Can I Make Purchase Offer on Condition of Permit Approval?

Q: I have found a strata townhome that I love but it’s not quite big enough, so I only want to buy it if I’m allowed to build a small extension out back. Is there any way I can get City and strata approval before committing to the purchase?

A: Buying a home is a great step in a person’s life, but often times it doesn’t feel like a home until you personalize the structure and the property it sits on. This is what makes it your “home”, adding a little bit of your personality to the unit and making it work better for your needs. Getting approval from City Hall and a strata council can sometimes be a lengthy process, so let’s look into the specifics on how to get it done.

When you are dealing with a townhouse strata council, often times approval can be written into a purchase contract. Accomplishing this is most likely possible when the complex is house that has been converted into four or five townhouse units. In that scenario it’s relatively simple to get three to four owners to meet and approve the extension. But if the complex is 20 or more units, it can be very difficult to get the necessary numbers of owners together to form a quorum that can approve the proposal. It’s possible this eventuality has already been planned for within the strata plan, but every plan is going to be different and building will usually still require City approval.

Getting approval from City Hall in this scenario is a relative non-starter. As we all know governments are generally known for taking their time in approving building permits. The City of Vancouver and surrounding municipalities are certainly no exception to this rule. Generally you’ll want to budget three to 12 months to get approval. Most purchase contracts allow a buyer five to 14 days to secure financing, review documents and get necessary approvals. You’d have to be working with an incredibly patient seller to get them agree to wait longer. Visit the City of Vancouver’s permits website for the necessary contact information for the permits and regulations department, or that of your local municipality.

It’s extremely unlikely you’d be able to get approval in a timely manner to ensure that both buyer and seller are mutually satisfied with the time frame. In the current state of the Vancouver market it would be completely incompetent for an agent to advise a seller to accept a purchase contract with this stipulation in the agreement. If the seller moves on from your offer, it’s very likely someone will come in with another offer without this requirement. The demand in Vancouver is high, and sellers are in the driver’s seat.

Best-case scenario is you offer more than asking price but also a possession date of six to 12 months in the future, and that works for the sellers. This would give you enough time to get approval from both the strata and city hall. If the seller isn’t in a major rush to leave their home and finds your offer of extra money appealing it could be possible to add this condition to the contract. It’s a very unlikely scenario, but it is theoretically possible.

Even in this scenario, the seller would be taking a huge risk accepting your offer. What if strata doesn’t approve the extension? What if City Hall doesn’t approve the extension? The sellers would be putting themselves in a very risky position by effectively taking the property off the market. So you’d better make it worth their while!