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Posts tagged ‘Condo’

Strata Mondays #4 – Leaky Condos Part I

In my continuing series about strata property, Strata Mondays, I answer a different question about condos, townhouses and other strata property in Victoria, Sooke, and British Columbia. Make sure you subscribe via RSS or E-mail to get each new post.

Leaky Condo being repaired

Leaky Condo being repaired

Q. I’ve heard the term “Leaky Condo” from my friends and family, and that I should avoid buying one. What is a leaky condo?
A. Put simply, a leaky condo is an attached strata unit (condominium or townhouse) that suffers grossly premature building envelope failure (water ingress/leaks) that causes major damage to the exterior and sometimes interior of the building. The end result is extremely costly repairs, some of which have yet to be carried out today, 10 years after the end of the”leaky condo era.”

The leaky condo crisis emerged in the late 1980s through the 1990s in coastal British Columbia as a result of two major factors. First, the design craze of the time was Californian style architecture. Second, new rules in the building code required builders to seal up exterior walls, in an attempt to increase energy efficiency.

In Coastal B.C. it rains a lot. California-style architecture is mostly stucco buildings with flat roofs, and little or no overhang from the top of the roof over the walls. If you look at most traditional buildings in Vancouver and Victoria, you’d find pitched roofs and/or good overhangs over the top of the exterior walls.

The new building code required builders to seal up the buildings to keep air out, to increase energy efficiency. The problem is that by doing this, water can still seep in. Without adequate ventilation to dry out the moisture, the wooden exterior wall starts to rot. Balconies were often worse – water would seep in and rot the support beams creating a safety hazard.

Rotten balcony supports

Rotten balcony supports

Often, the only real solution was complete building envelope replacement. This involved tearing off the entire face of the building, replacing most of the plywood sheathing, properly weather screening it, and replacing the exterior cladding with something more suitable to the design of the building and the climate in which it stands. This is extremely expensive, and it’s not unheard of to hear of owners having to shell out $30,000-$50,000 or even more in special assessments to get it right. Some stratas were able to successfully sue the developers and recover some of the money they paid, but many were on the hook for the repairs. But most of these buildings had warranties, right? Well, many did, but unfortunately the unraveling of the leaky condo crisis caused most of the home warranty outfits to disappear into bankruptcy, further leaving owners in the lurch.

Check back next Monday for Part II, when we’ll cover what’s changed since 1999.

Tim Ayres – Sooke Real Estate Professional

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Strata Mondays #3 – Maintenance Responsibilities

In my continuing series about strata property, Strata Mondays, I answer a different question about condos, townhouses and other strata property in Victoria, Sooke, and British Columbia. Make sure you subscribe via RSS or E-mail to get each new post.

Spiderman Survives the Recession

Spiderman Survives the Recession

Q. Who is responsible for the exterior maintenance of a strata complex (including washing windows)?

A. The easy answer here is it depends, but usually it’s the strata corporation who is in charge of the exterior maintenance of a strata complex like a condominium or townhouse.

When you own a condo or townhouse, you own the strata lot and a share of the common property of the strata corporation. Your strata lot is basically everything inside the walls of your unit and sometimes a parking space and/or storage locker. The common property is the strata building itself including the roof, windows, balconies, exterior walls, driveways, landscaping, hallways, elevators, and so on. Everyone pays strata fees, the amounts proportional to the size of their strata lot, which are used to insure, maintain and repair the common property.

The BC Strata Property Act, Part 2, Section 3 says:

Responsibilities of strata corporation

3 Except as otherwise provided in this Act, the strata corporation is responsible for managing and maintaining the common property and common assets of the strata corporation for the benefit of the owners.

Usually this means that the strata corporation would be responsible for paying to have the exterior of the building cleaned and the windows washed. Most responsible complexes have this done a couple of times a year. However, sometimes there are bylaws in place that place the duty to maintain the exterior of the strata buildings on the shoulders of the individual owners. A good example of this would be a detached townhouse complex where each owner would be responsible for replacing his or her own roof, since it only directly benefits that owner.

Part 5, Division 1, Section 72 of the BC Strata Property Act says: (emphasis mine)

Repair of property

72 (1) Subject to subsection (2), the strata corporation must repair and maintain common property and common assets.
(2) The strata corporation may, by bylaw, make an owner responsible for the repair and maintenance of

(a) limited common property that the owner has a right to use, or
(b) common property other than limited common property only if identified in the regulations and subject to prescribed restrictions.

(3) The strata corporation may, by bylaw, take responsibility for the repair and maintenance of specified portions of a strata lot.

