So you’re thinking of buying a condo in Toronto. Here’s what you need to consider:
1. Building Amenities – In Toronto, we’ve got condos with bowling alleys, massage tables, dog washing stations and billiards rooms; media centres, golf driving ranges and aerobics classes. When picking the condo you want to buy, think long and hard about what you will actually use. Those sexy amenities are fun to brag about, but don’t forget that you’ll be paying for them every month as part of your condo fees.
2. Parking – Not all condos in Toronto have parking. In fact, many new condo developments don’t even offer parking spaces to suites smaller than 1 bedroom + den. Private, owned parking spaces are expensive; we’ve seen builders charging anywhere from $19,000-60,000 for a parking space. If you don’t need parking, this might be an opportunity to save some money – but it might hurt you on resale. If you need parking but the place you love doesn’t have a spot, look into the possibility of renting in the building (check the bulletin board in the lobby).
3. Storage – Builders seem to be getting smarter about this, but the truth is that many condos don’t have a lot of storage. Do you need a locker? Can you build in storage? Is it time to purge your high school year books? Don’t forget that the amount of stuff you have will exponentially grow the longer you’re in the condo, so take a serious look at how much storage you need and aim to find more.
4. Quality of construction – We say it all the time: in Toronto, there are good condos, and there are bad condos – buy a good one. The quality of the construction doesn’t only impact appearance – it impacts maintenance, costs, noise and resale values. Work with a Realtor who’s familiar with the condos and builders in your target area – they’ll know a lot about the buildings that may not be obvious to you.
5. Unattractive features – When shopping for a condo, look out for things that might detract from value – small windows and dark spaces with minimal natural light, bad odours coming from neighbouring businesses and noises from ground-level tenants.
6. Owner/Occupiers vs Tenants – Given you’re probably a tenant right now, you’ve probably never considered the impact tenants can have on property values. Generally speaking, the higher the percentage of owners who live in their suites, the better maintained the building (which usually translates to better appreciation of prices). Owners tend to take good care of the common elements (hallways, pools, the gym etc.) because they know that if they need to be replaced, it’s their $$$. The percentage of tenanted units is identified in the condominium’s status certificate – more than 25% might be cause for concern (unless of course you’re an investor, in which case that might be a good thing).
7. Management – Property management companies vary in quality, and well managed buildings hold their value better, let alone are more pleasant to live in. Your condo board is responsible for hiring and managing the property management company, which in turn hires the staff (on-site property manager, concierge, cleaning company, etc.)
8. Location – As with all real estate decisions, location, location, location. Consider transportation options, demographics in the area and building and the stage of development of the neighbourhood. Proximity to grocery stores, parks, schools and night-life are not only important for your enjoyment, but they’re critical for resale.
9. View – Don’t ever get attached to a view (unless it’s the lake, and even then…). In a city that’s changing as fast as Toronto, anything can happen. Above all else, never trust a parking lot – there’ll probably be a condo there in a few years. And while you may have paid for a great city view when you bought the condo, that new building with a 20 foot set-back will certainly affect the resale value of your home.
10. Building appearance and maintenance – Toronto is home to some of the nicest – and the ugliest – condos. Just ask Christopher Hume (condo critic for the Toronto Star). Will the building you’re considering buying in be attractive to other buyers? Is it in a good state of repair? When you walk into the lobby after a long day at the office, will it feel like home?