There are endless condo-buyer horror stories, like finding out you can’t barbecue on your balcony (shudder). Don’t worry, The Grid‘s real-estate columnist and realtor David Fleming has your back. Here are four traps he says to watch out for while you’re on the hunt for a new place.
Trap No. 1: Unit location
There are several areas in the building that you probably want to avoid. The first is right next to the elevator. People talk when they get on, and they talk when they get off, and all that noise can flood right into your living room. If you’re interested in a unit near the elevator, check if you hear the beep when a button is pushed. You may also want to stay away from units on the party-room floor—the noise can be even worse than the elevator—or from condos with a balcony under the shared rooftop terrace, from which drunken residents will toss cigarette butts and the occasional beer can. Being next to the garbage chute guarantees at least a twice-daily session of banging and clanging.
Trap No. 2: Parking
Some newer buildings have Zipcar or AutoShare parking on the premises, which can be a huge asset if you don’t want a car, or the $36,000 hit for a parking space. Older buildings often have something called “exclusive-use” spaces—you don’t actually own the spot, but are the only person permitted to park there. The problem with this is that you can’t sell the space if you’re not using it, and often there are restrictions on renting it out. You’ll also want to make sure there’s ample visitor parking for grandma and grandpa, otherwise you’ll be the one running down to feed the meter. Some buildings have zero visitor spots, which could affect your decision to buy there.
Trap No. 3: Storage
This is the most overlooked feature of a condo, as you really have to envision yourself in the space to get a sense of whether or not there’s enough storage. Some of the newer, modern-looking condos have kitchens with barely enough room for plates—unless you want to stack them under the sink next to your garbage can. In many loft conversions, the hot-water tank and furnace are in the unit itself, meaning that giant hall closet won’t hold your boots and coats. You don’t want to be in a position where you’re forced to buy a storage unit for $4,000 to $5,000 after you’ve moved in.
Trap No. 4: Outdoor space
Spend some time out on the terrace or balcony, even if you’re condo shopping in winter. Consider which direction the unit faces, and how much or how little sun you might get. A west-facing balcony may be too hot to use in the summer. Listen to the street noise below: Could you read a book out there and relax? See if there’s a water line for your plants and a gas line for a barbecue. (Don’t forget to make sure you’re allowed to have a barbecue.) Is there a drain on the terrace to avoid pooling water when it rains? How close are you to your neighbours? Are there any restrictions on usage of the space? You don’t want to spend all that money building planter boxes only to find out that fixed structures are not allowed.