BC Notaries Offer 10 Essential Tips for Strata Property Buyers
Strata Property Purchases Rising due to First-time Buyers and Empty Nesters
Vancouver, BC—The popularity of strata title properties is rising in BC as both first-time buyers and empty nesters embrace their relative financial accessibility and convenience. Strata ownership is a great alternative to owning and maintaining a house, but the Society of Notaries of BC caution that buyers need to understand it is a different form of ownership and those considering a purchase should know exactly what they are acquiring.
According to BC’s Office of Housing and Construction Standards, BC is home to half a million residential strata lots. This figure does not include mixed-use buildings that may have both residential and commercial units. Based on an average BC family of 3.1 people, this translates into more than 1.5 million BC residents living in residential stratas—34 per cent of BC’s population.
“The lower maintenance, shared amenities and relative affordability of condos, townhomes and other strata properties as compared to single-family homes offer benefits for many BC home buyers. But, like any major purchase, it’s important buyers ensure they really understand the rules and regulations specific to each strata property,” says David Watts, a Notary in downtown Vancouver.
John Eastwood, a Delta-based Notary and President of the Society, frequently acts for strata lot homeowners and reminds his clients that strata councils are “local mini-governments” that administer the Strata Property Act and the strata’s own set of rules.
“The bylaws can include restrictions on age, pets, rentals, and other factors intended to benefit all owners, but they also impose limitations on the owners’ use of their property,” Eastwood says. “In some cases, the bylaws are updated every few years, which may introduce further, unexpected restrictions.”
The Society of Notaries of BC offers 10 essential tips to potential strata unit buyers:
- Carefully read through the strata’s bylaws and find out if any new bylaws are being proposed at an upcoming Annual General Meeting or Special General Meeting.
- Parking can be contentious, so find out if the parking stalls are owned by the strata lot, or are limited common property with the right to exclusive use that can be assigned to the buyer by the seller, or are common property whose use can be re-assigned by the strata council upon sale.
- Find out whether an engineering report has been obtained to determine any current or potential problems – if so, review the findings and ask what will be done to address problems.
- Keep in mind BC’s leaky condo crisis, and discover whether there have been previous problems with water ingression in the building envelope, and whether it has been professionally remediated.
- Ask whether major maintenance work is required in the future (eg. replacing the roof, balconies, re-plumbing, etc.).
- Look into whether any legal action against the building or strata is in progress.
- Find out how much money is in the contingency reserve.
- Smoking can be an issue, so look into what you could do about an adjacent owner smoking on his or her patio or balcony.
- Seek the advice of experienced real estate and legal professionals before you invest in a strata home.
- Make an offer to purchase a property conditional upon your notary or lawyer’s approval.
“As Notaries, we can help you find the answers to your questions so you can make an informed decision on whether or not a particular strata property is right for you,” Eastwood says.
The Summer 2013 edition of BC Notaries’ quarterly publication, The Scrivener, focuses on strata properties and contains a wealth of information for potential buyers and related professionals on strata ownership, governance and control, strata councils, fees, insurance and other related and important topics.
The Society of Notaries Public of BC represents more than 320 highly trained Notary professionals. Most have locally owned and operated offices and all provide personal assistance to clients around the province. Individuals, families, and businesses seek the services of BC Notaries for a wide range of non-contentious legal matters, including residential and commercial real estate transfers, mortgage refinancing, Wills and advanced healthcare planning, powers of attorney, and other important documents.
The Notary’s Tradition of Trust spans 2000 years. Notaries first came to British Columbia over 100 years ago. They continue to serve their valued clients and their communities across the province.