A Co-Ownerwhat?

I wrote in an earlier post that my home was quite low in price for the area. Before you start thinking I bought a dump, the reason my unit was priced much lower to similar in the area is simple – it’s a co-ownership, not a condo.

When I first heard that the unit was a co-ownership, I assumed I knew what that was – I mean, I’ve watched ‘Sex and the City’ – Carrie lived in one, right? Wrong.  She lived in a co-operative, which is not the same as a co-ownership. Anyone else confused?

At the time I was looking I did a quick internet search (gotta love Google) so I’d have a basic understanding.  Below you’ll find some of the differences and similarities between condos, co-ops and co-ownerships.  *Please note that these are as I understand them to be – if you’re considering purchasing a co-ownership, please consult your real estate lawyer for all the details.

Condo

  • Each unit is a separate property which can be bought and sold
  • Condos can be mortgaged
  • Owners of the units in the building will also own shares in the common elements of the building that are proportionate to the size of their unit

Co-Operative

  • The entire property is owned by a corporation
  • The ‘buyer’ of a unit owns shares in the corporation, and is granted exclusive rights to use that specific unit
  • Shares can be mortgaged
  • Buyers are not registered on title for the property
  • Generally most banks will not loan for a co-op, but some credit unions will

Co-Ownership

  • There is just one property, and all the owners are listed on the title for the property
  • Owners have a proportional share of the entire property and are given the exclusive right to occupy their unit
  • Shares can be mortgaged
  • Generally most banks will not loan for a co-ownership, but some credit unions will

One of the reasons that co-ownerships are generally less expensive than ‘regular’ condos is that financing can be difficult.  In order to qualify for my mortgage I needed to have 30% down – this cuts out a large portion the buyer demographic looking to move into a one-bedroom unit, which in turn drastically reduces demand.

The Beginning

My adventure into condo ownership, and therefore decorating started in May 2009.  At the time I was living is a 330sq ft bachelor apartment whose one redeeming factor was the amazing view.

The Amazing View

I’d lived there for two years (one year more than planned), and after a few fire alarms in quick succession, (21 flights of stairs makes you quite dizzy by the time you get down – to say nothing of the pain in the thighs for the walk back up), I decided I’d had enough.

My first step was to be pre-approved for a mortgage which was fairly easy – taking about 2 days.  My mortgage pre-approval was valid for 90 days and I thought that was plenty of time to buy a place – little did I know that it would take almost 4 times that long to be in my first home!

My next step was to find a real estate agent.  I think most people use one recommended to them, but as the only people I knew who had recently purchased a home didn’t have nice things to say about their agent I had to find my own.  I figured the easiest way to meet agents was to basically go to a LOT of open houses every weekend, and talk to the agent(s) on duty.  Most didn’t give me the time of day, or when they heard what my budget was, were decidedly uninterested in helping me.  I met the agent I ended up using at an open house that was massively out of my budget (what can I say – I like to explore other people’s houses and dream), but she made the time to talk to me and find out what I was looking for.  I wonder if she had any idea that my search would take much longer than I had anticipated – I certainly didn’t.

After living in apartments for years I was ideally looking for a small house to live in.  I was enamored with the idea of some green space to call my own, and the joy of stepping out side your door and actually being outside – not in the hall waiting impatiently for the elevator to arrive.  I was more than willing to take on a fixer upper – I like the idea of being able to create a home exactly as you want it to be – not the way the people before you wanted it. The area I was looking was east of downtown Toronto – Leslieville, Riverside, the Upper beaches, and the Danforth.  My agent lives and works in that area, so I hoped she’s be able to steer me clear of any trouble spots.

I know at the start of this blog post I indicated I owned a condo, and I’ve just finished writing that I wanted to live in a house – the change in thought was a long time in coming.  It took me quite a while to realise that I just couldn’t afford the home I wanted, in the area I wanted.  I had lots of success finding houses I liked at a price I wanted to pay.  Unfortunately for me, others wanted them more, and they had deeper pockets – I was a four-time looser in the bidding war game.  After a while I realised that if I wanted to get on the property ladder, I’d have to start in a condo and my next place will be the little house with a  yard.

The place I ended up buying was found by my mom who spotted  it on mls.ca while sitting at a computer 3000 km away.  My condo is located in midtown Toronto, not far from my old bachelor apartment.  I hadn’t even considered looking in the area as I knew the area to be too expensive for my budget.  My condo was about half the price of comparables in the neighbourhood (I’ll explain why later), and after my fifth offer, and a little negotiation, it was mine!

I took possession on March 31, 2010.