Strata Remediation, Strata Secrets and Strata Sellers

Real estate is like art…subjective. Every owner in any environment in any bare structure, puts their personal style and preferences throughout their home. It’s a right of passage.

What I consider stunning might cause another person to recoil in disgust. Every owner struggles with that reality when it comes to selling the property. That’s right, “the” property, not “my” property. Somehow the commodity aspect of real estate never seems to connect with sellers. Buyers on the other hand are never, ever as verbose and critical as they are when touring a property. It’s all about how things look when buying and selling real estate.

It’s a strange paradox.

Strata corporations are communities with shared common areas all owners contribute to maintaining. When these areas need repair or preventative maintenance, strata owners bury their heads for the most part because they do not seem to have an artist’s eye beyond their interiors.

Strata corporations with problems and issues surrounding their common areas are obvious by the dilapidated exteriors as well as vague minutes and small contingency funds. Problems arise when strata owners unearth their heads and make ready to sell and find a new sandbox.

In order to sell, strata corporation disclosures as well as unit owner disclosures are necessary.

Disclosure itself is not an issue with a well-governed and maintained property. However, strata councils and owners have a nasty tendency to boondoggle prospective buyers when questions are asked of owners and council to account for their action or inaction. It’s quite a neat trick(I call it the strata circlejerk) but easy to figure out with a little diligent effort.

Realtors and the legislation itself encourage buyers to get access to and study two years of documents. I like six years. Strata corporations have to keep documents for six years although legal and building remediation reports should be kept indefinitely.

Detailed and specific minutes will include substantiating reports and assessments but that only occurs with a transparent and owner friendly strata council. Buyers really need to consider their neighbours, once elected to council, can often become a little drunk on their perception of power. Often times, council members acclaimed year after year become complacent about accountability.

Skewed perspective creates strata despots!!

With power mongers in control, minutes will be vague and sparse. Owners who have washed the dirt and sand out of their heads embrace the “I don’t know”, or “I was not informed” line or they simply say nothing hoping silence will afford them a quick and easy exit. Owners who don’t know cannot be blamed right?

Splendid strata isolation is so compelling.

How is this accomplished?

1) Refuse to educate yourself about anything to do with strata but be ready for public displays of indignation when required…
2) Completely abdicate the act of selling your property to the realtors because that’s what they make the big bucks for…
3) Do not admit to having a single strata document so you can blame third parties if information gets missed…
4) Brag about how you always paid your strata fees on time making yourself a blameless participant…
5) Grovel to the strata council and property management with saccharine, phony compliments about what a wonderful job they have done. This will make sure the strata council contributes to your hasty, problem free exit. No hold-ups, no questions and no hiccups…
6) Forget to share any issues or appliance updates if buyers aren’t curious. Strata owners generally don’t advise the strata council of up-grades to their unit because most strata owners do not believe it is council’s business. Sometimes, ironically, the strata council has no idea about changes that may be problematic in the future…
7) Best way to cover up poor building envelope maintenance is to create curb appeal even if it means contravening bylaws. Buyers will just believe that’s the way things are and a reasonable strata suck-up will not have any council argument…
8) The quicker a strata unit sells at a good price the better the future marketability…
9) Hire a busy, busy realtor that is unfamiliar with the history of the complex…

Finally and by no means less important never question the council’s employee – the property management. Property management only does what it’s told.

So remediation issues with the common areas and personal units can become strata secrets for strata sellers with the cooperative efforts of a less than accountable council. Buyers who do not demand every scrap of information before they buy a strata unit are not blameless if problems surface later. Corporations who seem cagey or forgetful of documents should discourage a buyer.

A buyer’s best recourse in my opinion: buy The Condominium Manual by Mike Mangan read it before you start searching and when you are ready to make an offer, don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions. If the minutes show there are reports but you did not receive them, don’t hesitate to ask for them.

Buyers have the right and the obligation to sign off on an offer agreement fully informed.

Take a chance and then it’s “buyer beware” and, from personal experience a swamp can have hidden pockets of quicksand that can and will drag you down.

Knowledge and effort together with some objectivity can guide both perspective and perception; and in strata, the lack of either one can make or break the art of community living.

Please share your strata experience and your thoughts on this article.

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Posted in Cost of Ignorance

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