Protect Yourself – Reading Strata Documents Properly

Take the time to do your due diligence before you buy – it can save you thousands of dollars

Almost daily, CHOA advisors receive a call from a buyer claiming there is an upcoming major special levy for repairs or a condition in the bylaws that they knew nothing about. The new owner is shocked by the new information and frustrated that neither the agent nor the seller told them anything. Unfortunately, the buyers often come to realize the information was in their hands, but they failed to review the documents, they refused to obtain documents, or they ignored the risks. As a condo buyer, obtaining as many of the strata documents as possible, and taking the time to read them, is your best insurance against unexpected problems.

What to Ask For

Knowing what documents to obtain, where to get them and the critical information to look for is an essential part of the home-buying process. Most buyers begin with the Information Certificate (Form B). The form discloses the unit’s current monthly strata fees, money owing by the owner other than amounts paid into court, any agreements an owner has signed where they have taken responsibility for the cost of any alterations, amounts owed for a special levy that has already been approved, projections of deficits, balance of the contingency fund, approved bylaw amendments not yet filed in land titles, any three-quarter votes approved but not yet filed in land titles, any court proceedings, any judgments or orders against a strata,  work orders or notices on the strata lot, number of current rentals, parking stalls and storage lockers allocated to the strata lot, rules and current budget of the strata, an owner developer’s rental disclosure establishing exemptions, and the most recent depreciation report. 
That is the basic menu of information that has to be disclosed for every strata corporation. But you should also take a look at other documents available to buyers that are rarely requested. An owner, tenant, or person authorized to request documents such as the real estate agent is permitted to request historic documents that may provide a buyer with critical information.

Digging Deeper

A copy of the insurance policy for example, is a good indication of the risks managed by the strata. If the water escape deductible is $25,000, $50,000 or $100,000, it is a good bet there have been frequent claims in the building. Your next question as a buyer is: what’s the cause? If it is a result of failed plumbing systems that need to be upgraded, special levies are on the horizon. Ask questions. It may be the upgrades are complete and it’s a matter of a few years before the deductibles come down again. As an owner, you are exposed to those high deductibles as a common expense for the strata, and personally if the cause of a flood is from your strata lot. 
The Strata Property Act also now requires strata corporations to maintain copies of any reports obtained by the strata corporation respecting repair and maintenance of major items, including engineering reports, risk management reports, sanitation reports, and environmental assessments. If there has been asbestos testing on the building, the strata must retain a copy of that report.

Go Back Two Years in the Strata Minutes

If you request and read the strata minutes of council meetings and general meetings for at least the past two years, they should provide you with a sense of the strata business. Make a list of maintenance, emergencies, long-term planning decisions, insurance claims, and funding decisions. You can cross reference them in the documents you receive. Sterile minutes where nothing happens is a strata that is generally hiding something.
“Buyer beware” for condo buyers should read, “buyer be aware.” If the strata corporation is not providing a document requested, or there is confusion about allocation of parking or storage, or there is missing information, you might want to rethink your decision. Read everything and if in doubt request more information. Five hours of your time could end up in you avoiding a $55,000 special levy.

Tony Gioventu
 Condominium Home Owners Association. Courtesy of

6 things to do when moving into a New House

Moving into your first home is exciting! But it also means you’ve got work to do.

1. Change the locks. You really don’t know who else has keys to your home, so change the locks. That ensures you’re the only person who has access. Install new deadbolts yourself for as little as $10 per lock, or call a locksmith — if you supply the new locks, they typically charge about $20-$30 per lock for labor.

2. Check for plumbing leaks. Your home inspector should do this for you before closing, but it never hurts to double-check. I didn’t have any leaks to fix, but when checking my kitchen sink, I did discover the sink sprayer was broken. I replaced it for under $20.

Keep an eye out for dripping faucets and running toilets.

Here’s a neat trick: Check your water meter at the beginning and end of a two-hour window in which no water is being used in your house. If the reading is different, you have a leak.

3. Steam clean carpets. Do this before you move your furniture in, and your new home life will be off to a fresh start. You can pay a professional carpet cleaning service — you’ll pay about $50 per room; most services require a minimum of about $100 before they’ll come out — or you can rent a steam cleaner for about $30 per day and do the work yourself. I was able to save some money by borrowing a steam cleaner from a friend.

4. Wipe out your cabinets. Another no-brainer before you move in your dishes and bathroom supplies. Make sure to wipe inside and out, preferably with a non-toxic cleaner, and replace contact paper if necessary.

5. Give critters the heave-ho. That includes mice, rats, bats, termites, roaches, and any other uninvited guests. There are any number of DIY ways to get rid of pests, but if you need to bring out the big guns, an initial visit from a pest removal service will run you $100-$300, followed by monthly or quarterly visits at about $50 each time.

