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What is a Strata Duplex – And Why Are They So Great?

I’ve always been a fan of strata duplexes – and I’ve never understood why some people shy away from them. Often, I find the same people who would not buy a duplex would quite readily buy a townhouse, which seems counter-intuitive to me.

A strata duplex is a duplex which is registered under the Strata Property Act. The purpose of such registration is to allow each side to have a separate title, and therefore, enable each side to belong to different owners. You could think of a strata duplex as a 2-unit condo or townhouse complex. Each side is a separate strata lot (like each unit in a condo building), and the common property is the exterior of the building including the roof, and sometimes, a common driveway. Usually the yard area is designated as limited common property: common property designated for the exclusive use of a certain strata lot.

The difference between a strata duplex and a condo or townhouse lies in the way the Strata Property Act affects the owners. Typically, strata duplexes are much less formal than condos or townhouses. Technically, they are subject to the same rules and regulations as any other strata – they must have a council, records, bylaws, collect strata fees, and contribute to a contingency fund. However, in practice, most strata duplexes do none of this. Beyond splitting the cost for insurance (a fire/earthquake policy covering the exterior of the building and common property liability) and common property maintenance and repairs (cleaning gutters, roof maintenance, etc), there is very little strata-like business that goes on in a strata duplex.

Strata duplexes are great because they are often larger and cheaper than a comparable townhouse, and don’t have some of the potential headaches that come with strata property ownership. Instead of 50 other owners to deal with and make happy, there are two. Good neighbour policy will prevail in most cases and the owners will come to an agreement about repairs and maintenance. In addition, you will often find that strata duplexes have much larger lots than the tiny postage-stamp that you’d have in a townhouse.

Sometimes, you can find a half duplex with a rental suite in it, making it ever-more-affordable and potentially attractive from an investor’s standpoint. It’s important to note, however, that most suites in duplexes are unauthorized.

If you’re considering buying a townhome or condo, you should look into a half duplex – you might be surprised to find a great alternative. If you decide to buy a half duplex, it would be wise to inquire with the owner of the other half about maintenance responsibilities. Obviously, it’s no good to replace just your half of the roof if the whole thing is getting to the point of replacement and the other owner refuses or doesn’t have the money. You’ll want to ensure the other owner is on the same page as you about replacing it.

If you’ve got a strata duplex to sell, and want an agent who understands this market segment, I’d love an interview. For more information about strata duplexes, including current listings, contact me.

Tim Ayres – Sooke Real Estate Professional

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