Condos are often the most affordable option for first-time buyers, especially in Toronto’s red-hot real estate market. They also appeal to people who want attractive on-site amenities, an enhanced sense of security and relatively maintenance-free living.
However, condos are subject to more rules and regulations than a freehold home, so it’s important that you do your homework. To help, here are 10 questions to ask before moving forward with an offer that go beyond what you’ll typically find in a status certificate.
1. Are there enough elevators?
One of the most frustrating aspects of living in a condo is waiting for an elevator, especially when in a hurry. Good indications that there aren’t enough to service the building are elevator lineups, almost full cabs/cars and lengthy waits. One way around this is to look for a unit on a lower level so you can simply use the stairs. As an added bonus, you won’t pay a ‘floor premium’ for living higher up.
2. Where are the garbage disposal chutes?
Living close to the garbage chute can be super convenient when you want to throw out your trash but also quite noisy when others are doing so. And then there are the smells that can waft from people’s waste and a dirty trash chute.
3. What are the amenities?
The more building amenities, the higher your maintenance fees for use and upkeep. If you’re unlikely to take advantage of them, then you’re paying a premium for nothing.
Also, consider where they’re located. You may be less inclined to traipse over to a sister building to utilize amenities, in which case you may not get your money’s worth. And if they’re on the floor above, below or on the same one as your unit, then get ready for more noise and heavier than usual traffic.
4. What level of service is provided by the concierge?
With the growth of online ordering, food delivery and dog walking services, having a 24-hour concierge can prove incredibly beneficial. Not only can they sign for your packages but they track visitors to the building, adding another level of security. But just like having a plethora of amazing amenities, a full-service concierge will cost you more as it’s factored into your maintenance fees.
5. What’s up with the balcony?
Sometimes you’re limited to what you’re allowed to do on your outdoor space. Smoking and even barbecuing can be forbidden, as well as bike storage. And there may be noise restrictions that could impede its use when you have guests. (Think party.) Or there might be noises you have to deal with like an industrial air conditioner or street/pedestrian traffic.
6. What are the pet restrictions?
Most buildings have rules about the type, size and number of pets you can have, and some have an absolute ban, though this is rare and the courts often deem an outright prohibition unreasonable.
7. How big is the locker?
If the unit comes with a locker, your Realtor should be able to obtain the exact size from the listing agent. Regardless, make sure to physically take a look to determine if it’s spacious enough to stash additional belongings or off-season gear. Location is also key in terms of security and ease of access.
8. What is the parking situation?
Just like with the locker, you’ll want to check out the physical spot to see if your car will not only fit into it easily but there is enough room for the passenger to also exit it while parked. How close the space is to the elevator and what level it’s on are other considerations, as they can impact how long it takes you to actually get up to your suite.
It’s also wise to find out about visitor parking. Generally, bigger buildings have more parking for guests. If there aren’t many spaces, then you might want to see if there’s a nearby Green P lot or on-street parking so they can easily park when visiting.
9. Is there Kitec plumbing in the unit and/or building?
Kitec is a brand of plastic piping that was widely used in condos built between 1995 and 2007, as well as for general plumbing repairs and renovations, because it was more affordable and easier to install than copper piping. Both the pipes and fittings are alleged to corrode quickly and even fail entirely (or burst), which can lead to flooding and subsequently costly repairs as remediation requires access behind walls and through floors. The system is also alleged to cause clogging, poor water pressure and flow. Insurers and financial lenders generally don’t like Kitec and often require that it be changed out. Replacing the pipes can cost anywhere from $4,000 to $15,000 for a condo unit, with the exact price dependent on its size.
10. What’s planned for the area?
It’s no fun living in a construction zone. In addition to scoping out the neighbourhood for developments already underway, you should research the local area for what’s on the horizon. The City of Toronto’s website lists development projects that are in the planning phase, applications with the committee of adjustments and sites that have been sent to the local appeal body.