It started with a heartbreaking news headline just before Christmas. A young Fort McMurray family was pushed into bankruptcy. The culprit was their beloved condo, or more specifically, a massive spike in their condo building insurance costs.
There was much discussion in the Mortgage Broker Community. Was the location of the condo building to blame? A delayed outcome of the Fort McMurray wildfires from 2016? A colleague knew the couple in the news story personally, and could verify there wasn’t anything unreported in their financial situation. They were literally being pushed into bankruptcy due to the soaring costs of insuring their strata building.
Fast forward to the New Year and a story closer to home hit the headlines. Condo owners in Langley were reeling. Their premiums had just jumped from $97,000 to $371,000 and their strata insurance deductible spiked from $5,000 to $250,000. Clearly no wildfire risk in Langley, and the building is under five years old.
The most recent condo insurance spike headline concerns a building in Abbotsford that is only a year old. A building so new it doesn’t even show up on Google’s street view. In 2019 the building paid a $66,000 premium. Last month, the strata council got its bill for 2020: A massive 780% increase to a premium of $588,000. Again, no wildfire risk and certainly no flood risk.
Tom Watson, Vice President of Guardsman Insurance Services in Ottawa, sheds some light on what is going on. “I used to be able to put them (condo buildings) with 9 different insurers easily. 12 if I was lucky. Now it’s hope the existing carrier offers a renewal so you can avoid going to the Lloyds marketplace.” What’s the Lloyds Marketplace? “It’s a market, literally in London England, where underwriters arrange insurance for things that are generally hard/impossible to insure.” Tom goes on to say “When they price a product like that they really don’t want to write it but will if you give them enough money. Crazy premiums are the insurer way of saying, “If you insist but……please don’t.””
So what should a condo owner do? Now is a good time to really evaluate one’s financial situation. What a lot of people don’t realize is that they may be able to qualify to own a house with a suite. Once the condo fees are removed, and suite rental income added in, a house can be within reach.
Different Lenders treat suite rental income differently. Some Lenders are aggressive with how much suite rental income can be added into a Buyer’s income. The key is to work with an experienced Mortgage Broker who has access to a wide range of potential Lenders. Possibly house ownership is in your future and scary potential condo insurance spikes in your past.