6. Introduce yourself to your circuit breaker box and main water valve. It’s a good idea to figure out which fuses control what parts of your house and label them accordingly. This will take two people: One to stand in the room where the power is supposed to go off, the other to trip the fuses and yell, “Did that work? How about now?”

You’ll want to know how to turn off your main water valve if you have a plumbing emergency, if a hurricane or tornado is headed your way, or if you’re going out of town. Just locate the valve — it could be inside or outside your house — and turn the knob until it’s off. Test it by turning on any faucet in the house; no water should come out.

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Beautiful, Bright and Spacious, this family home is a gem! East facing living room with vaulted ceilings, large windows, fireplace and adjoining dining room. Updated Kitchen with new stainless steel appliances and neighbouring family room with fireplace. Fully fenced west facing yard that backs onto Central Elementary School. Lower level consists of a 2 bedroom suite with long term tenants, a spacious laundry room and another bedroom/office. Updated include; New flooring, New hot water tank, new roof, new blinds, new upstairs bathrooms and pot lights throughout the upstairs. First showing at Open house; Saturday July 8th 12-2pm and Sunday July 9th 2:30-4:30pm.

Link to Virtual Tour:





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New Listing – 110 1948 Coquitlam Ave

Bright and Spacious ground floor suite priced for under $200,000!! This home boasts an efficient floor plan with a beautiful updated kitchen, King- sized bedroom & a large sunny north facing patio. Freshly painted and MOVE in Ready!! EXCELLENT investment/holding property as there are no restrictions on rentals. Close to shopping, west coast express and the new evergreen line.

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Listed by Maureen Seguin Personal Real Estate Corporation Century 21 In Town Realty

New Listing 310 12207 224 St, Maple Ridge

Centrally located with Mountain Views! Corner suite, spacious 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom boasting over 1000sqft. Open Kitchen, large dining room and living area with gas fireplace. Serene private covered patio with lots of sun. Well maintained building with a healthy contingency fund and no upcoming assessments. Pets allowed with height and size restrictions and no rentals allowed.

Open Houses Saturday June 17  and Sunday June 18 2-4pm or call to book your own private showing.

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Price: $309,000

Renting vs. Buying

It used to be that young couples would get married, buy a home and live there for the next 40 or 50 years. But times have changed. Home prices have skyrocketed in the past decade, making home ownership very difficult for some young people just starting out. It has also made some older homeowners more inclined to sell their now pricey homes and jump back into the world of rentals again, freeing up equity that they can use during their retirement years. Renting has become a much more affordable option for many – but just as there are downfalls to buying, there are disadvantages to renting too. So what should you do? What makes sense for you and your family?

The only way to answer that question with certainty is to know your personal finances  inside and out, and to do your research. A pros and cons list can be useful in this situation.

Buying a home – pros

  1. If we’ve learned anything over the past several years, it’s that homes can often be good investments.
  2. Possible rental income. If you choose, you can rent out a portion of your home to help cover monthly mortgage payments and other expenses. Your home can be a source of income.
  3. Your home, your choices. You can paint, wallpaper, decorate and landscape any way you like when the home belongs to you.
  4. Tax exemptions. As a homeowner, you may be eligible for certain tax benefits that renters are not.

Buying a home – cons

  1. It’s not wise to put all your eggs in the equity basket. You can’t guarantee that you’ll get more out of your house than you put into it, so banking on it to fund your retirement isn’t necessarily wise. You can increase the equity in your home by doing renovations and improvements, but it’s impossible to know how much of a difference that will make when it comes time to sell.
  2. Aside from the cost of a down payment, homes can be expensive to run and maintain. Consider moving costs, lawyer’s fees, mortgage payments, property taxes, house insurance, repairs and renovations, utilities, landscaping, snow removal, furniture and décor – and you’re looking at a lot of expenses, both upfront and ongoing, for the life of that home.
  3. When you buy a home, you’re committed to staying there for a good long while unless you want to go through the hassle and expense of moving again.

Renting pros

  1. In addition to maintenance and repairs that are usually taken care of by a landlord, it’s much easier and less expensive to pack up and move to a new place if and when the spirit moves you, or when circumstances require a change. Even if you have to break a lease to move, you can sometimes offset the cost by subletting your apartment for the remainder of the term if your landlord approves.
  2. It’s usually easier to be approved for rental than it is to get approval for a mortgage. Obviously you need to have a fairly decent credit history, but mortgage lenders usually have much higher standards.
  3. You may be able rent a house or apartment you’d never be able to afford to buy, allowing you to be in desirable neighborhoods that would otherwise be out of reach.

Renting cons

  1. While, as discussed, home equity isn’t something you should necessarily bank on, it can be an important investment that’s useful in your retirement years when you sell. Renting eliminates this potential. Everything you pay into your lease is gone.
  2. You may be at the mercy of your landlord as far as housing costs go. If you don’t live in a municipality with strict rent control, there’s no way of knowing how much your lease payments may increase from year to year, which makes it difficult to budget for other needs and wants.
  3. You never really know how long you’ll be able to stay in a rental property. There are usually protections in place to ensure that you can’t be evicted suddenly without cause, but it’s unlikely that you can guarantee that you will be able to stay in your place indefinitely. Landlords sometimes sell or opt to move back into homes or apartments they have been renting out.