The Strata Property Act Standard Bylaws say: (emphasis mine)

Repair and maintenance of property by owner

2 (1) An owner must repair and maintain the owner’s strata lot, except for repair and maintenance that is the responsibility of the strata corporation under these bylaws

(2) An owner who has the use of limited common property must repair and maintain it, except for repair and maintenance that is the responsibility of the strata corporation under these bylaws.

and;

Repair and maintenance of property by strata corporation

8 The strata corporation must repair and maintain all of the following:

(a) common assets of the strata corporation;
(b) common property that has not been designated as limited common property;
(c) limited common property, but the duty to repair and maintain it is restricted to

(i)  repair and maintenance that in the ordinary course of events occurs less often than once a year, and
(ii)  the following, no matter how often the repair or maintenance ordinarily occurs:

(A)  the structure of a building;
(B)  the exterior of a building;
(C)  chimneys, stairs, balconies and other things attached to the exterior of a building;
(D)  doors, windows and skylights on the exterior of a building or that front on the common property;
(E)  fences, railings and similar structures that enclose patios, balconies and yards;

(d) a strata lot in a strata plan that is not a bare land strata plan, but the duty to repair and maintain it is restricted to

(i)  the structure of a building,
(ii)  the exterior of a building,
(iii)  chimneys, stairs, balconies and other things attached to the exterior of a building,
(iv)  doors, windows and skylights on the exterior of a building or that front on the common property,
(v)  fences, railings and similar structures that enclose patios, balconies and yards.

So, while the standard bylaws and the Act say that it’s the strata corporation’s responsibility for exterior maintenance,  it’s possible that your strata complex may have enacted a bylaw that requires the owners to wash their own windows, maintain their own landscaping, or perform other exterior maintenance. To be sure, you’ll have to read your strata corporation bylaws carefully.

If you have a question about strata property, or any other real estate matter, please e-mail me at Tim@TimAyres.ca or fill in my contact form. I can also be reached by phone at 250-885-0512

Tim Ayres – Sooke Real Estate Professional

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Some Interesting Victoria Condo Statistics

Cook Street Village in the Fall

Cook Street Village in the Fall

One of the things I like about our real estate market is that it’s small enough that I can be confident selling homes and acreages here in Sooke where I live, and also helping people move to other regions in the Victoria Area. I started selling real estate in Vancouver, and it is much harder to do, due to the vastly larger geographic area of the region.

One of the challenges of a career in real estate is dealing with unforeseen problems. Case in point, yesterday. I have some clients that were supposed to close and move into their first condo in Victoria yesterday. I helped get them a great price on a large two bedroom right in Cook Street Village – an awesome location. As their notary was about to register title, she was reading through the strata minutes and came upon a notice dated about 2 weeks ago (well after we’d finalized the contract and removed conditions) that the strata council had called a special general meeting for next week to consider a vote to restrict the building to those aged 55 and older. While the bylaw, if passed, wouldn’t affect my clients (they’d be “grandfathered”), it may affect their ability to sell the unit when the time comes. No one bothered to tell either the listing REALTOR® or I about the proposed change.

Naturally, they were quite upset about it, and investigated whether they had a legal right to walk away from the contract, which they didn’t want to do because this is the perfect place for them. Their legal rights are pretty slim, since the Contract doesn’t provide for this sort of a situation, and functionally, it’s the same as if the noticed was delivered the day after they moved in, which could happen at any time.

To help ease their minds, I ran a few statistics for 55+ condos vs regular condos in Victoria over the past year. I really couldn’t find a conclusive difference in the selling price; in fact, it appeared that 55+ units sold for more than this unit on a per-square-foot basis.

So I thought I’d look at it from a different angle. Surely, if you restrict a building to those aged 55 and older, you’re cutting out a good chunk of your market and it should take longer to sell, right? Wrong! I found virtually NO difference in the days on market for comparable 55+ condos and regular condos in Victoria. Average time on market is about 66 days for each in the past year.

That being said, I still think it’s a bad idea for condominiums and their strata councils to restrict places based on age unless it’s a specifically-designed retirement community (assisted living, for example). Any way you look at it, you’re cutting out a good portion of your market, and with the number of condos on the market in Victoria increasing all the time, your pool of potential buyers starts to get pretty thin.

Instead, why not deal with the issues directly? Is the problem that you’re worried about noise? Enact a noise bylaw and enforce it! Parties? Same thing – enforce a bylaw! Personally, I’d rather live in a building that has mostly older folks in it – I enjoy my peace and quiet. There are better ways to control the “problems” from younger residents than barring them completely.

Tim Ayres – Sooke Real Estate Professional

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Horrible MLS Photo Of The Day #249, #250 and #251

Triple Feature! Something went screwy with the scheduled posts function on my blog this weekend, and Saturday and Sunday’s photos disappeared. I was without internet access this weekend and was unaware that the problem existed until this morning.

