British Colombia is known nationally and beyond not only for its abundant natural beauty, but the real estate prices—the highest in Canada—that beauty inspires and enables. This holds particularly true for large urban centres such as Vancouver and Victoria, where owning a detached house remains out of reach for most middle class people. So it’s easy to understand how condominium (or strata) living presents a more accessible alternative. My husband and I live in the second Vancouver condo we’ve owned in the many years we’ve lived here and can attest to numerous advantages strata living offers, which, aside from relative affordability, include shared property maintenance costs and freedom from responsibilities like shovelling what little snow falls here.
But—and you knew this was coming—there’s a dark side. Or, to address my topic more precisely, there’s a potentially noisy side, in both the metaphoric and literal senses of the word. It took us two years of searching to find our current home, and that was because, as any good realtor will tell you, expecting to find a property that meets all the criteria on your wish list will lead to either disappointment or compromise. Make that wish list, by all means, but prioritize the wishes because they won’t all be granted.
Be aware that federal, provincial, and municipal governments regulate condominium properties as strata corporations that must have bylaws. While guided by a default list called The Standard Bylaws, individual stratas enjoy considerable latitude in amending and customizing this default. It might be hyperbolic to say each strata is unique as a snowflake, but it wouldn’t be out of line to characterize some of them as such, precious and persnickety as they can be. Having been pet owners for all our years together, we were astonished at the number of buildings out there in which our fur family wouldn’t be welcomed.
My husband and I are neither silence-obsessed seniors or kegger-throwing frat boys, but we do enjoy listening to music and entertaining occasionally, so it was important to us to find a place with good “soundproofing”, which I’ve since learned isn’t even a word. Unless we were fortunate enough to get a top floor corner unit (we weren’t), we’d have to pay close attention to room layouts as well as shared flanking walls and ceilings. We found a place we liked enough to consider making an offer, but when I asked the seller’s realtor about how well soundproofed the unit was, he looked at me as though I’d asked him how many Martians lived next door. Not a clue about anything to do with what I now know is called airborne sound insulation. We could have gambled on the hope of reasonable neighbours, but a suspicious discrepancy on square footage set off our trust sensors and we lost interest. Not long afterwards, we found and purchased our current home in an older but well-maintained strata building where neighbours are considerate and canine companions are welcome.