The Bad Real Estate Broker
On the blog post below this one, I showed an example of a good Boston real estate agent. This video shows examples of the techniques of a bad real estate broker. Enjoy.
The difference between a “condominium” and an “apartment” complex is purely legal. There is no way to differentiate a condominium from an apartment simply by looking at or visiting the building. What defines a condominium is the form of ownership. The same building developed as a condominium (and sold in individual units to different owners) could actually be built at another location as an apartment building (the developers would retain ownership and rent individual units to different tenants). As a practical matter, builders tend to build condominiums to higher quality standards than apartment complexes because of the differences between the rental and sale markets.
Technically, a condominium is a collection of individual home units and common areas along with the land upon which they sit. Individual home ownership within a condominium is construed as ownership of only the air space confining the boundaries of the home (Anglo-Saxon law systems; different elsewhere). The boundaries of that space are specified by a legal document known as a Declaration, filed on record with the local governing authority. Typically, these boundaries will include the wall surrounding a condo, allowing the homeowner to make some interior modifications without impacting the common area. Anything outside this boundary is held in an undivided ownership interest by a corporation established at the time of the condominium’s creation. The corporation holds this property in trust on behalf of the homeowners as a group–-it may not have ownership itself.
Condominiums have conditions, covenants, and restrictions, and often additional rules that govern how the individual unit owners are to share the space.
It is also possible for a condominium to consist of single-family dwellings. So-called “detached condominiums” where homeowners do not maintain the exteriors of the dwellings, yards, etc. or “site condominiums” where the owner has more control and possible ownership (as in a “whole lot” or “lot line” condominium) over the exterior appearance. These structures are preferred by some planned neighborhoods and gated communities.
Homeowners Association (HOA)
A homeowners association (HOA), whose members are the unit owners, manages the condominium through a board of directors elected by the membership. The concept exists under various names depending on the jurisdiction, such as “unit title”, “sectional title”, “commonhold,” “strata council,” or “tenant-owner’s association“, “body corporate”, “Owners Corporation”, “condominium corporation” or “condominium association.” Another variation of this concept is the “time share”, although not all time shares are condominiums, and not all time shares involve actual ownership of (i.e., deeded title to) real property. Condominiums may be found in both civil law and common law legal systems as it is purely a creation of statute. Among other things, the HOA assesses unit owners for the costs of maintaining the common areas, etc. That is, the HOA decides how much each owner should pay and has the legal power to collect that.
Condominium unit description
The description of the condominium units and the common areas and any restrictions on their use is established in a document commonly called a “Master Deed” (also known as the “Enabling Declaration”, the “Declaration of Conditions”, or the “Condominium Document”). Among other things, this document provides for the creation of the HOA. Rules of governance for the association are usually covered under a separate set of bylaws which generally govern the internal affairs of the condominium. Condominium bylaws usually establish the responsibilities of the owners’ association; the voting procedures to be used at association meetings; the qualifications, powers, and duties of the board of directors; the powers and duties of the officers; and the obligations of the owners with regard to assessments, maintenance, and use of the units and common areas. Finally, a set of rules and regulations providing specific details of restrictions on conduct of unit owners and residents are established by the HOA. These are more readily amendable than the declaration or association bylaws, typically requiring only a vote of the HOA board. Typical rules include mandatory maintenance fees (perhaps collected monthly), pet restrictions, and color/design choices visible from the exterior of the units. Generally, these sets of rules and regulations are made available to residents and or as a matter of public record via a condominium or homeowners association website or through public files, depending on the state and its applicable laws. Condominiums are usually owned in fee simple title, but can be owned in ways that other real estate can be owned, such as title held in trust. In some jurisdictions, such as Ontario, Canada or Hawaii USA, there are “leasehold condominiums” where the development is built on leased land.
In general, condominium unit owners can rent their home to tenants, similar to renting out other real estate, although leasing rights may be subject to conditions or restrictions set forth in the declaration (such as a rental cap for the total number of units in a community that can be leased at one time) or otherwise as permitted by local law.
Condominium ownership is also used, albeit less frequently, for non-residential land uses: offices, hotel rooms, retail shops, group housing facilities (retirement homes or dormitories), and storage. The legal structure is the same, and many of the benefits are similar; for instance, a nonprofit corporation may face a lower tax liability in an office condominium than in an office rented from a taxable, for-profit company. However, the frequent turnover of commercial land uses in particular can make the inflexibility of condominium arrangements problematic.
There are many forms of real estate ownership that are similar to condominiums but not identical.
Classic privately owned detached houses on privately owned lots may be part of a community that has a homeowner’s association. Such an association may administer a common park area, for example, or an access road, or architectural standards for the houses.
