Many people ask, “Is it necessary to get a home inspection on the condo I am buying?  All the maintenance and repairs are handled by the condo board and are included in my condo fees so I really don’t see the point.”

The short answer is yes.  A condo, while cheaper and with the safety net of a condo corporation, is still a sizable investment and as such, is worth protecting.  The reality is that an inspection will often save you money in the long run.  Even though you aren’t directly responsible for paying for a new roof with a condo, there are still plenty of costly repairs you should be aware of.

A condo inspection is similar to a home inspection – it’s a visual examination by a competent, qualified inspector.  As there are many differences between condos and single-family homes, it’s advisable to find an inspector who specializes in commercial property inspections, also known as Property Condition Assessments, such as condominiums.

Your condo inspection should cover the following: heating system, electrical system, plumbing, windows, ductwork and vents.  A seasoned condo inspector will also check all the common elements such as the roof, central HVAC, structure, foundation, hallways, walls, floors, ceilings, and garage to make sure everything is in good shape.

When it comes to condos, it’s important to find out who is responsible for the most costly repairs. Depending on your condo building, the furnace and central air may be your responsibility or the condo board may cover it as part of the common elements.  In newer condos, the heating and cooling is typically the responsibility of the condo board, while in older buildings, it’s usually your responsibility. It’s important to find this out ahead of time, as you don’t want to end up on the hook for thousands of dollars in repairs you didn’t anticipate.

In addition to the inspection of all common areas, here’s a list of other important things that your inspector will look for during your condo inspection:

  • Spotting on floors and walls, or floors that are sloped or warped, or loose carpets and tiles — these allude to water damage
  • Cracked walls suggest a structural problem
  • Spotting on walls and windows may indicate mould in the unit
  • Check for cracked glass panes, and screens that work, cabinetry drawers and doors that are level, easily opened and closed and fully operational
  • Ensure there are no gaps or missing caulking
  • Ensure there is enough water pressure with both hot and cold taps and that all drains are working well

Status Certificate and Reserve Fund

Details regarding any issues, maintenance, or renovation plans for common elements are outlined in the condo’s Status Certificate, which you should also review thoroughly before making an offer.  Note that the Status Certificate on the general state of the condo and condominium corporation isn’t enough — an inspection gives added legal, financial and emotional security and cannot be more emphatically recommended.

Ask if there has been a technical audit of the building done in connection with the reserve fund. This will help you determine the actual condition of the building.  Obtain and read the minutes of the condominium corporation meetings for the last few years as this will disclose signs of exterior and/or maintenance problems. Ask for proof of all major structural repairs, the fees incurred and the relevant repairs that were done.

Make sure your inspector reviews the most recent status certificate to determine the general condition of the building and its potential deficiencies.  Most importantly, determine if there is enough working capital in the condo reserve fund for immediate and/or future repair items and other contingencies without you being subjected to a new assessment.

Your realtor can help you understand some of the purchase differences and contract language that should be specified in a condo purchase, but often it’s just as important to inspect the condo unit and any systems that are shared because unexpected repairs or concerns will affect you in the form of special assessments or increases in condo fees.

At the end of the day, you can’t put a price on peace of mind, and home inspections are the best way to ensure a property is functional, safe, and structurally sound.