November 8th, 2008

It’s great that the REALTOR® turned on the lamp, but unfortunately it’s become the focal point of the picture and it is too bright, causing a distraction; it’s just kind of in the way! A few steps to the right would have improved this picture. Nice to see it shot at an angle though; this adds depth perception to a room.

November 9th, 2008

Stairway to Heaven?

Stairway to Heaven?

It’s not hard to tell what’s wrong with this picture. It’s just kind of pointless and doesn’t offer the buyer anything. Where is the context? Where does this stairway lead to? Where does it come from? A better shot would be to take in the entire room and show how this stairway adds to it.

November 10th, 2008

This one comes courtesy of Downtown Vancouver Condos specialist Ian Watt. He and I both tried for awhile to figure out what exactly it is, before concluding that it is either a tile or a section of granite counter top. Either way, it’s easily the worst photo in weeks.

See all the usual suspects here.

Tim Ayres – Sooke Real Estate Professional

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Sooke’s Sunriver Estates launches The Pointe Townhomes This Weekend

The Pointe at Sunriver Esates

On our weekly MLS® tour yesterday, we were invited to Sooke’s popular master-planned community, Sunriver Estates to view their first multi-family development, the Pointe. The Pointe is a 4-unit-per-building townhouse complex, with 32 units sitting on 7 acres on a peninsula which juts out from De Mamiel Drive and is surrounded by the steep banks of De Mamiel Creek. The setting is stunning, and the townhomes are certainly impressive. The show suite we went through of course had all the bells and whistles upgrades – luxurious soaker tubs, hardwood floors, quartz countertops. The units are all one-level (although some require a climb of stairs from the front door) and range in size from about 1500 to nearly 1700 square feet, and feature open floor plans with lots of windows to enjoy the lush rainforest outside your door.

Prices start at $359,900 including GST. Sunriver knows their market and has done a spectacular job of their first multi-unit development. The show suite opens to the public this weekend, June 21 and 22

Tim Ayres

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Real Estate Porn

It’s no secret that sex sells, so it’s not surprising there’s a growing trend in the real estate industry to use it to sell properties. Below is a video from Fox News in Los Angeles. A high-end apartment complex is using a very unique tactic to lure potential tenants to this funky, new, upscale development. Competition is stiff between developers in that downtown area, and many are getting creative with their marketing. As our market in Victoria becomes more balanced, and more condos come on the market, I wonder if we’ll see anything similar here?

<a href="http://youtube.com/watch?v=_ZrX37GmuF4">http://youtube.com/watch?v=_ZrX37GmuF4</a>

Tim Ayres


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Casulo – Apartment in a Box!

And you thought IKEA was innovative!

It seems the Germans are giving the Swedes a run for their money on this one. Casulo, which is CasuloPortuguese for cocoon, describes perfectly this prototype product. The box transforms into an armoire, desk with drawers, desk chair, 2 more seats, six shelf bookcase, and a bed and mattress. Ideal for frequent movers, this unique solution is also environmentally friendly, as there is no waste; all of the material in the box, including the packaging and the box itself, is used in the final set-up.

They even poke fun at IKEA on their website with this picture:

Casulo

Check out this video to see how it works: (bonus points if you speak German)

<a href="http://youtube.com/watch?v=GoKCyqV_wks">http://youtube.com/watch?v=GoKCyqV_wks</a>

Tim Ayres


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NOTICE: Don't Buy This Condo!

One of the most popular forms of property ownership in the marketplace today is strata titled property. To most, this means a condominium unit, townhouse, or 1/2 duplex. Strata property is a way of dividing up one large building (for example, a condominium complex) into individual titles (the units inside the building) so that they can be owned independently of one another. A strata unit typically consists of everything inside the exterior walls and dividing walls of a particular unit in a building. Also, each strata unit owner is allocated a proportional share (depending on unit size) of the common property of the development. Typically, this includes the exterior walls, roof, driveways, parking areas, amenities like swimming pools, etc. Everyone shares in the maintenance and repairs of these assets, coming out of funds raised by paying monthly strata fees.

Every strata council is different. Some are very strict, some are very relaxed. Some are proactive, and ensure maintenance is done and necessary monies are spent to keep the building sparkling like new. Others are not, and allow the building to fall into disrepair, necessitating large special levies to repair things when they finally become unserviceable.

I was showing a condo to a buyer not long ago. I had heard good things about the building, that the owners and council were very proactive and up-to-date on repairs and maintenance. It showed when we pulled up to the building. The landscaping was neatly groomed, the front door was clean and free of fingerprints and grime, the lobby was spotless and I noticed that the 80’s-era building had had a recent makeover with new light fixtures, carpets, and paint.

