4 Things Condo Buyers Need to Know About Their Ownership Rights

What do You Own When You Buy a Condo?

Buying a condo is an attractive option for property owners and investors, but it is essential to understand what is involved with condo ownership. Condominium ownership offers many benefits, such as fewer maintenance tasks, access to great amenities, and proximity to city services. In exchange, owners have some responsibilities to the community, which may include fees or other payments. Before browsing condos for sale, buyers should research what is expected of them concerning the management and upkeep of the property. With this guide, people will have a better knowledge of what they will own if they purchase a condo.

What Are the Differences Between Condos & Apartments?

Ownership is the primary difference between condos and apartments. If you're struggling to choose between a condo or apartment, first decide if you'd rather rent or buy your unit. In a condo community, multiple owners share ownership of the building or property but retain individual control over the purchased units. They can live in the unit, rent it out long-term, or operate it as a short-term vacation property. Tenants in a condo community work with the landlord, who might be an individual who owns the unit. They are responsible to the landlord for paying rent, and the landlord is responsible for performing maintenance and repairs to the unit.

By comparison, an apartment is only rented. In this arrangement, someone who lives in an apartment is responsible for paying rent to the company that owns or manages the building, typically a property management company. A typical multi-family building may include a mix of owner-occupied condos and rented apartments. People often use the terms interchangeably, but the two terms are extremely different in a legal sense.

Do I Own the Land Under My Condo?

When people purchase a condo, they gain control of the individual unit and shared ownership of the property. Condos come in all shapes and sizes, ranging from high-rises and low-rises to semi-detached properties that resemble single-family homes. The type of ownership is what distinguishes these units as condos. Buying a single-family dwelling or a townhouse may give the owner direct control and ownership of the land under the unit. Unlike a condo, there may not be another individual or organization to share decision-making power.

By definition, a condominium unit requires shared control. Owners can exercise rights to control the interior unit, but condos often restrict the types of renovations and upgrades that owners can make. All the owners in the condo community create what is known as a strata corporation. Every owner shares a stake in the corporation and retains some ability to use the property and vote on upgrades or changes. It is common for condo communities to create a council to oversee the maintenance and upkeep of the property and make decisions related to repairs or future upgrades.

Who Owns the Common Areas in a Condominium?

Common Areas Are Owned by All Condo Unit Owners

In a condo community, there are individual units and common areas. Owners retain exclusive use of the individual unit. This means they are not required to share access with other owners or residents. Additionally, condo owner maintenance responsibilities include almost all aspects of private areas. As a general rule, the common areas are designated for the use of most or all of the community's residents. Common areas usually have amenities and other features for the benefit of the community, such as:

  • Package receiving and mail services
  • Business and office services
  • Swimming pools
  • Play areas for children
  • Communal dining facilities
  • Exercise rooms

Owners must share access to these communal areas. In some cases, they may need to make reservations in advance.

Although the units and the common areas of the condominium are usually distinct, there are a few instances in which owners retain exclusive use of parts of the common property. For example, some condo communities provide an exclusive parking spot for the owner of a particular unit. Other people would not be entitled to park there legally. Similarly, there may be common areas intended for specific property occupants. A private yard or patio may not be listed as part of an individual unit, but it could still be designated as property for the exclusive use of the residents of those units.

The Benefits of Condo Ownership

Owning a unit in a condominium offers a variety of benefits for owners and other residents. These include:

  • Fewer maintenance responsibilities
  • The lower upfront cost to purchase the unit
  • Housing closer to work, transportation, and the city centre
  • More amenities available in the community

Buyers debating between buying a condo or a house should consider how maintenance and upkeep will factor into their budget. A single-family home, or a semi-detached home, requires regular maintenance and repairs to preserve its condition and value. Homeowners unable to perform the work must hire someone to do it.

Ownership in a condo community builds maintenance and repairs into the cost of ownership. Owners pay condo fees as part of the strata corporation, which is used to maintain the property and the building exteriors. Owners are not responsible for regular tasks, such as trimming the lawn, repairing the siding, or replacing the roof. With many owners sharing the costs of maintaining the grounds and structures, the total expense to keep up the property is usually less per person. In addition, the convenience of not having to perform this upkeep can save owners a lot of time.

Are You Ready to Own a Condo?

Condo ownership can be an excellent decision for homeowners and investors alike. The community is likelier to be located in an area closer to employment, dining, shopping, and nightlife. Access to amenities, like an exercise room or indoor pool, can save money on memberships. In exchange, condo owners do not own property the same way they would with a single-family dwelling. Understanding the differences in condo ownership can help homebuyers determine if a condo is the right choice for their homeownership or real estate investing goals.

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