What Is A Condo?


With the rising costs of single family homes, and with changing lifestyles, more and more Calgary new home buyers are being attracted to Calgary condos. But there are some issues you might want to consider before deciding which way you want to go.

A Condominium is...

The word Condominium refers to a type of ownership, not a type of home. Many Calgary condo buyers are not aware of this. They see apartment units as condos but exclude townhomes. Even single family dwelling is a condominium if the owner is required to pay a monthly fee for the upkeep of the common elements. Calgary condominium projects include high-rise and low-rise apartments, townhouses, semi-detached and single detached homes. Even within the condominium definition there have evolved different types of ownership. You may live in a "bareland" condominium where you own and are responsible for the maintenance of the exterior of your unit. (This is usually with semi-detached of detached homes.) Apartment condominiums are different again; they most typically have a higher monthly fee because more services are covered, e.g. heating, cable TV. parking etc. With new condominiums, builders may attach their own marketing name to each of these types of dwellings such as "free dominium", "freehold condo town homes" and so on. There are many different types of condominium ownership and they are all represented in the Calgary condo for sale market.

Because with a condo you are purchasing more than the unit, (you are buying an ownership in the condominium corporation, you need to review the detail of the financial heath and lifestyle rules of the corporation prior to committing to the purchase of a unit. In Calgary, Alberta, usually condominium purchases are made conditional to the Buyer receiving and approving the appropriate documents. This condo document package should include copies of the bylaws, the current budget, recent financial statements, insurance certificate, copies of the reserve study, if they have one, the management agreement, etc. Spend time reviewing the material, especially the financial information and the use and occupancy restrictions of the bylaws. The minutes of meetings may disclose an upcoming special assessment or that no pets are allowed, for instance.

Make sure you ask every question you can think of. Do you have to maintain your privacy area as you must in some Calgary condo complexes? What about parking? Additional storage space? Do people get along with each other and the board of managers? Do the fees seem comparable with other similar Calgary condominiums with similar services included? If they are too low, realize that they may soon be raised, or special assessments may be imminent.

If the building being considered is older, find out all you can about the age and condition of any of the expensive components. Ask for copies of engineer's reports on post tensioning, boilers, roof conditions, etc. Do the funds in the condo reserve appear to be adequate for future expenses? How high is the insurance deductible? Make sure that you are adequately informed before removing conditions.

With Calgary condo the home you purchase is actually referred to as a unit in the Condominium Act. The boundaries of the unit are different in each project. A description of the boundaries is contained in the declaration. The boundaries in some projects may include front and rear yards while in other projects the boundaries stop at the interior walls. The description will determine the common elements and likely affect the common element fees. Be sure to investigate these issues when looking at Calgary condos for sale.



Newly Constructed Condos


Purchasing a new condominium involves some intricacies because unique problems can arise.

Read the disclosure statement you receive when you sign your agreement carefully. It contains important information about your condominium. You have a 10-day "cooling off" period once you receive the disclosure statement. If it contains information you were unaware of and you feel you cannot complete the transaction you can terminate the deal within this 10-day period.

A condominium agreement is different from single family agreements and even more so with newly constructed units because it contains an occupancy date that is often different than the final closing date. When the Purchase Contract is signed you are given a tentative occupancy date. Purchasers are given a "confirmed" occupancy date once the builder has established one. Review the Purchase Contract to determine when the builder must provide the confirmed occupancy date. Often the purchaser will take possession of the condominium as a tenant initially and title will transfer at a later date. The final closing date may occur several months after you move in. Registration of the Condominium Plan, establishing a condo corporation, and transferring control from the contractor to the new owners can all cause delays.

When signing the Purchase Contract, you will be required to provide a deposit for the condominium unit and possibly for items such as parking spaces, lockers and upgrades/extras. With new construction the contractor may request in excess of 10% of the purchase price as deposit to his account to be used for construction. Be sure that the contractor is reputable.



Condominium Fees


One concern about owning a Calgary condominium is that you will be at the mercy of a condo board that can increase your fees at any time. Although this is a possibility, there are some common sense safeguards that you can use to minimize the risk when looking for Calgary condos for sale.

The secret is to get a thorough document package. Firstly, review the budget closely to see if any expenses seem low. This is most important with newly constructed or newly strata titled units. With new units, developers tend to report the fees unrealistically low. This makes the project more attractive to people looking for Calgary MLS condos for sale. Secondly, with the new condominium legislation, it is required that most condominium corporations have a reserve fund study and report. This is another source of critical information to review with your Calgary condo specialist. Check the reserve fund carefully to ensure there is a surplus for future maintenance.

Another item to review is to have the seller acknowledge if there are any special assessments planned for the complex (but don't take his/her word for it) be sure to get copies of the minutes from at least the previous two board meetings. The current Alberta Real Estate form that Calgary Realtors use asks for a full twelve months of board minutes.