Your decision to buy or rent is a personal one that hinges on so many different factors. Take your time making that decision, weighing out all the pros and cons based on your own unique situation, including your long-term goals, current life situation and finances. The worst thing you can do is rush into a situation because you’re feeling pressure. There will never be a “perfect” solution, but there will be one that suits you more than the other. It just takes time and thought to sort it out.


5 Things First-Time Buyers Should Look For In A Home

There are few events more exciting than the first time you buy a home. You are going to graduate from a renter to an owner, with all the benefits that such a transition brings. But as with anything, because you are buying a home for the first time, it can be challenging to know exactly what you should be looking for in a home. Fortunately, while this may be your first time buying, plenty of others have gone before you, which means you can build on their insights when going about your own purchase.

A good neighbourhood.

While what defines a good neighbourhood will vary depending on the buyer, there is no denying the importance of buying in an area you will like living. No matter how inexpensive the home, if it is in a neighbourhood that will make you miserable, it is not going to be the right place for you. Young professionals often like neighbourhoods that are close to restaurants and nightlife, while new families may prefer quieter neighbourhoods where the kids can play outside. What you want out of your neighbourhood is just as important as what you want out of your home, so think carefully about where you conduct your home search. Here are some great tips for choosing a neighbourhood. Look over the list and see what makes the most sense for your stage of life.

A home you can be comfortable in – or can fix up to be comfortable in a reasonable amount of time.

If you are into doing your own home repairs and renovations, it can make a lot of sense to buy a fixer upper. You’ll save money upfront and you have the ability to improve the condition of the home on your own. However, many first-time home buyers make the mistake of thinking they will fix up a home, only to discover that they do not have the ability, motivation or finances to make the repairs necessary to get the home into the condition necessary to be comfortable. You are are making a big financial commitment with your purchase, so be certain you will be able to live comfortably with your choice before you make the leap. Some of the best first time home buyer advice is getting clear on what you want.

A home that fits your lifestyle and goals.

You are going to encounter a number of different options when you start home shopping and be faced continuously with trade-offs (unless you have an extremely high budget). You can afford a better location, but a smaller house. Or a bigger home, further out of town. One home may offer a bigger back yard, while another will have virtually no yard, but a balcony. No matter how hard you look, you are going to have to choose between options that are imperfect. That is why it is so important to clearly define your goals and aspirations for the home you buy. You need to know what is most important to you in a home because ultimately you will need to trade some less important things to get the ones that matter most to you.

A place you can see yourself living for at least five years.

Most experts agree that the minimum amount of time you should live in a newly purchased home, especially as a first-time buyer, is five years. It will usually take at least five years to make the purchase benefit you financially. Sell before then and you risk losing money – unless you happen to in a really hot market. One of the most common home buying mistakes is not purchasing a property that is suitable for longer term goals. Because you want to make smart financial choices, you need to be careful to find a home that you can reasonably expect to live in for a five-year period.

A home that is priced well within your budget.

If at all possible, you want to avoid spending every last cent you have on your first home. You want the home to be a source of happiness and security, not a lead weight that threatens to drown you financially. Ownership costs money – more than just the mortgage. Things break, maintenance must be done, and other costs will pop up that you need to be able to cover. By purchasing a home that is in the middle of your budget, or even on the lower end, you give yourself much more breathing room.

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Most Affordable Condo in Poco, priced under $160,000. Top Floor, Sunny Eastern Exposure with Mountain Views!! King-sized bedroom with in-suite laundry, 1 LARGE storage locker and covered parking spot. Building is well cared for and has recently updated the roof and boiler system. Less than 5 minutes to West Coast Express, Groceries, Restaurants, Schools, Coquitlam River, Coquitlam Centre and Skytrain. No RENTALS & PETS allowed.

Listed by Maureen Seguin Personal Real Estate Corporation

Century 21 In Town Realty

Why I say it’s a great time to buy

Don’t wait to buy real estate, buy real estate and wait

If you’re on the fence about buying – keep in mind that the longer you wait, home prices will rise, mortgage rules change and all that rent you’re paying is really helping your landlord pay off their mortgage faster!

Buy where you can afford and rent where you want to live

If you can’t afford the neighbourhood of your choice, buy an investment in an area you can afford. As your tenants pay down your mortgage, you’ll build the equity you need to be able to purchase in the area you desire.

Best time to buy is when you can afford to

Mortgage rates at the moment are FANTASTIC and soon will go up! It’s not good to just buy because it’s cheap too – Do your homework and if you can afford to financially then jump in and make a real estate splash.