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Jan. 25, 2021

Stewart Elston on condominium living in Winnipeg

Stewart Elston on condominium living in Winnipeg

Stewart Elston is a REALTOR®, and Alternate Broker with Powell Property Group. He is also the 2021 President of the Manitoba Real Estate Association (MREA) In this episode we talk about the differences of condominium vs single family home lifestyle and s...


Stewart Elston is a REALTOR®, and Alternate Broker with Powell Property Group. He is also the 2021 President of the Manitoba Real Estate Association (MREA) In this episode we talk about the differences of condominium vs single family home lifestyle and some of the important things to look out for when buying a condo.

Transcript

Adrian:

I'm joined today by Stewart Allston on the I Love Winnipeg Real Estate podcast. Now, Stewart, you are, of course, a realtor, but you're also very involved in the industry and the real estate community as a whole. Could you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you're involved?

Stewart:

Yes, I guess, I was first licensed as a realtor in 1987, and I didn't get into organized or involved with organized real estate until 2011. But I've been a volunteer either... Well, actually on the Winnipeg Real Estate Board on different communities since 2011, served as their president in 2016, and have been on the Manitoba Real Estate Board since 2017, and I'm serving as the 2021 president of the Manitoba Real Estate Association. I'm also an alternate broker with the Powell Property Group. That's the brokerage I'm with.

Adrian:

Now, you are, of course, a full service agent, but a good portion of your business is condominiums. That's what I'm hoping to speak with you today about. My first question for you is for whom is condominium living ideal and why?

Stewart:

Ideally, condominium living is, I guess, it's a great start for younger people that are wanting to get into the real estate market and maybe they can't afford a single family home, or maybe at the stage of life they're at, they're not ready for a home and the responsibilities that come with it. Condominium living is an ideal place for a younger person to start and start building equity. Also, on the other end of the scale, I would say that empty nesters and people who are downsizing from the big home are ideal candidates for condo living as well. In between where you've got people that have growing families, they tend to be more in single family homes. But condos are ideal for people either entering the market or downsizing.

Adrian:

Interesting. What's the primary difference to consider when buying a condominium versus a single family home?

Stewart:

Well, with the condominium, you do have condo fees that go along with it. So, on top of your PIT, your mortgage and your property taxes, you have a condo fee as well. Generally, you're provided some services for that condo fee. They usually include, your water is included. Sometimes your cable TV is included. Depending on the complex you're in, there can be an exercise room. There can be a lounge for the owners to use different facilities like that. In a single family home, generally you have a backyard. You have a basement. You can have rec room space. And you have more responsibilities, I think, that come along with a single family home in terms of potential repairs and upkeep.

Adrian:

Now, you mentioned condo fees and what is included with them. I think it's noteworthy to point out that condominium fees are simply the proportionate share of the cost of operation of the property. There's no profit margin in condominium fees. They are a direct result with the hard costs associated with operating the building. Is that correct?

Stewart:

That's correct. The condo fee, you could even split it further. The condo fee can be split into the amount that goes into the reserve fund, because every condo corporation has to have a reserve fund, and then, the operating balance, which you were speaking of. The reserve fund is there in case... If you're in a building with elevators, just using an example, and say after 20 years, the elevators need to be replaced. The money should be in the reserve fund to do that kind of work. They all have reserve funds. When you get your documents, if you're buying a condo, you can see how much of your fee is towards the operating side of it, and how much goes into the reserve fund every month.

Adrian:

Now, the Condominium Act in Manitoba has evolved over the years, and it's worth saying that it is probably safer now than it was in previous years to buy condominium, because things like the reserve fund study are now mandatory, right?

Stewart:

Yeah. In 2015, the government, the provincial government, rewrote the legislation. Well, the reserve funds are very important. I've actually shown clients condos, and I look at the reserve fund. If it's an older building with a small reserve fund, we look at the study, and you can see in coming years there's going to be a shortfall, I have actually advised clients maybe that's not such a good place to buy, because there was issues coming up. It's very important for people buying to go through the documents they receive. That's another piece of the legislation that was changed in 2015. Used to be you got the documents once the deal was accepted and you had 48 hours in which to review them. In 2015, the government changed that to seven days. They call it the cooling off period. So you now have a seven day cooling off period. In that seven days, it's very important that you either review the documents yourself or get your lawyer to look at them and make sure that there's no surprises in there. That's why you're given the documents.

Adrian:

With so many options, what should people look for in a condominium, perhaps old versus new?

