I know how I am, when I own something, I don’t like someone telling me what I can and cannot do with it. I have always been hesitant about buying into a strata controlled complex, whether it is townhouses, duplexes or gated communities. I’ve heard good and bad stories about strata councils. The best advice I ever got from someone is, if you buy into a strata you must be willing to keep on top of what is going on and challenge the council in their decisions. A strata council isn’t perfect and they can make poor decisions just like the rest of us and some of them are just as clueless as some of the owners as to the proper process and/or what situations fall under insurance, strata, or owners responsibility or coverage.
Much of this morning was spent first discussing with the property manager the strata bylaws, especially in regards to pet restrictions, central AC installation, and what maintenance is the strata’s responsibility versus the owner’s responsibility. And also whether I, as the owner, have to get approval for updates I wish to do inside of the townhouse I purchase.
So here is the result of the discussion. Yes, I have to get strata approval on all updates being done inside of the property I purchase, including upgrading appliances. I also have to get approval for installing central AC. They could not tell me if AC had been installed on any of the other townhouses. The strata had been self managed up until a year ago, so the property manager does not have background information beyond just the past year so she will contact the president of the strata to get those answers or better yet for the president to call me. I was also told the strata is very strict on adhering to the pet restrictions and I have to have council approval of my pets before purchasing the property.
I spent the morning scanning the home inspection report, and emailing it to the property manager along with a copy of the estimate for AC installation. There are things within the home inspection that need fixed that fall under strata responsibilities, a few things that could be the owner of the townhouse’s responsibility or possibly the strata’s and a few others that are definitely under the owner’s responsibility. None of them are major that would stop me from buying. I was told by the property manager the documents would be forwarded to the president of the strata council with a request to the president to call me. I later found out the president is currently out and will not return until the 19th. This is the same date as the due date for having the subject removals completed on the contract of the offer. This is getting down to the wire, which is something that I really do not like. It stresses me out.
I asked my realtor to request an extension on the date for subject removal but she wants to wait until the 19th in hopes we won’t need to request an extension. I was going to insist but then that would put stress on her, I know it is her job, however she is also out of town and I’m not sure when she will be back, whether it is tomorrow or the weekend. So I decided to let the universe, God, or ‘the powers that be’ to determine how this will play out. I know if this doesn’t happen then it was not meant to be and there is something better out there for us.
I was also told by the property manager that it would be best if I do my due diligence in regards to my pets, and that is to get a document from our vet on the height and weight of each pet and present this to the strata council. If they are within the guidelines of the strata requirements then I will have this for later if they should ever challenge me in regards to the size of my pets if they gain weight, especially if they are adult animals already at their full height. This will cover my part of the agreement.
This afternoon I took our cat and dog to the vet and got them weighed and measured. There are no height or weight restrictions for cats but since we were there and getting our cat her shots I decided to get her weighed and measured just in case it would be needed in the future. Our dog it turns out is within the height restriction but is 1.5 lbs above the weight restriction. He is not overweight so there is no room for dieting to decrease his weight. I have sent the papers to the property manager who is forwarding them to the strata president.
Now we wait to see if the strata council will approve our pets and also if they approve central AC installation. If not, I’m through with buying anything within a strata. I will work on saving more money over the next year or so or however long it takes to be able to buy a house that is not strata controlled.
My daughter now understands my concerns involving buying within a strata. She is now willing to forgo the buying of this townhouse and wait until we can buy a home that is completely under our control. I am a hairs breath away from pulling out of the offer and just waiting until we have the funds to buy a home with no strata involvement. Anything we want to do within the home will require strata approval and though I think I could manage it, most likely it will become a headache I would rather live without.
I wish there was some way we could enter into a deal with the owners of the home we are renting the suite out of where we could be part owners so I could at least begin building some equity. I’m not sure how feasible that would be. Either that or find someone who is willing to invest in a property where we work together to manage and improve it. But both situations could become problematic.
For now, I’m in wait mode to see if the strata will come through with what we need by Tuesday.
My other thoughts on this situation is this:
Strata should have been brought in immediately when an offer was accepted, and provided a detailed list of requirements a new owner has to adhere to and made available for a potential new owner to question in regards to changes they would like to make to the property. This was not done. In fact, it should be done before any home inspection is done. If my pets are not approved, then I have wasted almost $700 on a home inspection. Money I now don’t have to use for any other potential property I might want to purchase. I know having a home inspection is a risk that all those purchasing a home risk losing money on if they have to pull out of a purchase either because the inspections revealed serious problems or for other reasons. However, if pets need to be approved, it is less costly to the potential buyer if this is done first, for if they don’t get approved then you haven’t wasted money on a home inspection that costs hundreds of dollars, or a decision can be made whether to go forward with the inspection if someone is willing to find a new home for their pet. I was not negligent in asking the questions. It was my realtor who did not get exacting answers to my questions when they were asked. I have now learned my lesson and will not go forward with even an offer without knowing the details of the restrictions. These are things that either should be available from the sellers listing or immediately available to anyone looking at the property with the intent to purchase. Some people maybe willing to give up their pets, however, we acquired our dog while I was going through my surgeries and chemo and he has become a very important part of our family. Letting him go to another home is not an option. This is why I was so insistent on getting the answers to my questions.
There also needs to be a way of getting strata approvals for major changes a potential owner wishes to make for the property immediately after taking possession. For instance, I would not want to purchase the property if the strata council will not approve installation of central AC. If I am permitted to install central AC I would want the approval long before the completion of the sale so I can schedule the installation to be done within the first week after taking possession and before I move in. I would at least want some kind of reassurance from the strata council that AC could be installed prior to even putting down a deposit. None of this was offered or mentioned as needing to be done and it was only my questions and insistence on finding the answers to my questions that have revealed this flaw in the process of buying within a strata complex.
My daughter and I are at this point seriously considering pulling our offer, however I am waiting to see how the strata will respond to these inquiries. It will be our first interaction with them and will be very telling on how they will respond once we are owners. If we choose to purchase that is.
When I was diagnosed with cancer and went through my treatments, I discovered the importance of listening to my instincts. I can’t explain how it is my instincts can warn me about things in which I do not have knowledge or experience and be so accurate. Every time I do not listen to my instincts and in fact go against my instincts the results invariably show me how accurate those instincts were before I chose to ignore them. This is where I stand now. Do I listen to my instincts without giving the strata council a chance to respond to my queries? Or do I wait to see how they respond? At this point I lose nothing, except time and maybe a bit of stress by waiting. Even if they do approve our pets and the central AC installation, do I want to go forward with the purchase? My instincts are telling me that I am only seeing the tip of the iceberg, that dealing with a strata can be so much more problematic. Will waiting a year, or two to purchase a home without a strata be better than purchasing in a strata and having the potential headaches that go with it? Sometimes all I have to rely on is my gut instinct as well as my daughter’s gut instincts and right now both of our guts are telling us it isn’t worth it and to wait.