My buying tips

This may seem to be overdoing it but believe me, there are thousands of condo owners who wish they had followed a list like this before they bought.

Keep in mind that you are investing in a private corporation as well as buying a home. Would you invest all your savings and take out a long-term loan to invest in a corporation on the stock market without first doing a lot of research? So why do you think that buying a share of a condominium corporation is less risky than buying shares in a New Guinea gold mining company or opening a joint bank account with a Nigerian prince?

Select a real estate lawyer that will be working for you. Insure that he or she has condominium experience, carefully checks the title and reads the status certificate. Ask if he has ever recommended that his clients walk away from a closing. If so, what were the reasons?
(Retain a real estate lawyer before you select a real estate agent.)
Select a home inspector who has experience inspecting condominiums. Ask what problems he has found while inspecting condos.

Ask if he inspects the fan coil units and what parts of the common areas is part of his inspection. If you are buying an older townhouse, be sure the inspector checks for fire stops in the attic.

Keep in mind that the inspectors do not warrantee their work for more than the cost of their fees.
(Select a home inspector before you select a real estate agent.)
Now select a real estate agent. Let the agent know what you are looking for and if you are pre-approved for a mortgage. Tell the agent that before putting in an offer on a unit, you will want all the sales history he or she can find on the MLS on number of units in that building that where put on the market, the asking prices and actual sale prices and how long they took to close. Give your agent a good idea of what you are looking for and what you will not accept.
Do not buy a unit in a condominium that is less than five to six years old. It takes that long for the major construction defects to show up.
I would not buy in a condominium that has more than 200-230 units.
Buy a unit that is priced at or above the Toronto average condo price for your unit’s size. I would be very careful buying anything cheaper.
If the common elements fees are less than 60 a square foot (2011), they are probably too low to properly maintain the building, keep the amenities in good shape and adequately fund the reserves. This will mean big trouble down the road.
When calculating if you can afford the monthly occupancy costs, add a 50% increase in condo fees to the figure. You can never tell when a hefty condo fee increase may hit.
Don’t buy the biggest or most expensive unit in a condo. Those units may become the hardest ones to sell and they appreciate the least.
Units that are beside the staircases, especially on the 2nd or 3rd floor may hear the staircase door bang all the time. If your bedroom backs on the garbage chute, you may hear garbage being dropped down the chute at all hours, no matter what the by-laws say. Units above the party room or the basketball courts may have to put up with noise all day and every evening.
Check the city’s Municipal Licensing and Standards website to see if the city inspectors opened any Investigations for the property over the last two years. You may want to check the Bedbug Alert websites.

Here is an example of a surprise that the city's site may show.

Inspect the building more than once. Ask to look at all the amenities, check your locker room, the staircases and several hallways and garbage chutes.
Inside the unit, rap your knuckles on the ceramic floor tiles. If some of them were poorly installed, you will hear a hollow sound.

That means there is too little adhesive under the tile. In my second condo we had three tiles in the kitchen and one in the foyer like that. If anything heavy fell on them, they would crack for sure.
(The home inspector should do all the other necessary checks inside the unit.)
Inspect the parking space. Any oil, grease or chemical spills must be cleaned up to the board’s satisfaction by the seller prior to your taking possession.
Check the parking garage for signs of water leaks or corroded pipes. These can be extremely expensive to fix.

Are there any signs in the garage of abandoned cars or break-ins? Will you feel safe walking in that garage at night?
Any old cars or vans filled up to the roof with belongings and being used as storage lockers?
If you have two cars, where will you park the second one? Check the Bulletin Board to see if there are any parking spots for rent.
Is there sufficient Visitor Parking? The new buildings in downtown Toronto may not have any Visitor Parking.
Do not buy in a building where the ground floor commercial units remain in control of the building developer. The builder can use that block of votes to keep control of the board of directors.
Take a very good look around the property; a couple of visits lasting a couple hours, not a few minutes. Spend an hour or two in the lobby. Will you feel that you would feel comfortable with the people and the employees you see.
Read the notices on the bulletin board. It may reveal lots about what is going on.
Divide the number of units by the number of elevators. There should be one elevator for every 60 units. Many new buildings do not have enough elevators. When one is on service because someone is moving and one is broken, you could have a single elevator handling over 300 units in a 26 floor building.
Take a walk through the residential floors during and just after dinnertime. Look for signs of excessive odours from cooking, cigarette or marijuana smoking.
Talk to the residents you meet in the lobby or in the elevators. Ask if they have any issues. Keep in mind that many owners will not say anything that will give the building a bad reputation. Renters are far more candid.
If you plan to buy a unit in an area that has a large Chinese population, do not buy on a floor that has the number four or twenty four. These two numbers are considered bad luck. (There are condos in Scarborough, CityPlace and Mississauga that do not have floors with the numbers 4, 13, 14, 24, 34 or PH04.)

The Toronto Fire Department stopped this practice for new buildings as it is a hazard for the firemen when they are fighting fires and need to communicate their position.)
If you are buying a parking spot or a locker, insist on getting a status certificate.
If the kitchen has been renovated with an expensive European stove and expensive stone counters, check the space for the stove between the counter tops. They may be only 29" and not able to fit standard 30" North American stoves.
If you are buying a 30-40 year old condo, check to see if it has aluminum electrical wiring. If built between 1995 and 2005, make sure it does not have Kitec plumping pipes.
If the condo has been renovated, check to see that the electrical wiring meets code. Some kitchen contractors do not employ licenced electricians.
If you are buying an older condo and the the unit has a washer/dryer, check to see that this is allowed by the declaration, by-laws or rules and that the electrical and plumbing work meets city codes.
Do not buy in an over-crowded condo corporation where they ignore units that have been converted into rooming houses, where the bedrooms have locks on the doors and where living rooms or solariums have been converted into bedrooms unless you intend to do the same.
When viewing a resale condo, pull out the stove and the refrigerator and look behind them. If you see a disgusting mess, the asking price—if you are still interested—takes a hit.
Read the by-laws and rules carefully. If they are too vague or silent on many issues, that is a a troubling sign. However, on the other side, if they are too rigid, you could end up living in a "Little Pyongyang" with the building superintendents and cleaners being ten-cent "Red Guards".
Check on the selling prices for all the units in the building. If prices have not appreciated for the last three years or so, do not buy.
If you are buying a fairly new condo off the original buyer, ask for the list of defects that were registered with the builder. Some builders have that information stored on an electronic database and they will not share that information with resale buyers even if the unit is still under warranty.
When buying a conversion, get written assurances that there is no aluminum wiring or asbestos in your unit or in the common elements.
Pets. Read the Declaration and rules about pet ownership.
Test your cell phone in the hallways, elevators, parking garage, common elements and in every room of the unit. Check your smart phone for wireless and network connections. Depending on your provider's network, you may not be able to read your e-mails in your building.
Ask to see the current Annual Fire Safety Inspection report and the latest clear Fire Safety Inspection Certificate.
Save your last inspection for the day before the closing date. See if there are any signs of damage that either you missed earlier or may have happened since you last inspected the unit.
Check the condo's address, corporation number and the developer's marketing name on the Internet to see if anything important pops up.
Very important. Ask the seller and the seller’s real estate agent if there are any deficiencies in the unit or with the corporation’s common elements that they have not disclosed.
Have your lawyer phone the property manager two days before closing to insure there are no back charges or unpaid fees owing on the unit.

top   contents   chapter   previous   next