A healthy Condominium Corporation should be run like a financially healthy home with money set aside for rainy-day expenses. A reasonable rule of thumb is that there should be about $1,500 per unit in the reserve and fees should be in the 12 cents per square foot range. New units need less maintenance and therefore require less of a reserve. Conversely apartment condominiums have higher expenses because of amenities that are included (i.e. swimming pools, heating, parking, elevators etc.).


If you are moving to Calgary or buying your first Calgary home be sure to find a Calgary real estate agent that is experienced with condominium sales. Not all Realtors that can show you homes for sale in Calgary MLS are condo specialists. Check the Calgary MLS listings and interview Realtors as if they were applying for a corporate executive position. Finding the right real estate agent can lead to years of enjoyable living in the condominium lifestyle.



Reserve Fund

Reserve Fund Study

The purpose of a reserve fund study is to inventory the depreciating common and corporate property needing to be repaired or replaced within the next 25 years, assess the present condition, estimate when each component of the depreciating property will need to be repaired or replaced, and estimate the costs of repairs to and replacement of the depreciating .

Reserve Fund Report

Once completed, the person who carried out the Reserve Fund Study must prepare and submit to the Board a written report setting out the qualifications and independence of that person, the findings of the study, and any other matters that are considered relevant.

Reserve Fund Plan

The condominium board must, after receiving and reviewing the reserve fund report, approve a reserve fund plan under which a reserve fun is to be established, if one has not already been established, and set forth the method of and amounts needed for funding and maintaining the fund. The corporation must provide the owners with copies of the approved reserve fund plan prior to the collection of any funds.



Condo Documents


The following documents are required by the Buyer within a specified period of time after an offer is made. It is the responsibility of the Seller to supply them in time for the Buyer to review and approve them in time to remove this condition of sale:


  1. Copy of registered condominium plan
  2. Copy of the Condominium Corporation's current bylaws
  3. Copy of the Condominium Corporation's current financial statement, most recent annual financial statement and annual report
  4. Copy of current annual budget and condominium fee schedule
  5. Copy of the minutes of the most recent general meeting of the Condominium Corporation
  6. Condominium board of directors minutes for the past 12 months
  7. Copy of any special resolution being circulated
  8. Copy of the insurance certificate
  9. Copy of any lease agreement or exclusive use agreement with respect to the possession of a portion of the Common Property, including a parking stall or storage unit
  10. Copy of any management agreement
  11. Copy of any recreational agreement
  12. Details of any structural deficiencies in the condominium complex
  13. The amount of the reserve fund
  14. Copy of the reserve fund study
  15. Copy of the reserve fund report
  16. Copy of the reserve fund plan
  17. The particulars of any post tension cables that are located anywhere on or within the Property that is included in the condominium plan
  18. Percentage of owner occupancy in the complex
  19. Details of any contributions already levied but which will only become effective after the Completion Day
  20. Details of any actions commenced against the Corporation
  21. Details of any unsatisfied judgment or outstanding court order against the Corporation
  22. Details of any written demand upon the Corporation for payment of an amount in excess of $5,000.
  23. Any other relevant details



Condo Bylaws


Condominium real estate bylaws can keep the peace among many people living in close proximity. Rather than a Calgary condo municipal bylaw enforcement officer, Calgary condo owners can turn to fellow owners who are members of the Board of Managers for action-or they may themselves be members of the Board. Rules and regulations can very from condominium to condominium. Some of the most common will outline how many occupants can live in a suite, whether or not pets are allowed, and regulations with regards to common elements. These are by no means all the rules you will see in the Calgary condominium marketplace.

In most instances, these regulations are common sense and are entirely predictable. Most people normally behave within the bounds of the condo bylaws without being told what to do. Yet to be enforceable on the few who need guidance, bylaw within Calgary are made formally possible through Alberta's Condominium Property Act, and become "law" upon adoption by the condo corporation at a general meeting of the owners. When push comes to shove, justifiable bylaws have time and again been upheld by the courts. In effect, every condominium corporation Board of Managers is like a mini court and tiny city council rolled into one. The Board is responsible for taxing ("condo fees") and running the common property, and also for enforcing the law, namely the condominium bylaws.

As an example, a neighbour may continue to play music too loudly, despite requests from the Board to tone it down. The Board could decide to levy a $50 fine on that homeowner for the infraction, and a provincial court action can be taken to back up its fine. There are few avenues for appeal. If the owner refuses to pay, the fine is added to his/her condo fees. If the amount remains unpaid, a caveat can be filed against the owner's property title, preventing sale until the debt is cleared. And if there's a mortgage on the property, the mortgage holder will not renew the loan-and can even "call" the loan, unless condo fees and fines are paid.

Some condominiums allow pets with the permission of the Condominium Association. Many Associations reserve the right to approve each individual pet, and some go to the lengths of stipulating a maximum size, weight, number, or combined weight of specific breeds and species that are allowed. Sometimes there are restrictions about how and where pets are allowed to be transported within the complex as well. For example, some apartments with elevators might require that small dogs be carried to and from the outside. These rules will be reflected in the bylaws.



