Pick the right building
A few years ago, a real estate agent told me that many condo buyers
have a building in mind and want him to help them buy a unit in that
Buying a condo is not the same as buying a house as there are many
houses in a neighbourhood that may be a good fit but that is not true
There are cases where there are two identical condo buildings sitting
side-by-side that share some amenities. Yet the unit values, the
monthly fees, the cleanliness of the lobbies and hallways, the
percentage of units rented and the behaviour of the residents are very
different. You may be happy living in one of the towers and be
completely unhappy in the other.
to watch for
Do not buy in a building where the majority of the apartments consist
of bachelor units and one-bedroom units. You will end up in a building
that has 50-90% renters especially if it is downtown or along the
subway lines. If you want to live in a rental building, then rent
rather than buy.
What can these buildings be like? Loud parties that get way out of hand are not not common but do happen. In early June 2015, there was a shooting in the courtyard
between two very large CityPlace condos. Same situation as in the Toronto Star article above; young people
partying hard and the situation got out of control.
That shooting didn't make it into the news. Why? The shooter didn't hit
anyone and he made a clean get-a-way. The courtyard was too dark and
the video footage was too poor to give a good image.
Most likely most of the residents don't even know about it as condos are very good at keeping troubling news a secret.
When you find a building you are interested in, check the number of
units listed on MLS. Are there a lot of unhappy owners trying to sell?
boxes for a condo that has about 80 units shows that there may be a lot of
owners trying to sell.
Do not buy a unit in a condo where the major banks will not give a mortgage or where CMHC will not insure mortgages.
There is no "blacklist" as such, just like cops don't racial-profile
young men, but in reality there is a blacklist.
Look up the street address, the condo corporation number and the
property management company on the Internet and search for negative
comments. Use three different search engines as Yahoo, Bing and Google
may give you slightly different results.
Ask a couple of local police officers about any condo building where
you are thinking of buying a unit. They know all the problem buildings.
Ask the cops that are on the streets in the patrol cars. The officers
in the stations may not tell you want you need to know.
If the common element fees have not risen in the last few years, do not
buy. Instead of being a selling feature, a freeze in fees may mean a lot
of grief down the road.
Be extremely careful if the building has a special assessment. That can
be a sign of a condo that has serious maintenance or financial problems.
Direct link to the subway
A lot of people think walking to the subway without going outside is a
great feature. After talking to people who live in a condo that has
such a link to a busy bus terminal, I am not so sure about
this being such a great idea.
When the subways shutdown for the night, the homeless get off and look
for a place to spend the night. Nearby condos are ready targets.
The areas close to some subway stations and bus terminals are plagued
by litter, panhandlers, trespassers and a lot of petty crime. The subway stations,
and nearby restaurants, can bring mice and rats to your building.
A condo beside bars and restaurants may be an attraction for younger
buyers but the late night yelling, car honking and loud music may
bother seniors and those who need a good night's sleep.
Garbage trucks pick up commercial garbage late at night and restaurants
have their supplies delivered as late as 4:00 am. These trucks make a
lot of noise. If you are on a main street leading to a hospital or you
are close to a fire station, expect to hear sirens at all hours of the
Once you pick the condo corporation where you would like to live, then
look at the unit or units that are for sale and put in a reasonable
offer for the unit that you like.
If you feel that the asking price is too high, then put in an offer on
another unit that is for sale or sit back and wait for new listings.
You should not have to wait too long before you find a unit you like at
a price you are willing to pay.
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