(Layout, light, view, balcony, parking/locker, any upgrades necessary, % of tenants vs owners, bldg security, bldg amenities)
Buying a condo suite in a low- or high-rise building has some similarities and some differences to buying a house. You’re not concerned directly with some of the physical attributes of the building such as the age of the roof and furnace or is there water leaking though the foundation into the basement.
Typically a buyer is more concerned with the interior of the suite and the building’s amenities and security. You do want to know about the physical state of the building from an analysis of the Reserve Fund Study which comes with the Status Certificate but it doesn’t usually influence your buying decision when out looking at condo units.
One of the first determinations you need to make is what neighbourhood you’d like to live in, what your price range is and the number of bedrooms and bathrooms you’d like,
Then you and your agent can start doing a search on the MLS system to see what’s available on the market. Ideally you’d like to do this search live in a Buyer Consultation with your Realtor so he or she can see what you’re liking and, just as importantly, disliking.
A couple of other search criteria you might want to add into the mix would be if you’d like more or less building security, a parking space, a locker, a balcony or a specific view (say south or west).
Some buyers are very concerned about building security. If this is you, you’d want to know that your condo choice has a 24-hour concierge in place. Some buildings only have a buzzer system at their front door and others only have front-desk staff in place in the daytime hours.
Other purchasers might want fewer or more amenities in the building such as a pool, hot tub, roof-top patio, exercise room, movie room and so on.
Of course there’s a trade-off to more amenities and 24-hour security and that is a higher monthly maintenance cost. Watch out for the ‘fine print’ on the listings too. Some buildings show a lower maintenance but each suite has its own electrical meter where the unit owner pays for heat and hydro separate from the maintenance fee. Other condos, especially older buildings, have higher maintenance but have the heat and hydro included.
So far we haven’t even gotten into the interior of the suite yet. There’s a whole set of things to look at here. These include ceiling height, the size of windows, bedroom location, balcony and an open vs a closed kitchen.
Many newer suite have 9-foot ceilings which give an illusion of more space which is important for smaller suites. For me, the size of the windows is important - I like it when they’re floor-to-ceiling - but other buyers don’t have a big preference.
Although every condo I’ve lived in has had a balcony, strangely enough, I’ve never spent much time out on them. Noise may be a factor to consider - a recent suite overlooked the Gardiner Expressway from 24 floors up and, when the balcony sliding doors were open, it was definitely loud.
Some condo buyers like their bedroom to have a window to the outside for the light. Others like it darker. This preference becomes important when looking at suites where the bedroom is in the interior, usually separated from the living area by sliding barn doors.
Ultimately the best way to work out which condo features are most important to you is to go an see some suites on a Market Experience Tour in order to firm up what your preferences are.