If you want to buy real estate in Quebec, you may have seen ads or toured houses in horizontal condominiums. This form of divided co-ownership is similar to a vertical condominium, which governs the lots of a building.

Would you like to know more about this subject and—in particular—what choosing a horizontal condominium entails? Condo Stratégis sheds light on the characteristics as well as the similarities and differences that horizontal condominiums have with vertical condominiums.

What is a horizontal condominium?

A horizontal condominium is a common lot made up of houses arranged side by side and whose homeowners do not own the plot on which the house is built. Similar to a suburban condominium, these may be houses in allotments, townhouses, or semi-detached houses.

In this example, each individual house constitutes a lot—that is, a private portion. All the piece of land belonging to the condominium is therefore a common area:

  • The road, playgrounds, sports equipment, lighting, and green spaces constitute general common areas.
  • The yard adjoining the house is also a common portion, but for the exclusive usage of the owner of the lot.

The parking spaces may be one or the other, depending on the condominium. In the second case, the co-owner has an assigned space to park their vehicle.

Horizontal vs. vertical condominiums: the similarities

In terms of the law, there is no legal difference between vertical and horizontal property regimes. Both must have:

  • a declaration of co-ownership;
  • a syndicate of co-owners;
  • insurance;
  • contingency fund.

Horizontal vs. vertical condominiums: the differences

When it comes to horizontal condominiums, the condominium fees and services for a typical house are generally more limited than for a traditional condo:

  • The insurance for a horizontal condominium only covers the common portions (roads, children’s garden, playgrounds, etc.).
  • There are few staff to pay, except for the maintenance of the common equipment (no caretaker, housekeeping staff, elevator maintenance, etc.).
  • Water, power, and heat are private.

Our tips for buying a horizontal condominium

Buying a house in a horizontal condominium is somewhere between buying a condo and a single-family home, and it requires avoiding a few pitfalls.

1. Find out about what changes you can make to the house

Since the grounds belong to the condominium, you are not free to do what you want in terms of expansion or restoration of the façade. Indeed, you will generally need administrative authorization to initiate this type of work by yourself.

In the case of semi-detached houses, the process is simpler. For example, when it comes to exterior renovations, it is usually sufficient to coordinate with your neighbour. In any event, remember to check the condominium regulations before taking any action on a common portion.

2. Buy the horizontal condominium property at the right price

Condominium units are often more affordable than single-family homes. For example, townhouses sell for 25% less on average than comparable detached houses.

3. Take advantage of the first-time home buyer’s grant

The subsidy for purchasing a first condo is a real boost for first-time buyers. In fact, they have the possibility to borrow up to 10% of the price of the property at a rate of 0%, depending on the type of condominium.

4. Know the services provided by the condominium

Before committing, find out what buying a house in a horizontal condominium entails. For example, the maintenance of the yard adjoining your house, which constitutes exclusive property in your name, is your responsibility.

5. Examine the condominium fees

Although they are reduced, there are still condo fees in a horizontal condominium. Consult the fee statements and the minutes of the last few general meetings of co-owners. That way, you will know the amount of the expenses, the work approved, as well as all the costs assumed by the co-owners (possible legal proceedings against third parties, for collection of condo fees, etc.).

Generally speaking, for any condominium purchase, carefully consulting the following documents before signing lets you avoid many unpleasant surprises once you are a property owner:

  • the declaration of co-ownership;
  • the minutes of the last General Meeting of Co-Owners;
  • the breakdowns of the condominium fees.

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask the syndicate council responsible for managing the condo syndicate that interests you. You can also turn to condominium living experts such as Condo Stratégis. We can help you in your efforts and guide you in terms of your rights and obligations.