In a townhouse complex, multiple physical houses are combined into a single architectural building. Each unit owner owns an identified plot of land and the building affixed to it, but that building is physically part of a larger building that spans lots. There is a continuous roof and foundation and a single wall divides adjacent townhouses. If there is an apartment below not owned by owner of townhouse it is not a townhouse just a bi-level apartment, condominium. Legally, this is very similar to detached houses, but because of the intertwining of interests in the single architectural building, a homeowner’s association is required. It would be impractical, for example to replace the roof of just one townhouse. But unlike the condominium, the townhouse complex’s HOA owns none of the building or the land under it. It is essentially under contract to the townhouse owners to maintain the parts of the building that are hard to divide. Even the walls between townhouses are usually outside the purview of the HOA, being jointly owned and maintained by the owners of the townhouses on either side. Like the condominium, the townhouse complex often has common areas for roads, parking, clubhouses, and such.
A rowhouse is like a townhouse except that the houses are not physically connected. They are independent structures that simply have no space between them. Technically, they are detached.
A building with multiple residential units may simply be owned in common by multiple people, with each having specific rights to a particular unit and undivided interest in the rest. This is like a condominium, but there is no HOA with legal powers. It is much harder to govern, as the individual unit owners often have to agree unanimously or court intervention is required.
California statutes recognize three kinds of “common interest developments”: condominium, townhouse, and community apartment, with the latter being the owned-in-common concept described above.
In Australia, condominiums are known as “strata title schemes“.
Condominiums exist in most parts of Canada though more common in larger cities. They are regulated under provincial or territorial legislation and specific legal details vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. In most parts of Canada, they are referred to as Condominiums, except in British Columbia where they are referred to as a strata and in Quebec where they are referred to as syndicates of co-ownership. A townhouse complex called Brentwood Village in Edmonton, Alberta was the first condominium development in Canada (registered in 1967. With regular condominiums, the unit owner usually owns the internal unit space and a share of the corporation; the corporation owns the exterior of the building land and common area; in the case of a freehold condominium the owner owns the land and building and the corporation owns common shared roadways and amenities. The Canadian Condominium Institute is a non-profit association of condominium owners and corporations with chapters in each province and territory. The Condo Owners Association COA Ontario is a non-profit association representing condominium owners with divisions across the province and districts within the various municipalities.
The first high-rise condominium development was Horizon House built by Minto in Nepean, Ontario (now Ottawa) and registered in 1967.
In Ontario, condominiums are governed by the Ontario Condominium Act, 1998 with each development establishing a corporation to deal with day-to-day functions (maintenance, repairs, etc.). A board of directors is elected by the owners of units (or, in the case of a common elements condominium corporation, the owners of the common interest in the common elements) in the development on at least a yearly basis. A general meeting is held annually to deal with board elections and the appointment of an auditor (or waiving of audit). Other matters can also be dealt with at the Annual General Meeting, but special meetings of the owners can be called by the board and, in some cases, by the owners themselves, at any time. The Condo Owners Association COA Ontario was founded to advocate and represent 1.3 million condo owners in Ontario. Founder Linda Pinizzotto helps create awareness of the various issues in condominiums today 
In recent years, the condominium industry has been booming in Canada, with dozens of new towers being erected each year. Toronto is the centre of this boom, with 17,000 new units being sold in 2005, more than double second place Miami’s 7,500 units. Outside of Toronto, the most common forms of condominium have been townhomes rather than highrises, although that trend may be altered as limitations are placed on “Greenfields” (see Greenfield land) developments in those areas (in turn, forcing developers to expand upward rather than outward and to consider more condominium conversions instead of new housing). Particular growth areas are in Kitchener/Waterloo, Barrie, and London. In fact, after Toronto, the Golden Horseshoe Chapter of the Canadian Condominium Institute is one of that organization’s most thriving chapters.
The Ontario Condominium Act, 1998 provides an effectively wide range of development options, including Standard, Phased, Vacant Land, Common Element and Leasehold condominiums. Certain existing condominiums can amalgamate, and existing properties can be converted to condominium (provided municipal requirements for the same are met). Accordingly, the expanded and expanding use of the condominium concept is permitting developers and municipalities to consider newer and more interesting forms of development to meet social needs.
On this issue, Ontario condominium lawyer Michael Clifton writes, “Condominium development has steadily increased in Ontario for several years. While condominiums typically represent attractive lifestyle and home-ownership alternatives for buyers, they also, importantly, introduce a new approach to community planning for home builders and municipal approval authorities in Ontario. …[There are] opportunities for developers to be both creative and profitable in building, and municipalities more flexible and imaginative in planning and approving, developments that will become sustainable communities.”
Contrary to other jurisdictions such as Alberta, Ontario does not provide flexibility for small condo corporations to conduct their own reserve fund study, or to update it less frequently than required for large corporations. Managers of small condominium corporations have asked the Ontario Ministry of Consumer Services to review this requirement as it becomes burdensome for the management of smaller buildings, by contacting: