you to qualify for a mortgage. Therefore, the amount of your condo fees can plan a large part in whether or not you qualify for a mortgage.

Here is a handy calculator that will let you figure out your own Gross Debt Service ratio.

Qualifying for a condo mortgage is slightly different from a regular mortgage

Choose a Realtor that Is Experienced in Condos

Buying a condo is different than buying a single family home. The purchase contracts are also very different.

That’s why it’s important to choose a realtor that has experience buying and selling condos. In addition to the typical sales contract, your condo community will also need you to sign a contract that shows that you agree and understand the condo associations rules and regulations.

An experienced realtor will be able to explain both types of contract to you and will make sure that all the paperwork is completed properly and that you understand everything that you are signing.

kw condo living

Buying a Condo? Trust the Experts at KW Listings

If you are buying a condo, contact the experts at KW Condo. 

We are a team of highly experienced real estate professionals who specialize in helping our customers buy and sell condos in Kitchener, Waterloo, Cambridge, Guelph, Woodstock, and Stratford. 

We can help you find your perfect home or investment property. Contact us today to start your search.


"The KWListings team was awesome - sold my condo in less than a week. They were friendly, professional, and very accommodating with my odd working hours. I was nervous to be selling a property for the first time, but these guys made it a breeze - they even helped me remember to do things and had the patience to explain to my frazzled brain what certain things meant. Highly recommend." - Stephanie Laurel