Stewart:

Well, a newer building may have more amenities than an older building does. It depends again on price, and where you fall in, in terms of what do you want to spend. You can get a one bedroom condo, a two or three bedroom condo. You can get a building with elevators. You can get a three or four store, well, not a four-story, but you can get a three-story walk-up where there are no elevators. There's no underground parking. Some buildings have underground parking. They have pool facilities. The more amenities a complex has generally the higher the condo fee. That's another thing to consider is, where do you want to fall in, in terms of what your budget will allow you to pay?

Adrian:

Are there any risks associated with buying a condominium?

Stewart:

Well, yes. As with buying any real estate, there is. With buying a condo, you really want to take a very careful look, as we've already discussed, at the reserve fund study. Because, if there's any shortfalls, it will indicate there that there's work to be done, like the exterior of the building needs to be recladed, for example, is a good one. That's actually a case in Winnipeg. I'm not going to say what you're building.

Stewart:

When there's major work needs to be done on a condo, and there is not enough money in the reserve fund, what the condo board will do in order to make ends meet is they'll levy a special assessment against all the owners in the building. Each owner, if there's $100,000 shortfall and there's 20 owners, each owner may get a $5,000 bill to complete the work that needs to be done. There's no guarantee. Same as owning a single family home, you can get surprises. You never know. But at least with a condo, you've been given the reserve fund study that outlines all the work that needs to be done in the foreseeable future. You need to study that to make sure there's no surprises.

Adrian:

Yep. No, that's very good advice. You mentioned that you were originally licensed in the 80s, and then left a little bit and have come back. You obviously have a love for real estate. What do you love about Winnipeg real estate?

Stewart:

I enjoy the business. I enjoy working with all my clients. It's always very rewarding and exciting to see someone buy a house that they're really excited about and they want, or to sell their house in a way that works for them. It's a fun business to be in. I also have to say that, in the last 10 being involved in organized real estate, if you will, serving on the Winnipeg Realtors Board, and now on the Manitoba Board, it's given me the opportunity to meet a lot of my peer group that I wouldn't otherwise know. It's also a learning experience. I've learned a lot along the way.

Stewart:

It's great, because as a realtor, when you're conducting a transaction, you will talk to the other realtor involved. You often don't meet face to face, or you rarely meet face to face. You draw paperwork, offer each other, you email, and it gets done. It's not every day that you meet your peer group. So being involved at the board level and serving on committees is a great way to get to know your peer group and feel more comfortable in the business while getting to know people and while learning.

Adrian:

You're with a fiercely independent and well-respected brokerage called Powell Property Group. Can you perhaps enlighten us to what is different between dealing with a major brand brokerage versus a boutique private brokerage like yours?

Stewart:

Well, the major brands or franchises, every brokerage model has its place in the market. There's no question. A lot of people are more comfortable with the larger franchise operations, because they offer a lot of services from A to Z, marketing and all kinds of things that they will do for you. Where, when you're at a smaller brokerage, you have to do all those things on your own, if you want them done. There's no one there to do them for you. So again, it's a cost versus benefit. When I first started in the business, back in the late eighties, I first came in, I joined Royal LePage, because I had heard the Royal LePage had a very good training program. And in fact they did. It was a great place to be to start. Over the years, I've changed brokerages or companies a few times. It depends what you're looking for at the time as an agent.

Adrian:

I think it's good, long-term, relationships are what prevail regardless of brand.

Stewart:

Yes, no question. I would agree with that.

Adrian:

Yeah. Well, thank you so much for taking the time today to be on this episode of I Love Winnipeg Real Estate. It's been a pleasure having you on the show. Please do tell us how do people get in touch with you?

Stewart:

The best way would be to phone me. It's area code (204) 781-9999.

Adrian:

I'm looking at your picture online right now at stewartelston.com.

Stewart:

Yes.

Adrian:

Thanks again, Stewart. Have a great day.

Stewart:

Thanks very much, Adrian. Bye-bye.

Stewart Elston

Realtor®

Stewart was first licensed as a Realtor in 1987 and in 2018 he made the move to the Powell Property Group, as their Alternate Broker. In addition to his expertise in the resale market, Stewart has represented several new home builders during his career, and can assist you with the purchase of a new home. Throughout his career, Stewart has consistently been a top producer, and has won numerous Medallion Awards from the Winnipeg Real Estate Board for superior sales achievement. Stewart conducts himself with integrity and instills a sense of trust with clients. His objective is to help his clients achieve their goals in a way that best suits their needs. He is always happy to hear from previous clients, and is always interested in being contacted by new prospective clients.