Then we entered the elevator. On the wall was a large notice (I paraphrase):

NOTICE:

We all know that there have been several undesirable individuals who have been hanging around our building. It has been made aware to Council that several of these people are HIV positive, and thus hepatitis must also be a concern. DO NOT APPROACH THESE INDIVIDUALS! Call 911 if you are approached!

Naturally, my buyer was turned off instantly and I was quite embarrassed. If you lived in the building, would you want the first impression of your home to be a place that “undesirables” frequent when your friends and family arrive? What if you were the seller of this particular unit? Or his or her agent? Would you want this to be the first impression a potential buyer has?

While it was good of the council to inform the residents of the building about these problematic people, a public notice is not the place for it! A letter under the door of each unit would get the message across more discretely and would guarantee that every resident received the warning.

Often these issues can be brought to the attention of the overzealous council without drama or incident. Remember, the council members are owners too, and likely want to preserve their best interests as well.

Live in a strata? What’s your council like? Comment below!

Tim Ayres


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NOTICE: Don’t Buy This Condo!

One of the most popular forms of property ownership in the marketplace today is strata titled property. To most, this means a condominium unit, townhouse, or 1/2 duplex. Strata property is a way of dividing up one large building (for example, a condominium complex) into individual titles (the units inside the building) so that they can be owned independently of one another. A strata unit typically consists of everything inside the exterior walls and dividing walls of a particular unit in a building. Also, each strata unit owner is allocated a proportional share (depending on unit size) of the common property of the development. Typically, this includes the exterior walls, roof, driveways, parking areas, amenities like swimming pools, etc. Everyone shares in the maintenance and repairs of these assets, coming out of funds raised by paying monthly strata fees.

Every strata council is different. Some are very strict, some are very relaxed. Some are proactive, and ensure maintenance is done and necessary monies are spent to keep the building sparkling like new. Others are not, and allow the building to fall into disrepair, necessitating large special levies to repair things when they finally become unserviceable.

I was showing a condo to a buyer not long ago. I had heard good things about the building, that the owners and council were very proactive and up-to-date on repairs and maintenance. It showed when we pulled up to the building. The landscaping was neatly groomed, the front door was clean and free of fingerprints and grime, the lobby was spotless and I noticed that the 80’s-era building had had a recent makeover with new light fixtures, carpets, and paint.

Then we entered the elevator. On the wall was a large notice (I paraphrase):

NOTICE:

We all know that there have been several undesirable individuals who have been hanging around our building. It has been made aware to Council that several of these people are HIV positive, and thus hepatitis must also be a concern. DO NOT APPROACH THESE INDIVIDUALS! Call 911 if you are approached!

Naturally, my buyer was turned off instantly and I was quite embarrassed. If you lived in the building, would you want the first impression of your home to be a place that “undesirables” frequent when your friends and family arrive? What if you were the seller of this particular unit? Or his or her agent? Would you want this to be the first impression a potential buyer has?

While it was good of the council to inform the residents of the building about these problematic people, a public notice is not the place for it! A letter under the door of each unit would get the message across more discretely and would guarantee that every resident received the warning.

Often these issues can be brought to the attention of the overzealous council without drama or incident. Remember, the council members are owners too, and likely want to preserve their best interests as well.

Live in a strata? What’s your council like? Comment below!

Tim Ayres


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Another Large Condo Development for Langford?

Application sails through Planning and Zoning Committee this week.

An ambitious proposal by a local landowner to develop a 6.5 acre parcel consisting of three separate lots on Happy Valley Road in Langford includes plans for daycare, commercial space, and 171 units of condominium and row housing/townhouses.

Happy Valley Road Langford Condo Proposal

Development cost charges paid by the developers are to be substantial, contributing an estimated $3.6 million to city coffers. Projects and funds that would be paid for by this money are to include traffic lights at Happy Valley and Sooke Roads, crosswalks to Happy Valley School, traffic studies, fire protection, drainage improvements, city park fund, ALR acquisition fund, and the archaeological assessment fund.

The owners see the project breaking down as follows: 94 fee simple brownstone-style row/townhouses, 74 units in two four-storey condominiums, two residential units above 112 square metres of commercial space, and one single-family dwelling on a separate lot.

Nine units will have to be provided as affordable housing to satisfy Langford’s affordable housing policy. Also included on the proposal are various open spaces, including a children’s play play park, community garden, pocket park, rooftop gardens, and a plaza with a fountain. The plan also calls for open space to front Happy Valley Road.

What an exciting plan for Langford! The project still needs to go to public hearing and receive council approval, but there were no naysayers at the committee meeting this week.

Tim Ayres- Victoria and Sooke BC Real Estate Expert