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Condominium and Apartment are the same thing, right???

My friend told me that a condominium is the same thing as an apartment...

We hear it all too often - "I want to buy a condo!". When I ask what property type they want: apartment, town home, detached home....? They reply "I want a condo!"

So heres the low-down on condo properties. A "condominium" refers to a style of ownership, NOT a style of construction. Condominium is a Latin word formed by two parts: "Con" meaning "together", and "dominium" meaning "domain, property, or ownership". Simply put, it translates to owning property together with others. A condominium is a property that is made up of separately owned "parts" or "units", and also has common property which is jointly owned and maintained. 

Condominiums will have a Board of Directors which controls the day to day activities of the condominium corporation, and is usually made up of unit owners within the condominium.  The Board of Directors will also be responsible for enforcing the condominium bylaws.

The most common type of condominium would be an apartment style building, however, it can be any style of construction. This means that there are detached homes, town homes, apartments, duplexes and semi-detached homes, that are condominiums. Obviously not all are, so its important to work with a REALTOR® who has a solid knowledge of condominiums to make sure you are best protected through the purchasing or selling of a condominium property.

What difference does it make if its a condo?

There was a recent situation involving a "Bare Land Condominium", which in this case, was a single family detached home. This home sat on approximately 4 acres of land. The home was for sale and was purchased by a new family. This family owns a large RV, and thought that this property would be perfect for them, as they would be able to park the RV on their own property. They purchased the home and moved in. Shortly after taking possession, they received a letter from a Condominium Board of Directors, ordering them to remove their RV immediately, or face fines. They also demanded post dated cheques for their monthly condo fees.

They were very confused, and thought it must be an error, because they are not living in a condo, they live in a detached house! They received a quick and sharp lesson in what 'condominium' actually means. Their property was in fact a condominium, and the standing bylaws prohibited RV's from being parked anywhere on their property. They also were unaware of the monthly condo fees that were to be paid to the condominium corporation.

Their REALTOR® was either unaware himself that the property his clients were purchasing was a condominium, or he simply failed to disclose this to them, and educate them on what that means. They were successful in legal actions against their REALTOR® and were awarded compensation. 

How do I protect myself?

It is important to ask your REALTOR® about their qualifications and experience when dealing in condominium properties. The Calgary Real Estate Board offers optional additional training to REALTORS® that will designate them as Certified Condominium Specialists" (C.C.S.). It is especially important to ensure you are working with a REALTOR® who has the appropriate knowledge and skills when shopping for a condominium property. But, as the example above shows, it is beneficial to work with a C.C.S. designated agent regardless of whether you prefer to purchase a condominium, or not. The complete details of the above example are not known, so I cant say why that situation evolved as it did, but I believe it is reasonable to say that if the buyers had been working with a REALTOR® who had more training and experience dealing with condominium properties, that REALTOR® likely would have realized that this was a condominium property, and would have been able to properly educate and guide his or her clients.

Richard Kinnell is a Certified Condominium Specialist, and frequently deals with both condominium, and non-condominium properties. Contact me for more information and to learn how I can help you with your next real estate goal!

Scroll down and click the link below to read Service Alberta's brochure on "Buying and Owning a Condominium" for additional helpful information!

Still have questions? If you would like more information about condominium properties, or how Richard Kinnell Real Estate can help you, please click here to Contact Us.

Why is the word REALTOR® always in all capitals, with the little 'r' next to it? The word is actually a Registered Trademark, and is used under licence from the Canadian Real Estate Association. Anytime the word is used, it must be in all capital letters, and must display the 'registered trademark' symbol.

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