Why the difference?

Two completely different viewpoints on condos. Why the difference?

The professionals
Every industry has a dark side it wants to hide. The developers makes their money building and selling units. The construction companies, real estate agents, property managers, lawyers, banks, financial services companies and accountants make their living from condo buyers.

Real estate agents only make money if they list properties or find buyers and condos are becoming a large part of the housing market. Ethical buyer agents will advise you not to buy in “neglected condos” but unethical ones don’t care.

It is the same with the real estate lawyers. If they discourage too many clients from buying condos the real estate agents, who are their most important source of referrals, will blackball them.

The banks need to sell mortgages. The newspapers are loath to cover too many condo nightmare stories as the real estate industry is one of the few sectors still spending serious money on newspaper advertising.

The government
The government needs a strong condo market as it is one of the few healthy industries left in Ontario.

Condo owners
Finally, the biggest number of condo-nightmare deniers are the existing condo owners. They are so scared that their buildings will get a bad reputation and their units will lose value that they go to great lengths to hide the truth.

Many unhappy condo owners suffer in silence and in isolation. They will not band together and lobby their politicians for improvements to the Condo Act or demand better building standards. If things get bad enough, they sell their units to unsuspecting buyers.

Like an owner of a worn-out clunker, they will tell their relatives and close friends that their condo needs a lot of expensive work and not to buy there but they will unload it onto a stranger without a qualm.

If a disgruntled owner starts a website exposing serious building defects, an entrenched board, falling property values or poor maintenance, many owners freak out because their “dark secrets” are being exposed.

That is why I am amused when potential buyers are advised to ask the owners in the lobby or elevators what their building is like; as if they will tell the truth. Potential buyers may also find that board meeting and AGM minutes and the condo newsletters do not mention anything negative.

Few deep roots
In past generations, people bought homes and planned to live there all their lives. Many family homes were handed down from generation to generation.

These days that type of thinking is becoming rare. Many, if not most, condo owners do not plan to keep their units for more than a few years.

Downtown condos are often viewed as if they are a pair of shoes or a dress, something to be owned for three years or so and then discarded.

Few owners may have any long-term interest in the corporation. The seniors plan to move into an old-age care facility, the young plan to build equity and then sell and buy a house while the investors plan to rent their units as long as they have positive cash flow and for no longer.

This can make it hard for the board to raise maintenance fees, especially to adequately fund the reserves that are required for expensive projects that will be required years down the road. The resistance from the owners can be fierce.

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