I come across people looking for condos all the time, and the number one question is "with so many options now a days, which one is a better buy?"
Before visiting the showrooms, make a list of the amenities that are most important to you and that you are likely to use. Remember that the cost of amenities is attached in the condo price and the cost of maintaining them in the condo fees. Condominiums with pools for example, might have much higher condo fees than one without a pool. So the real question is "if I have a pool, will I actually use it?"
Here are a few questions to ask yourself:
• Who is buying units in the condo — singles, couples, students, young families, retirees? Every condo building has a culture. Those closer to universities might have a higher ratio of students than other buildings that are more isolated. Be careful if the units are being sold to investors as rental units; tenants as a group may be less invested in keeping the property up and more frequent turnover will subject the common areas to wear and tear.
• "Curb appeal.” First impressions count! Not everyone cares about details and decor, however, for many buyers, this matters! Most people want to have that pride in ownership.
• Is parking headache-free? Many condominium buildings downtown have excellent location, are great looking and full of amenities, but when it comes to parking....its hard for anyone to visit!
• Are there enough elevators and are they fast and adequate for the size of the building? The higher you are, the more you depend on an elevator.
• Parking is key. With less space and evolving technology; many builders are starting to consider automatic parking. I find this idea neat! However, during the rush times when everyone else has punched-in their code to get their cars....you might not be able to avoid being late. Consider ease of access.
• Many investors of mine tell me "Jen, I wish condo buildings would sell parking spots on their own! I would buy only parking spots and no units!" — they can become more valuable over time and can always be sold separately so if you can, get a parking spot! Having one and renting one costs almost the same monthly, however, at the time of selling your unit, parking can make/break a deal!
• Check out the storage lockers for size, location and organization. Some of them can be so uncomfortable, that it becomes stressful accessing your belongings!
• Location, location, location. As for all real estate, condo location is VERY important.
• When examining floor plans and fact sheets, make sure you understand the positives and negatives of the layout. Flow is very important, especially if you are used to bigger spaces. Make sure the room sizes are decent.
• If the kitchen is your sanctuary, find out which appliances are included...you don't want to be disappointed later on when you get your unit!
• Is a balcony important and will you actually use it? If you plan to BBQ, make sure you know the rules governing your balcony use.
• Sunlight? Orientation of principal rooms and window height are the two biggest factors when it comes to brightness and natural light.
• Building Security? Is building access, garage surveillance, and elevator and corridor security available?
• Concierge service is both a security and a convenience factor. What will the concierge do for you and during what hours? If you travel a lot, this becomes more important — who accepts the deliveries and brings in the mail? For most of us the word "concierge" describes an employee of an apartment building, hotel or office building who serves guests, with duties similar to those of a butler (according to Wikipedia). This service would cost A LOT of money which would translate to HIGHER condo fees. Clarification: most buildings offer a "security guard", NOT a concierge. Make sure you look into this if this is crucial for you.
• Pets? Are pets allowed and is there parks or places to go walking nearby. What happens in the winter...where can you go and how long does it take to get down stairs.
• Is my unit too close to the amenities or do I have a terrace in the main floor? What are the hours of the Party Room? Is the gym right above my unit...will I hear dumbbells? If I have a terrace, are the balconies enclosed properly so that there are no flying bottles or items falling on our heads?
• Are there local events such festivals or Canada Day events that may overwhelm traffic circulation intermittently?
As you can see, buying a condo is not just walking into the sales center and choosing a layout. If you're hoping to live in it for a few years and later down the road make some money too, there's many factors to consider.
My best investment was my first condo. Not because of the money it DIDN'T make, but the learning experience and the mentors I now have thanks to that purchase. If you're looking to buy a condo, give me a call or send me an email ---let me help you!