Buying a Condo in Winnipeg? Here is What You Need to Know

Condo building

Considering buying a condo in Winnipeg? Buying a condo is not the same as buying a house and it is important to understand the differences.

A condo, by definition, is a multi-unit structure. When you purchase a condo unit, you are buying the title to the unit itself, not the property or entire building, as you would with a house. Condos are managed by a condo association and expenses related to shared living spaces and amenities in the condo building are covered through a monthly condo fee. Condo living can be ideal for some but the shared management of living spaces and amenities make the discovery process incredibly important when considering purchasing a condo.

The Winnipeg Condo Market

There are a wide variety of condos in Winnipeg, ranging from high rise buildings to side-by-side structures.

“While Winnipeg is not a metropolitan city, it is certainly embracing the freedoms that are offered in community condo living,” says Blair Sonnichsen, a Winnipeg realtor. If you’re looking for a condo, there are many in all areas of the city, in a variety of different price ranges, allowing you to find one that meets your lifestyle needs and budget.

According to the Winnipeg Regional Real Estate News, in 2021 we've seen nearly double the number of condo sales that we saw in 2020. Prices are going up too – the average selling price for a condo in Winnipeg in June 2021 was $244,000, compared to $228,000 in March 2020.

Figure Out Your Wish List

Sonnichsen recommends that those looking to buy a condo sit down with their realtor and share their needs and wants. “Do you want to lock and leave? Are you looking for an elevator? Do you want amenities in the building such as a gym or pool? Underground parking? There is a huge list and condo living is all about lifestyle,” Sonnichsen says.

Your realtor will be able to fine tune your wish list and direct you to areas of the city where your lifestyle needs would be accommodated. “It’s important to address the lifestyle list first,” Sonnichsen says. “People often think that a ‘condo is a condo’ and will not be making apples-to-apples comparisons, which means they could end up over-paying for the condo they do buy”.

It’ s Not the Same as Buying a House

If you’ve purchased a house in the past, you might think buying a condo is the same. It is not, Sonnichsen says, and he suggests working with a realtor who understands the process. “What a condo community offers and the costs associated with these amenities are reflected in more than just your property taxes,” he says. When deciding whether to buy a house vs. a condo, be sure to do your homework and understand the lifestyle and financial differences.

You’ll get a ‘Cooling Off’ Period

If you purchase a condo in Manitoba you will get a seven-day cooling off period after the offer is accepted. During this period, you will be provided disclosure documents and will be allowed to cancel your offer for any reason.

Take this time to carefully review the documents you receive to ensure you are comfortable with everything that is disclosed.

According to the Condominium Act, if the condo declaration and plan has been registered, the buyer must receive:

  • the declaration and all registered amendments and proposed amendments that the board has approved
  • the condominium corporation’ s budget for the current fiscal (financial) period and the next fiscal period (if the budget has been given to the unit owners)
  • the condominium corporation’s latest financial statements and the auditor’s report (if one was done)
  • the current by-laws and rules, and any proposed by-laws or rules or amendments that have been approved by the board but are not yet in effect
  • any property management agreement
  • any notice the seller has gotten for a general meeting of unit owners that will be held after the buyer’s possession date
  • any reserve fund study, or update, that has been done; or a summary of the study or update

“It’s important to understand the operations of what you’re buying; when you buy a car, you get an owner’s manual, and with a condo, the reserve fund study is your manual,” Sonnichsen says.

Key differences between buying a home and buying a condo include:

Condo Fees

In exchange for some of the benefits of buying a condo, there are also costs in the form of monthly condo fees. Be aware of what the current monthly condo fees are and know what will be covered in them. When budgeting, also note that condo fees may increase over time.

Some common items included in condo fees are property insurance, property management, common area maintenance, reserve fund contributions, and water. Side-by-side condos also typically include maintenance to the exterior structure of the unit itself.

Floor Plans

Often condo buildings contain units with varying floor plans so not every unit is equal. Depending on where it faces, you can have different levels of sunlight and heat, and your view on one side of the building will be completely different from the view on the other side.

