Five Biggest Condo Expenses

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When condo inspection clients call a home inspector, they tend to be concerned about deficiencies inside the living space of the suite. As a point of fact however, the most expensive liabilities for condo owners are found on the outside of the building.

The Five Most Expensive Risks for Condo Buyers

Condominiums have two primary sources of revenue from building owners. Regular monthly strata fees are collected and used for month-to-month building management with some funds held in a contingency reserve for larger or unexpected expenses. Special assessments are collected in addition to monthly strata fees in order to cover unexpected expenses or major projects. It is these special assessments which can cost condo owners tens or even into the hundreds of thousands of dollars in unexpected costs.

The five most common and expensive special assessment areas are:

  1. Roofing - No matter if you are in a house or condo, most roof materials need replacement every 20 years or so. In a high-rise condo, this expense per strata unit may be very low as so many units share a small roofing area. In low-rise condo's, roof replacement can be similar or more than a regular single family home and easily into the 10's of thousand of dollars. Chimneys are also a common area for repair to be needed as they create a large penetration in the roof area and can lead to water ingress.
  2. Exterior - Premature failure of building exteriors has been a major problem for condo owners. Common failures with water ingress created the leaky condo epidemic that is still ongoing. Exterior materials will also need to be replaced with age although different materials can have vastly different life spans depending on quality of product and installation. Exterior repairs are typically well into the 10's of thousands and occasionally even into the 100's of thousands of dollars.
  3. Balconies - Balconies form a protrusion in the exterior finish of the building and are a common place for premature or even just age of materials to cause system failure. Often, balcony failures are part of a complete exterior building repair but they can have independent issues like structural rot from water intruding at guardrail connections. Balcony expenses can be from the mid-thousands or included in the 10's or 100's of thousands in a full exterior repair.
  4. Parking Garages - Parking garages are typically made out of steel re-enforced concrete. To protect the steel in the concrete from rusting and causing structural concrete failure, water proof membranes are installed over the parking garage where rain and irrigation exposed landscape areas are above. Replacing failed membranes over parking areas is a very disruptive and expensive job which can be in the mid-to-high hundreds of thousands of dollars for strata's to repair.
  5. Water Piping - In buildings with central hot water heating systems for domestic or heating purposes, circulated 'loops' of water are used in the building to keep hot water ready near each unit. Minerals in the circulated water loops will erode the pipe materials and piping will need to be replaced every 20 years or so. This is a regular maintenance item for buildings but it can strata unit owners many thousands of dollars in unexpected expenses.

Condominiums are complex commercial buildings which have specialized needs for maintenance, inspection, and repair. Combining complex building with the complex decision making structure of a Strata can lead to long delays in the need for repairs being identified and the associated costs for repairs being approved and completed before more damage may be done.

A complete condo inspection on a strata building will help educate condo buyers on the materials, maintenance, and possible deficiencies of the building they are looking at buying into. Combined with quality strata documents and available engineering reports, a home inspection report will help protect condo buyers so they know their home will be safe and solid.

By James Bell - Owner/Operator of Solid State Inspections Inc.