Providing the information buyers want

Condo-Check audits strata corporations and rates their performance on maintenance, finances, management and council oversight

Here is an interesting concept that might actuallly be accepted on B.C. in regards to giving condo buyers a little piece of mind.  Apparently it has been tested in Calgary and expected to be tried in Vancouver.


A couple weeks ago, I introduced readers to Bernie Winter, a Calgary businesswoman who offers a service to review strata documents for clients in Alberta.

She and her team of consultants examine all the documents a strata corporation must make available to interested buyers and report what they find, good or bad.

Winter - and others - have tried to offer that service in B.C., but have either given up or been shut down by the Superintendent of Real Estate. The problem? In B.C., you must be a licensed realtor to advise anyone about real estate - even if you're not selling it. And since realtors are reluctant to refer their clients to another realtor, no one (to Winter's knowledge) has been successful.

Early next year, however, Winter plans to introduce a new service here, one she claims will avoid the licensing pitfall and do two things: It will tell strata owners how well their property's value is being maintained, and it will arm buyers with critical information about maintenance and the relationship between a council and a strata-management company, among other things.

"What's the risk? That's what buyers want to know," she told me by phone. However, her new service isn't blatantly directed at buyers. She reaches them rather ingeniously through a back door, by first providing strata corporations with what she calls a Condominium Viability Audit.

Here's how it works in Calgary, where she's been piloting it for the last three years with 12 strata corporations participating. A strata corporation hires Condo-Check (her company) to examine its books, records, meeting minutes, etc. Winter, or one of her consultants, walks the entire property (residences excepted) to see how well it is being maintained.

Even the property manager's contract and performance is under scrutiny. "I'm actually in the string of emails between board members and the property manager," says Winter, "so I can see when a problem is brewing." Strata councillors aren't let off the hook either: They're interviewed as a group and also one on one. "Why are they on the board? What's their interest?" Winter wants to know. "They need to be representing the entire ownership, not just their own best interest."

Once the data are collected, it's measured on a scale devised by Winter and four other industry experts (individuals who work in the strata or rental housing industry in Alberta), then given a percentage rating, comparable to a personal credit score. And that score isn't static. Every month, the strata corporation's internal workings are reviewed and the rating may change.

"I had one that was at an 82 and they had a major problem at Christmas time, and their score went down to 60 and they fixed it within two weeks," says Winter. "The score went back up and it went back up a little higher because of how quick they fixed it, so it's a moving scale."

Strata corporations pay Condo-Check an initial fee - Winter won't say how much - for their first audit, then an ongoing fee for as long as they participate in her program. They also post a sign on their property letting any visitor - including prospective buyers - know that the strata corporation is being audited. For $395, anyone can go to Condo-Check's website (www. and access the latest report. (There are two reports; one for the strata corporation and one for everyone else.)

Strata corporations are paid $100 every time someone orders a copy of the report detailing their business operation.

Winter says this program shouldn't raise any eyebrows at the Superintendent of Real Estate's office because it's not done for the purpose of selling real estate, but for the maintenance of it. Whatever the rationale, it could be exactly what buyers need and can't get now.

Suzanne Morphet reads email (but does not give advice) at

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