An urban planner warns: beware of the too-cheap Toronto condo
The Globe and Mail
Tara Perkins—Real Estate Reporter
26 June 2014

Ute Lehrer, an associate professor at York University, would like to see people paying more for Toronto condos.

Why? Because you get what you pay for, she says.

“Sometimes you have to invest more up front in order to save later,” says Ms. Lehrer, who has a PhD in urban planning. “If I had the authority to advise, I would actually suggest that the entire building industry produce higher-quality condominiums over all, and that, of course, means higher prices.”

The reason Ms. Lehrer is concerned about prices boils down to construction standards, which she thinks are often not up to par. In her opinion, it’s the majority, not the minority, of Toronto condo developers who are not paying enough attention to quality. And that, she says, will result in headaches down the road – not only for condo owners, but for Toronto residents who will have to put up with more construction and repairs.

“These buildings, within 10 or a maximum of 20 years, will need major renovations,” she says. “And that’s pretty scary.”

She notes that while house owners can determine whether or not to do preventative maintenance such as redoing a roof, condo owners do not have the ability to single-handedly make those decisions because they are in the hands of condo boards. And she wants people to know that money spent now can become money saved later.

While problems such as falling glass get attention, she says the bigger problem could be the issues that aren’t so hazardous. “It’s about the everyday life experience that comes from the quality of the building,” she says.

“Toronto has not been known for paying attention to high-quality buildings,” Ms. Lehrer says. “I’m not an inspector, but from talking to people in the business, a lot of them have said that over the last three years, there have been quite a number of companies that are cutting more and more corners.”

“We know that in 10, 15 years, these buildings will need major renovations, and we are going to have to deal with that in a city that is pretty dense and built-up,” she says.

It would have helped if Ms. Lehrer would have stated what construction defects she is talking about and given potential condo buyers tips on what to look for.

As it stands, buyers may be better off following my advice and buy re-sales that are five or six years old. The building defects will have shown up by then.

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