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Navigating the current condo market

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Navigating the current condo market

Toronto’s condominium market has been in a state of flux this year. Construction costs have skyrocketed, affordability remains an issue and there have been an increasing number of cancelled projects. If you’re planning to buy a new preconstruction condo, but this shifting landscape has left you confused and uncertain, you’re not alone.

Mark Cohen of The Condo Store Marketing Systems (TSCMS) has been working with some of Ontario’s most reputable developers for more than 35 years and is one of Canada’s foremost sales and marketing experts. Here is his advice on how to navigate the current condo market.

How can I be confident that I’ve chosen the right builder and my project won’t get cancelled?

This is trickier than it used to be. Buying from a reputable, established builder used to be secure, but even some large builders have cancelled projects recently. However, these builders tend to deliver on their promises. There is a reason they’ve been in business 40 or 50 years. Do your homework; research the builder’s history.

Go to the Tarion home warranty program website (tarion.com) to check a builder’s record for unit completions and deficiencies. Don’t buy from a brochure or from what a salesperson tells you. I am shocked at how many people buy without seeing anything the builder has done before. Go see other things the builder has built.

What else should I do to protect myself?

Read every word in your sales and purchase agreement. Builders’ contracts tend to be one-sided. Ask the salesperson if the builder can cancel and what will happen if he does. If a project isn’t financeable, the purchaser can’t legitimately fight that. Buyers need to be far more savvy about whom they are buying from and ask hard questions.

What should I expect from a sales agent?

Many buyers are represented by an agent these days and your agent – or the builder’s salesperson – should make you aware of everything you need to know. You should be given a presentation, then have time to review and digest. The most important thing is to feel comfortable. A good sales agent should look you in the eye, answer your questions and be fully transparent.

If you feel pressured to make a decision in 24 hours, you shouldn’t buy from that person. A salesperson should take time to connect with you and care about your needs.

I like what I see in the sales brochure in terms of amenities, floorplans and finishes. What else should I consider?

Buildings have personalities. Many have a lot of investor buyers. People could be using their units as Airbnb suites, or there may be student renters partying because there’s a university down the street. Your neighbours matter, your physical environment matters and where you are buying matters. If you’re buying as an investment, purchase with yourself in mind as if you can’t rent it or get enough rent; you may have to live in it. Ask the salesperson who else is buying and for specifics beyond “a mix of people.”

Being near public transit is huge. It’s rush hour all day and there are few parking lots left. You don’t want to drive if you don’t have to. In many condos, outdoor space is compromised. Check how walkable the neighbourhood is (walkscore.com), and if you can walk to parks and shopping.

The condos I can afford are small. Why don’t they have some of the features I want, such as big closets?

Most condos are not designed with house-like features. Space is valuable and less is more. Many people want closets, but often opt for a more minimalist approach when living in a condo to work with the lack of square footage so that their living space is fully utilized.

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