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Is it harder to make a smart choice in buying a condo, or a house? A house is the sum of its parts, which you can review and inspect before buying. With a condo, there’s the unit you’re buying and then there’s the entire building to consider. You need to evaluate both before buying a condo, but how?

You’ll find some solid suggestions in this list of 14 ways to spot a bad condo. Some of the best tips:

  • Check the elevators for wear and tear and wait times: Elevators are expensive to maintain and replace
  • Look at construction quality: Check for cracks in the walls or ceiling, for ill-fitting doors and gaps in the floor laminate
  • Look for awkward floor plans: One example is a bedroom without a window, or irregular corners that won’t take furniture
  • Noise and smells: Visit the building when most people are likely to be home
  • Airbnb rentals and partying: Important factors for quality of life in the building

14 signs that your condo might be problematic.

A condo building’s finances are just as important as its appearance. In a recent column, I talked to condo lawyer Denise Lash about what to look for while scrutinizing a condo’s financial solidity. You want a well-run building that has budgeted for major repairs and isn’t likely to ask residents to pay a special assessment.

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Rob’s personal finance reading list…

Protect your kids from identity theft

Yes, this is a thing. “With just a Social Insurance Number and a child’s name, thieves can begin to build a fake identity to steal from credit card companies, banks and other organizations,” says Kelley Keehn, consumer advocate at the Financial Planning Standards Council.

Wincing our way to retirement

A baby boomer reflects on what retirement is going to be like for her generation. “Being warehoused in sterile institutions, as many of our elders now are, is not going to suffice for baby boomers, possibly the largest, most demanding, and politically active cohort ever.”

Bitcoin is useless

So says The Economist in an article that argues crypto currencies are currently a focus for speculation, not an online replacement for cash. Investors, take note.

Student debt is getting worse

Debt levels taken on by students in Canada are nowhere near the levels seen in the United States, but they are both significant and growing. This is the conclusion of a bankruptcy trustee that is seeing student debts playing a bigger role in insolvencies.

Today’s financial tool

Financial planner Sandi Martin created this thread on Twitter to highlight fellow planners across the country who focus on advice for clients, not selling investment products.

Ask Rob

Q: I’ve recently encountered an option in my employer-sponsored DC pension plan in which I can start buying annuities. I’m currently 50 – does it make sense to start to allocate some of my contribution to annuities and use the rest to invest in more risky assets?

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A: Defined contribution pensions are really more of a savings plan than an actual pension. When you retire, you must take the money in a DC pension and create your own income stream with it. Depending on how you invest it, the money will be subject to stock-market ups and downs and can run out before you die. The option for DC pension plan members to buy an annuity is a response to this flaw in DC pensions. Using some of your pension money to buy annuities would give you a locked-in, money-for-life income stream. Suggestion: Wait until you’re much closer to retirement to consider an annuity. By then, you’ll more or less know how much total retirement savings you have. This information would allow you to decide how much of your savings, if any, you want to use to buy an annuity, and how much to invest in funds, stocks, bonds and such.

Do you have a question for me? Send it my way. Sorry I can’t answer every one personally. Questions and answers are edited for length and clarity.

In case you missed these Globe and Mail personal finance stories

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