Condo sales are at an all-time high. In cities like Toronto and Vancouver, people are rediscovering the joys of living downtown again, along with the low-maintenance, easy lifestyle that goes with havng your very own castle in the clouds. A condo is an affordable way into the market, especially for young people.
Marius Mitrofan, an Broker with RE/MAX Realtron Realty in Toronto, has been helping clients buy and sell condos for more than 10 years and offers these 10 insider tips when you’re thinking of going condo.
When you purchase a condominium, you purchase and have title to your individual unit in a multi-unit property, and share in the ownership of the land and other common property with all the other unit owners. The type of common property varies depending on the type of condominium - high rise or townhouse for example - and would include hallways, elevators, heating system, parking structures, landscaped areas, recreation areas, etc.
The difference between an "apartment" complex and condominium is legal. There is no way to differentiate a condominium from an apartment simply by looking at or visiting the building. What defines a condominium is the form of ownership. The same building developed as a condominium (and sold in individual units to differentowners) could actually be built at another location as an apartment building (the developers would retain ownership and rent individual units to differenttenants).
A condominium is a collection of individual home units and common areas along with the land upon which they sit. Individual home ownership within a condominium is construed as ownership of only the air space confining the boundaries of the home. The boundaries of that space are specified by a legal document known as a Declaration, filed on record with the local governing authority. Typically, these boundaries will include the wall surrounding a condo, allowing the homeowner to make some interior modifications without impacting the common area. Anything outside this boundary is held in an undivided ownership interest by a corporation established at the time of the condominium’s creation. The corporation holds this property in trust on behalf of the homeowners as a group–-it may not have ownership itself.
Condominiums have conditions, covenants, and restrictions, and often additional rules that govern how the individual unit owners are to share the space. It is also possible for a condominium to consist of single-family dwellings; so-called "detached condominiums" where homeowners do not maintain the exteriors of the dwellings, yards, etc.
Keeping the following tips in mind will save you money, time, and the mental trauma of spending half your monthly pay cheque on unused maintenance fees.
Here are 10 tips for buying a condo in Toronto.
1. Know your location, and know it well
Be sure to check out proximity to grocery stores, transit, schools, or any other relevant amenities. Some resources available to you in this capacity is this very site's neighbourhood guide, the TDSB's school finder, and the city of Toronto's neighbourhood rankings.
2. Don't be afraid to ask/pay for upgrades
If you're shelling out mad cash for a pre-owned condo, do not hesitate to ask the former owners for upgrades before your move-in date. If you're buying pre-constructed, it pays to invest in the right upgrades right off the bat. You'll reap the rewards later. What should you do? Here are two lists of suggestions for Toronto condo upgrades.
3. Assess the building's overall physical condition, inside and out
Some faults are easy to spot, while others pose more of a challenge. Hiring a home inspector is less common for condo units, but the investment is typically minimal ($100-200), and could prevent a lot of headaches down the line. Find a home inspector using this directory. Another option? Bring an experienced friend/relative/advisor.
4. Meet the building staff
This one is pretty much a given - if you like the people working there, chances are you're going to like living there. Plus, if ever anything should go wrong with your unit, it pays to have the staff on your side. The same rule applies should you need to bend the rules: extra parking passes are a sweet, sweet gift.
5. Research the condo developer and corporation
You don't want to put your faith in a developer with little experience building condos nor you certainly do you want to be buying into a place that's loaded down by debt. Researching those who are behind the construction and management of your condo is crucial. Review the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation's tip sheetfor buying a condo, which covers the basic research you should do.
6. Make sure you won't lose your view
What's being built next door? If another sky-high condo is in the works and threatening to block your hard-earned view, you may want to steer clear. You might be able to check this just by touring the neighbourhood on foot, but you'll want to also check the Toronto Development Applications website.
7. Evaluate the building's current residents
Is your home to be comprised mostly of renters? Do the current residents seem loud, or, on the other hand, intolerable of noise? Your condo's demographics are likely to have some impact on resale value - not to mention the happiness of your residence there. This can't be internet research; you have to speak to staff and current residents to sketch the picture.
8. Ask your realtor to provide you with a detailed history of the place if it's been previously owned, and to provide you with a future projection of the resale price
Condos.ca is a good resource for some of this information, but it's a good idea to test the mettle of your real estate agent. Find out how much the unit sold for previously and try to determine how much money you can expect to make down the line. Market trends change, but it's key to go through these exercises before buying.
9. Buy a parking space if you can
It might sound counter intuitive with condo dwellers increasingly giving up on car-focused lifestyles, but even if you don't drive, if you're buying a new condo, make sure to fork out for a parking space. When it comes time to sell, you'll thank yourself for it.
10. Beware of occupancy fees
There's always a period of time between when you take occupancy of your condo and the building becomes officially registered in Ontario, during which you must pay occupancy fees or what is sometimes called "phantom rent" (because it doesn't go to your mortgage). This is unavoidable, but the period is generally shorter when dealing with 1) experienced developers and 2) the higher up your unit is (low floors move in sooner).
What did I miss? Add your tips and suggestions in the comments.