Post Tension Cables


Particularly in the 1970s and 1980s, many buildings in Calgary were built with post-tension cable construction in one or more of the horizontal concrete slabs. Some buildings being constructed today use this method as well.

This construction method uses steel strands inside a plastic tubing with grease or oil as a corrosion retardant. There are many strands in both directions cast within a concrete slab, with the strands tensioned against the concrete at the ends of the slab. Sometimes you can see the plugs on the end of a slab that conceal the tensioned end of a cable. The purpose is to create a slab that can support more weight without additional columns that consume space, and also to minimize cracking in the slab.

The concern about a post-tension system relates to the potential for corrosion and deterioration of the steel cables if water and oxygen has entered through a crack. If sufficient cables have deteriorated and lost tension, they may have reduced the slab's ability to support weight, and may require costly replacement. Post-tensioned slabs also require a certain amount of preventative maintenance in the form of waterproofing any portions of the slab that are exposed to the elements. The waterproofing is another maintenance expense to the Corporation.

If the Corporation has been regularly having their post-tension system monitored by an engineering firm, and have been performing the maintenance as recommended by that firm, the building is no riskier than any other form of construction. However, the Corporation does need to set aside some funds in their reserve account to accommodate the possibility of a future expense.

Check your documents for a recent post-tension report.

The document package you receive from the seller of the unit should include a recent post-tension report if the building has used that construction method. The engineer's comments will give you some insight into the condition of the system, and the likelihood of future problems. Many engineering firms also give a recommendation for what funding the Corporation may require in the future.

The financials will show whether the Corporation is setting aside money for post-tension work.

The operating budget shows if they are allotting an amount for annual post-tension inspections. You may find mention of post-tension work having been done recently in the audited financial statements. Their reserve fund study will reveal if any funding for post-tension work was recommended to the Corporation. And their reserve fund study plan will state if some of the funding is earmarked for possible post-tension work.





During the purchasing process - there are many documents for you, your Calgary condominium specialist and your lawyer to review. Below is a list of some of the terminology used by real  estate practitioners in Calgary and definitions, which will to help you through the documents.

Board of Directors
An elected group of homeowners whose purpose is to serve the interests of the members of the condominium corporation.

Common Elements

Includes various components of the condominium in which homeowners share joint ownership. This may include parking garage, roof, recreational areas, hallways etc.
See Maintenance Fees.

Condominium Corporation

A Corporation without share capital, created under the Condominium Act for the purposes of administering the operation, maintenance and repair of the common elements and assets of the condominium. The Calgary condo Corporations are guided by a democratically elected Board of Directors consisting of homeowners.

Condominium Declaration

The declaration is a "charter" document that creates the condominium corporation. It defines the boundaries for each home and the common elements. It allocates responsibility for the repair and maintenance of the homes and common elements; outlines the condominium' s provisions regarding occupancy and use; specifies common expenses and each owner' s proportionate interest in the common elements; and details each owner' s percentage share of the overall common expenses.

Condominium Ownership
The ownership of a condominium involves 2 aspects:

  1. Separate ownership and title of your home
  2. Shared ownership and costs of maintaining and repairing the common elements, which are shared by all homeowners.

Disclosure Statement
A summary of the significant features of the proposed condominium, and the relevant condominium documents governing the same.


Estoppel Certificate
This is a certificate that your lawyer is obligated to get from the condominium management corporation in the month that your deal is closing. The estoppel certificate is a formal confirmation that acts as evidence that there are no contributions, assessments or fees of any kind that are overdue from you, the owner and seller of the unit.

Exclusive Use Common Elements
Particular areas within the condominium' s common areas which homeowners have the exclusive right to use and enjoy. Examples may include balconies, patios, etc.

Final Closing
The final closing date refers to the date when the condominium is registered and upon which you obtain title to your home.


Interim Occupancy
The occupancy of a proposed unit before you receive title to your home.


Maintenance Fees
Also referred to as common area expenses. Maintenance fees are a monthly charge (your share) for the utilities, regular upkeep, management, administration and insurance for the common element areas. The fees vary according to project and home size. Each homeowner's portion of these expenses is set out in the budget statement, which lists the percentage for which each unit is responsible.

Occupancy Date
The date is established by the contractor and defines when you must take occupancy of your home.


Occupancy Fee
The monthly payment (just like rent), payable to you, for living in your home prior to final closing. It consists of 3 components:

  1. Estimated Monthly Maintenance Fee
  2. Estimated Monthly Realty Taxes
  3. Estimated Monthly Interest Component

The process by which the condominium' s declaration and description are formally approved by the requisite governmental authorities.

Reserve Fund
A fund required to be set aside by the Condominium Corporation to cover the major repair and replacement of the common elements and assets of the condominium.


All the space within the set boundaries of your home, as specified in the declaration.

Although these are specific to Calgary real estate condominiums they should be reasonably consistent with only slight variations from province to province.