I recently completed a condo inspection on a relatively new building. The inspection went well, but I was concerned about the overall care and maintenance of the common areas which are looked after by the monthly condo fee.
It looked to me like the building superintendent was somewhat negligent in his duties, or maybe the strata budget was just inadequate. I pointed this out to my client and gave him this advice:
(1) Before you decide to buy, read the strata council minutes and the AGM minutes, preferably for several years. There may also be a depreciation report and an engineer's report. This gives the buyer an idea of what the issues are with the building. The agent had passed on the documentation but had failed to stress that it was important to read and understand the material.
(2) After you purchase, get involved with the strata council. Run for election. Or attend the quarterly meetings as an interested observer. It is your property and your investment after all.
(3) After you purchase, bring to the attention of the strata council the inspection report's comments on deficiencies in the common areas. Then stay on the issues to see them resolved. You may find that there are budget constraints or just lack of knowledge if it is self-run. Adjust budget and expectations accordingly.
In the end, condo owners have a huge responsibility in making sure their homes are properly looked after. Especially for a first time buyer, who may not know that they can affect the way a property is managed (poorly versus responsibly), I cannot stress enough that getting involved with the strata council is highly recommended. In many cases the council is always looking for owners to be active participants and would welcome their added contribution.