Ask the right questions to help with your condo buying decisions
Buying a new condominium can be both exciting and a little scary. The best thing to do is to arm yourself with information so you can be prepared for the decisions that you’ll need to make along the way.
Here are 10 things to consider before you buy:
1) What are you buying?
You’ll need to know the boundaries of the unit, what the common areas include, and whether what’s been promised in the glossy brochures is actually included in the Agreement of Purchase and Sale. Many unhappy condo buyers have found out too late that the highlights of the sales materials were just wishful thinking – not a formal part of the agreement.
2) What amenities are most important to you?
A fully-equipped gym, rooftop garden, lounge or pool might be the kinds of things that you’re looking for in a condo project, but they will impact not only the purchase price but also your monthly condo fees. The good news is that these features come with their own warranty. The bad news is that they are often some of the last parts of the building to be completed, so they might not be available when you move in.
3) What upgrades make the most sense?
If you’re going to live in your condo for a long time, you might choose different upgrades than if you’re buying it as an investment. You need to be sure that your decor choices and any upgrades are recorded in your purchase agreement. This way, if there are substitutions made, you may have recourse under the warranty.
4) Is your deposit protected?
Under the Condominium Act, deposits and any monies paid for upgrades or extras must be kept in trust and returned to you in full if for some reason the project does not get built. If something happens and the deposit is not re-paid, you can make a claim to Tarion for up to $20,000.
5) Is your view likely to change?
If you’re looking forward to gazing out over a lake or a forest, make sure you (or your lawyer) check with the city planning department to find out what other new developments are proposed for the area near your condo.
6) Are pets welcome?
Not all condos allow pets, and if a dog or cat is an important part of your family, you’ll need to know what the condominium corporation will allow. You should also be aware that the rules for service animals may be quite different.
7) Can you afford the monthly maintenance fees?
Separate from the cost of your condo, you must pay maintenance fees to share in the cost of maintaining and operating shared amenities and the building itself. Those shared costs usually include window cleaning, snow and garbage removal, landscaping and janitorial service. You’ll need to know what’s included in your maintenance fees and what you’ll be paying separately.
8) Will the building be fully accessible for people with disabilities or other mobility issues?
While some accommodation requirements are now built into the Ontario Building Code, that doesn’t mean the building will be accessible to everyone. If you’re buying the condo for retirement living, you may want to consider your accessibility needs for the future. If you purchase accessibility features for your unit from your builder, these will be covered under the warranty, as long as they’re included in the purchase agreement.
9) Will there be a lot of restrictions on how you can use your unit?
With the popularity of short-term rentals such as AirBnB, some condo communities are trying to put in rules that limit this practice – or disallow it altogether. If you’re hoping to pay your mortgage by renting out your unit, you need to confirm the rules before you buy.
10) Are you going to want to make changes once you move in?
Your unit warranty covers the builder’s work but not any DIY projects or additional renovations you make. Condo boards may also have strict rules against, or at least approval processes for, any customization that you might want to do – from painting your door red to taking down a wall between two rooms.
Like any big purchase, the more you know about buying a condo, the better prepared you’ll be. To learn more about condo warranties and for tips on buying pre-construction condos, visit tarion.com.
Howard Bogach is president and CEO of Tarion Warranty Corp., a private corporation established to protect the rights of new homebuyers and to regulate new home builders.