One of our blog readers asked an excellent question last week: “Does a condo need a home inspection? Even a new one?” Here’s our take:
The primary purpose of a home inspection is to identify any issues with a house that might affect your decision to buy it or the price you pay for it. It’s your opportunity to find out what’s going on behind the scenes before you commit to buying it (you can read more about home inspections for houses by checking out our earlier blog 10 Things to Know About Home Inspections).
While it is possible to have a home inspection for a condominium, there are some notable differences to the home inspection that is performed on a house:
With a condominium, most of the building systems (electrical, plumbing, roofing, etc.) are common elements, meaning they are jointly owned with the other condominium owners and are joint expenses. Common elements are covered by the technical audits that are performed by the condo corporation and are NOT inspected during a condominium inspection. Any issues, maintenance or renovation plans for the common elements are outlined in the Status Certificate (the set of documents detailing the financial and legal health of the condominium corporation–which every condo Buyer should have their lawyer review before a purchase).
Generally, a condominium inspection includes inspection of one particular unit and would include an inspection of major appliances and maintenance/service issues for the unit (vs the whole building).
Most condominium buyers opt NOT to have a home inspection and choose to focus on the building’s status certificate that identifies any major issues and costs to be borne by the condominium corporation. The status certificate review is a critical part of the condo purchase process and we always recommend that a condo offer be conditional on a real estate lawyer reviewing the documentation. Knowing that the roof needs to be replaced at a cost of $100,000 – and knowing whether or not the condominium corporation has the funds to pay for it (or if you will have to contribute $XX via a special assessment) – is important to know before you buy the condo. In fact, it will affect your decision to buy and the price you pay in the same way that a home inspection will affect the purchase of a house.
We have seen buyers choose to get a condo inspection when ownership of the heating and cooling units is individual vs common element (meaning the furnace and air conditioning is owned by the condo unit, not the building, so that if it breaks, the expense is on the owner, not shared by the condo corporation). In older condominiums, a furnace that is nearing the end of its life is something you’d likely want to know about before you buy the condo, so that you can factor that into your budget or offer price.
Brand new condominiums are subject to different home inspections as part of the closing process. If you bought a condominium from a builder, you will take part in a Pre-delivery Inspection (PDI) – you can read more about the PDI on the Tarion website.
So Should You Get a Condominium Inspection?
I think it depends on what’s included in the condo you’re looking at purchasing and your ability to tolerate risk. If you absolutely 100% can’t afford for the refrigerator to break down, then you might want to get a condo inspection (then again, the inspection will likely cost you more than fixing a fridge, and you really should have emergency $$ set aside if you’re looking to buy anyway…but I digress). If you’re looking to purchase in an older building where some of the mechanics are owned by the unit or a previous owner has made major changes to the unit, it might be a good idea to get a condo inspection.
However, the short answer is that the vast majority of condo purchasers choose not to do inspections, instead relying on the status certificate for the added legal, financial and emotional comfort a house buyer might get with a home inspection.