Sonnichsen says that prospective condo-buyers frequently fail to notice things such as the amount of light in a hallway or the noise coming from outside the suite. He urges people to be mindful of these things, and make sure you are comfortable with the amount of noise and light outside your suite. Buyers should also take view and light into consideration when valuing a condo, as similar condos, even within the same building, can vary drastically in price.

Reserve Fund Study

When buying a condo, you have access to a reserve fund study. “A reserve fund study gives you the complete performance and projection of costs that may be incurred on depreciating items of the building over the next 25 years,” Sonnichsen says.

This means you’ll be able to see a projection of when major repairs will need to be completed. This gives you a glimpse into how much condo fees may need to increase over this time period to cover these costs.

“With a single-family home you do not have access to this information; you aren’t given an estimate on how long the furnace is going to last or when the roof will need to be replaced,” Sonnichsen says. This means you need to make a decision based on the home inspector’s interpretation of the home’s current condition.

A condo’s reserve fund study must be updated every five years and when buying a condo, the buyer must receive the actual reserve fund total, as well as the amount recommended by the reserve fund study.

Review the study carefully to estimate potential increases in condo fees in the future.

Condo Association

With a condo comes a condo association. If you are considering buying a condo, it is beneficial to understand the operations of the condo association as best as you can, whether that’ s through reviewing meeting notes or simply by asking the other condo owners about their experience with the association. The structure of the condo association should be outlined in the condo bylaws.

Condo Bylaws

It is also important to thoroughly review condo policies to ensure they fit your needs and lifestyle. For example, some condos are not pet friendly, which may a deal breaker if you have Rover at home. Even pet friendly condos sometimes have weight or size restrictions.

Planning a big renovation once you move in? Some condos have restrictions on the types of renovations that can be done by condo owners. Check the bylaws to ensure you can accomplish what you want.

Other important bylaws to review include garbage, recycling, parking, snow removal and lawn care, noise restrictions and the use of common facilities like pools or meetings rooms.

Condo Insurance

Another way that condos differ from houses is in how they are insured. The condo itself typically insures the building itself whereas the tenant insures the contents within their condo. It is important to understand the condo’s insurance policy, as you may want to supplement it with additional insurance. 

 

The Pros and Cons of Condo Ownership

Pros Cons
Reserve Fund Pros:

When you purchase a condo, you get access to the reserve fund study, allowing you to get a sense of when certain things, such as the roof or boiler, may need to be replaced.
Cons:

You might find yourself on the hook for a special assessment (ie. additional cash outlay) if your condo reserve fund does not have the funds to cover a major repair or to comply with regulations. Carefully review the documents you receive during the cooling-off period to make sure you are comfortable with everything you learn.
Maintenance Pros:

Depending on the policies of the condo, you likely do not need to worry about the maintenance of common areas or services, such as the lobby, exterior of the building, lawn care, snow removal, etc.
Cons:

You have limited say in the maintenance of common areas or the replacement of amenities, and will have to budget for potential increases in your condo fees.
Lifestyle & Freedom Pros:

Condo-living allows you to choose a home specifically tailored to your lifestyle. Don’t want to have to maintain a yard? No problem – there are many yard-free condominiums available to you in Winnipeg.
Travel frequently? You can lock your condo door and leave, knowing the building is being taken care of while you are gone.
Cons:

You may not have the same freedom to renovate your condo as you would with a house. Other elements of your lifestyle may be limited such as the ability to have pets. Be sure to read the condo bylaws to determine what you can and cannot do.
Community Pros:

You are part of your condo’s community and many condo buildings or complexes schedule regular events for residents.
Cons:

Many condos are purchased as rental income properties so your building may have frequent tenant turnover.

How does Buying a Condo Differ from Buying a House?

The mortgage approval process is the same when you are buying a condo vs. a home, with the exception that Cambrian will review the condo reserve study and the current financial statements of the condo corporation. This extra layer of due diligence is required to uncover any issues with the condo building or any material expenses for building maintenance or enhancements in the next five years. This will allow you to properly evaluate the potential costs you would need to cover in addition to the condo purchase price.

Cambrian can help finance your condo purchase, whether it is your first home, downsize home or income rental property, with our low everyday mortgage rates and personal advice.


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