10 Tips For Buying a Condo in Toronto

Posted by Simone Garcia

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More people are buying condos in Toronto than ever before. And while acquiring a condo in the city can prove a valuable investment down the road, there are also pitfalls if you don’t make an informed decision on your building and unit. 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
You probably already have a good idea of where you’d like to live. Still, before sealing the deal on anything, 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, theTDSB’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 sheet for 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).

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Primed Property: Do We Have to Upgrade Our Perfectly Fine But Aging Appliances Before Listing?

Sarah Kelsey, Special to National Post | October 19, 2015 11:11 AM ET

Buyers are looking for a kitchen with good flow and a cohesive style throughout, not necessarily up-to-the-minute appliances.

Q. Our kitchen appliances are in great working condition, but they’re not the most modern or stylish. We upgraded them along with our kitchen 15 years ago. Do purchasers care if a stove or fridge isn’t stainless steel? Would investing in new units increase our property’s value?

A. “The trick isn’t that all the appliances be modern or stylish, but instead that they are suited to the kitchen they are in,” says Chris Allen, a real estate agent and the author of The Book on Toronto Real Estate.

“Few things stand out as awkwardly as seeing brand new stainless steel appliances in a kitchen with worn melamine countertops, tired old cupboards and tarnished or mismatching cabinet handles.”

He recommends this family skip investing in new units largely because they now match the look of their space, the machines are in good condition and they were upgraded. The buyers may purchase the place with the thought of renovating it, in which case they’ll undoubtedly look to buy new appliances anyway.

Allen doesn’t deny that stainless steel stoves, fridges and dishwashers can positively affect the value of a home. The catch is they need to fit in with the overall look of a space.

“If someone has the standard white 1970s-style devices and they’ve renovated their kitchen so it now better suits a sleek black or stainless steel unit, then it’s time for an upgrade.”

Sellers should also look to buy new appliances if the ones they currently have don’t work, will cost a fortune to repair or if they’re downright dated.

“If someone’s 1950s fridge is still running strong, but has a face that looks its age, they may be better off replacing it,” he says. “They may also see potential cost savings in electricity by shutting the non-energy efficient unit off.”

Allen suggests this family take some time to thoroughly clean the stove, fridge and dishwasher before they list their property.

Another option is to look into some facade upgrades for the large units such as the fridge. Many tasteful paints and removable “wallpapers” can help cover up the appliance to make it look a little more modern. Google “fridge wallpaper” and “appliance paint.”

Overall, he says simply having new units is not enough to increase the value of a house.

“Buyers are looking for up-to-date appliances in a matching kitchen. What impresses them is when everything flows together nicely.”