Making a List & Checking It Twice: Condo Shopping

condo

If you follow Toronto real estate you might’ve heard many dubbing 2017 The Year of the Condo. The early part of 2017 was frenzied with many multiples and price hikes of 30+% year over year then came the provincial government intervention in the spring, buyers stepped back, the focus shifted to the more affordable condo.

There are condo people, like me, who simply prefer to live downtown: the walkable, bikeable lifestyle, I love my amenities and my community. Then there are downsizers—I fall into that category too—investors, and this increased draw to the condo is due to…the expense of living in Toronto, surprising I know, for some it’s the only entry point into the market. Throughout 2017 while prices for other types of housing began to pull back the opposite happened with the condo. We’re a big city that continues to densify, there is demand, January 2018 saw the introduction of additional finance rules reducing buying power hence the aforementioned affordability factor; with hefty price increases (up 17.9% 2017 vs 2016) the apartment condo is a sound, and for many preferred, option.

So, starting your 2018 shopping the condo market?

10 to consider:

  1. Location. This will obviously be entirely subjective and impacted by budget
  2. The visual: do you like the architecture of the building, design of the lobby, are the hallways maintained? I bought in a mid-rise building, do you prefer large, high-rise or more boutique or hard loft?
  3. Pets. It’s high on my list, I have a dog and I like animals around. Some buildings will be pet-free (yes, they are allowed to do this if it’s in the condo declaration/rules), many will have a restricted policy typically speaking to the number of pets and with dogs often a restriction in size as well. My building is maximum 50lbs.
  4. Amenities. Some older building conversions have few amenities as compared to newer which typically sport gym, sauna, shared workspace, meeting room for rent, rental guest suites, pool, rooftop gardens etc but on the flip side an older building often comes with larger living spaces. Make sure you look at all amenities even if you aren’t going to use—think resale—note the cleanliness and condition of. Do you want a 24hr concierge? Add that to your list.
  5. Air conditioning: yes, most will have central air but if it matters, be sure.
  6. Parking. Certainly if you live downtown, as I do, parking is a consideration. Buying resale? Does it come with a parking spot and is this on title with the unit i.e. you could sell it should you choose. Or is it exclusive use for the unit? You do not own the spot in this case, its use is tied to your unit but you don’t own it, you can’t sell it. If you’re buying new be prepared to pay anywhere from $40-70k, or more depending what you’re buying into, to buy a spot—I was unable to buy due to lack of supply but a street permit from the city is very affordable, if less convenient.
  7. Visitor parking: where is it, is it paid parking, is there sufficient? This wouldn’t be a make or break for me but do consider and explore.
  8. Bike parking. Street parking for bikes in Toronto, well, I wouldn’t do it ongoing. Like many I’ve had several bikes stolen. Secure underground in the same area as secure resident car parking is what to look for.
  9. Condo fees. This is a big discussion! There are some who won’t consider condos because of the fees—fees are in addition to your property taxes—but I look at the money I set aside for my last house: new roof, new sidewalk, replaced a front porch, new deck, I’d a drainage problem with my driveway to name but a few; I see condo fees as just that, maintenance. I pay for my amenities, which I use, building maintenance, landscaping and funds go to the reserve for future work. This is where your lawyer comes in, she/he will review the status certificate to assess the financial health and management of the corporation. This review is a must, DO NOT leave this condition off your offer to purchase.
  10. Remember this is a condo, there are rules to follow, personally I’m grateful for that. Ask if you think it impacts your lifestyle, for instance: you can’t make alterations to your balcony, often you can’t store your bike or use your balcony for storage, do you bbq? ask if you’re allowed (buildings may have a common grilling area you can reserve, mine does), often your window coverings must read white or neutral from the street for uniformity (you can have whatever colour inside but your liner may need to be neutral), you need approval for certain types of in unit work, replacing flooring i.e. hardwood/sound reduction for your neighbours, some work will come with parameters and require approval.

A few points to consider as you launch your search, everyone’s wants and needs are different. Research, ask questions, use your friends who’ve been down the condo road, use your realtor, use your lawyer and enjoy the hunt!

 

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