Buying a Toronto Condo
You already know that Toronto has a wonderful city life, top-notch restaurants & services, great schools and a unique cosmopolitan culture that welcomes a diverse array of people. Now it’s time to think about how you can get the most of living here…
There are many wonderful advantages to Toronto– the easy access to all services, minimal maintenance, and great proximity to business opportunities. But buying a Toronto condo is not the same as buying a single-family home.
If you are considering a condominium purchase it is imperative that you understand how condos differ from family homes. They can be vastly different! Taking the time to understand the key differences is going to empower you to make the right home buying decision for you and your family. We will lay out the particular things that you will want to look out for when making this big purchase so that you will be happy with the life you are going to create here in Toronto.
Differences Between Condo Living and Single-Family Home Ownership
Owning a condo is similar to what it would be like owning both a home and an apartment at the same time. Your condo is connected to others, and all of the neighbors/owners have to work together to maintain the buildings and the community. The main benefits of this arrangement are that each person typically has less maintenance needs than they would if they had each a single-family home. As well, condos are often less expensive than a comparably sized home, so that can mean you will have money money left over to invest in other things.
The downside to being so inter-connected is that everyone depends on everyone else to hold up their end of the bargain. This requires clear and caring communication and good problem-solving skills to address any issues that may arise, something that groups of strangers are not always the most adept at doing.
In a single-family home the maintenance and repairs are all up to you. Whether you do them yourself or you hire help, the cost of up-keep on a home can be astronomical. But the up side is that whatever you do to your home, no one else but you and your family gets any input.
Research The Condo Association
The condo association is the lifeblood of any condominium neighborhood, and you will want to feel comfortable and secure in their presence, as they will be your neighbors as well as the people who ‘get things done’ in the buildings and on the grounds.
Some of the biggest regrets from buyers purchasing a condo is that they didn’t do their homework on the community they are buying into.
The association is in charge of keeping things together in your community. It needs to make sure buildings are in good repair, that the grounds are maintained, and that members uphold their end of the bargain. Because of this, condo associations tend to have a lot of power. As an owner, you will be required to listen to the association’s concerns and obey its rules and mandates.
This in no way means that all associations are unpleasant to deal with,far from in! But doing research on your particular association before purchasing is a must.
You will want to know:
- Who is in charge?
- How do they deal with issues?
- Do they address problems quickly (some associations are notorious for shirking duties).
- How do the other owners/renters feel about the association
Verify The Reserve
Each association has a pool of money, called a reserve which is collected from members and that is supposed to go towards repair costs. You will want to know how much you will be expected to contribute each year and since each association handles reserves differently, you will want to get further information on this because not all are well-managed. You want to buy a condo in an association that has adequate reserve funds to address any future problems.
Find Out About The Neighbors
Be sure to do what you can to find out about your potential neighbors when you start to get serious about a specific condominium. Everyone has different needs when it comes to a comfortable and happy home, and only you know what kind of lifestyle makes you happy, so knowing the people you will be living around is essential.
If you are retired, perhaps you would prefer to live next to other retirees, or maybe having young families around is more what you’d prefer. The fact is, you have preferences, and it’s okay to verify that you are buying a condo where your neighbors fit with your lifestyle. While you may not be thinking of it now, when it comes time to move, you are not going to be interested in learning how to sell a home with noisy or neglectful neighbors. Do your research tot find out who will be living on each side or on top of the condo. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
Keep A Nest Egg for Yourself
Even though condo ownership is often less expensive than home ownership because of the costs being shared, but remember that this is not the same as simply renting an apartment. You will still need to cover your share of costs, and there will be plenty of things that you will have to purchase or repair yourself, such as the refrigerator for instance.
With an emergency fund in play for yourself, you will be better equipped to handle any surprises which may arise.
Talk About Maintenance
In general, the arrangement with condo associations is that they will take care of maintenance for the common areas. But since one association’s idea of routine maintenance may not be the same as another, you will want to find out what the association’s duties and responsibilities will be before you buy.
Some condos may be pristine, while others are a lot rougher. Discuss how maintenance is handled with the association, because you don’t want to spend the next few years (or more) frustrated by the lack of maintenance.
On the same line of thinking, you will want to find out which responsibilities fall on you. For example some condo associations take full responsibility for things like a deck or patio maintenance. Other times this is not the case at all. Another grey area can include roofs and windows. These costly repairs can be a hassle and by knowing who is responsible for what beforehand (with a written document stating so!) much of the stress will be relieved.
Ask About Storage
Storage is a common problem in condos. They are not usually designed for people with lots of things to store. Determine what your storage options are if you think this will be an issue. Some condos will offer storage areas, or garages as an option.
If a condo is exactly what you’re looking for, here is a list of questions to ask before buying your Toronto condominium. (We can certainly help you get these questions answered before you even consider writing an offer!)
- How much are the condo fees and what exactly do they cover?
- Is the neighborhood professionally managed or is it done by the owners themselves?
- Are there any special assessments coming up in the near future and if so how much?
- Is there any pending lawsuits against the complex?
- What is the policy on renting condos in the neighborhood?
- How many units are currently owner occupied and how many are rented?
- What is the parking policy? Do I own my own space? Is there guest parking?
With there being so many things that need to be clarified when buying a condo – details on condo associations, hidden costs, reserve funds – having someone that understands the complexities of a condominium purchase is important. We have all the information you will need, and we have excellent access to new listings, and will be able to help you spot deals that you would never recognize by yourself.
Please feel free to contact us if you’d like more information on buying a condominium in Toronto.
Alex has consistently been in the top 1% of Condo Sales in Toronto since 2009. Alex has also been a member of the Platinum Club from 2009 and became a member of the RE/MAX Hall of Fame in 2012. This success has allowed him to make relationships with all of the developers in the city.Alex Wilson