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Strata living

Strata living

Is there a difference between a condo and a strata? In general, condominium is synonymous with strata. However, in BC, strata is typically used as a catchall term that covers townhouse, apartment style, and bare land complexes. Again, specific to BC, when someone says “condo,” they’re typically talking about ownership in an apartment style dwelling.

Regardless of whether you call it a strata or a condo, the mechanics of ownership are the same. When you buy a strata, what you’re buying is an individual residence on a communal property. You’re responsible for your unit but also pay a monthly fee that help cover the costs of maintenance and repairs for the communal property.

Stratas are attractive to first timer buyers for two reasons:

First, they’re generally more affordable than a detached home. Don’t get me wrong – there are some super pricy condos out there but when the finish, age, and location of a strata are similar to that of a detached home, the strata typically comes with a much lower price tag.

Second, in a strata, you’re not personally responsible for the maintenance in the complex. Just like any other structure, things break and repairs are needed but unlike a house, you’re not expected to personally clean the gutters or cut the grass. Your monthly maintenance fee will go towards hiring professionals to do those types of things. These fees are a critical part of owning a strata.

Like any property, when you own a strata, you’re probably going to have to make a mortgage payment each month. You’ll also need to pay property taxes and insurance. But most stratas also have a monthly maintenance fee that you’ll need to pay in addition to those other expenses.

These maintenance fees go toward the day-to-day upkeep of the complex. This can include yard maintenance and utility bills for common areas.

A portion of those fees should also be set aside to pay for future repairs. Sooner or later, the roof will need to be replaced or an elevator will need to be repaired and when that time comes, the cost will be covered by a portion of the maintenance fees you’ve been paying.

So, who actually administers these fees? Each complex will have a volunteer strata council that’s usually made up of owners. This group will meet regularly to prioritize which fees get spent where and to decide how much money needs to be set aside to cover future repairs. As an owner, you can offer to participate in this council and help make the decisions that will protect your investment for years to come.

Tony Browton is an award-winning Realtor who lives and works on BC’s Sunshine Coast. 

His weekly blog can be found here http://www.truebluerealty.ca/blog

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