What you should know before you agree to buy a condo
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Great towers of glass and steel are going up in every big city in this country, and in many of the smaller ones too. If you’re looking to buy your first home, or if you're looking to downsize, chances are good you’re looking at condos. You may be surprised to learn that the beautiful rooms you see in the model suites are not necessarily like the ones you’ll live in once your building is complete. The den on your floor plans may become a walk-in closet by the time you move in. Your ceilings may turn out to be a foot or two lower than the ones you saw in the model suite when you decided to buy. As Wendy Mesley reports, buying a condo is fraught with risk for you, the buyer. The developers? They’re pretty well protected.
Condo developments are hot, and so is the market. The result is an atmosphere with lots of pressure to sign up now and buy quickly. It’s important not to let yourself be pressured into a bad deal. So.
Have the contract reviewed by a competent lawyer. Get a real estate lawyer, one who is familiar with condos. You may be able to have "weasel" clauses replaced with ones that offer you greater protection. Also, you may be able to have floor plans, finishes or other details written into the contract itself. You may also be able to have certain fees removed from the contract, shifting them to the developer.
Don't believe everything you see in the model suites and read in the brochures. Most people know that many model suites are loaded with upgrades. But Marketplace measured and found that sometimes the model suites can be larger than the suites in the actual floorplans. Also, the floorplan (with room dimensions and square footage) may not be attached to your contract, and legally the contract is all you've got. Try to have it added in, or make sure you can live with what's in the fine print.
Be prepared to walk away. Don't buy only because the salespeople tell you they are mostly sold out and you are caught up in the hype. If you want the place so badly you’re not thinking straight, you’re more likely to make a rash decision. There will be other shiny glass towers. You don't necessarily have to be first to get the best price. When developers are trying to sell enough units later on so they can start construction, they may be willing to strike a bargain with you then too.
Consider using a buyer's real estate agent. The real estate agents at condo sales represent developers' interests and are not legally obligated to tell you certain things unless you ask. If you get your own real estate agent they will represent your interests. Having an advocate who can help you navigate the market could also help you avoid making mistakes. And the best part? It won't cost you anything. As long as you don't register at the sales site, the developer will pay your agent's fees.
Remember that every condo development has "dog" suites. If you don’t want to live next to the garbage chute, you need to know where the garbage chute is. Learn to read your blueprint so you can see for yourself where the columns will be, what rooms have windows and which don't, and where the elevators and utility rooms are.
Try to research your developer. Ask them what other condo developments they have completed. Some developers may be just starting with no track record of completed condos. Be aware of additional costs. You must be prepared to pay between 1.5% and 2% of the purchase price in closing costs. Watch out for equipment leasing: Builders can lease everything from water heaters to elevators, and pass the costs on to buyers. One common surprise we've heard from condo owners is the occupancy fee. From the time you actually move in to the time your condo closes, you will have to pay an occupancy fee, before you start making mortgage payments.
David Pylyp This short video is produced by CBC MarketPlace and is worth a review. For highlites of the Humber Bay Shore Condo's existing and in preconstruction consult the index contained here. Etobicoke Condos have their own directory and index.