Condo buyers need to be experts at reading floor plans. Here are 10 things to look for.
Deciphering a floor plan can be like reading Braille for some people. Just as it’s tough to enter a vacant property and picture it looking like a furnished home, it’s difficult to look at a floor plan and envision the space. The best real-estate investors have mastered the art of reading floor plans, and if you’re thinking about buying a pre-construction condo, you should too. Here’s what to keep in mind.
1. Windows. The size, placement, and number of windows in a condo can make or break the suite, but buyers often fail to differentiate between the solid black line on a floor plan and the dotted lines that denote a window. Corner suites attract a premium on the resale market because of the windows, so make sure you count them. Also consider what the window will look out over—it could be a view of a park or a brick wall.
2. Entrance. The first impression you get when walking into a condo is something you can’t change. Look at the foyer in a floor plan and envision what you would see while standing there. How much of the unit is visible? Where does your eye lead you?
3. Doors. This is the most-often overlooked aspect of the floor plan. Check whether the doors are sliding or whether they open outwards and cut into the space. Perhaps they are pocket doors that hide easily in the walls. Does the balcony door open to the left or to the right, and how does this affect where you put your couch and television? Do the doors obstruct the flow of the space?
4. Living/dining area. More often than not, the living room/dining room is actually a living room that maybe has room for a two-top table. Take the measurements of your floor plan, and mark it in chalk in a parking lot or with rope in your friend’s backyard. Can you live in that space? Can you fit a large couch and a dining table?
5. Flow. This is something that you really only feel when you walk through a condo, but if you’re an expert on reading floor plans, you’ll be able to put yourself into that space and get a sense of how well it flows. Are there any obstructions? Is it too boxy? Is there ample room for furniture or will it cramp the space?
6. Wasted space. What good is the square footage if you can’t use it? Some floor plans show long, narrow hallways that you pay $600 a square foot for. If the unit is multi-level, consider how much of the square footage you pay for is taken up by the stairs.
7. Angles. The best floor plans are “square plans” that have no odd angles, juts, or protrusions—just four right angles in the space. A circular wall might look cool but it’s impossible to furnish, and a living room that is anything but rectangular will lead to a ton of wasted space. Avoid that hexagonal bedroom at all costs.
8. Storage. In person, you have to walk around, poke through closets, and pull on doors. But few buyers remember to look for storage on a floor plan.
9. Location. Get your hands on the building plan. Where is the unit in the building? How close is it to the elevators? Is it next to the garbage chute? Are you on the same floor as the party room?
10. Kitchen appliances. Make sure you check to see if you’re getting full-sized appliances or those ridiculous new-age appliances for elves. The floor plan might work only because the kitchen has been downsized.
If you’re buying a condo that you can’t see, can’t touch, and can’t set foot in, then you should spend twice as much time investigating as you would with a normal resale condo. But if you make a huge mistake, there’s always that 10-day cooling-off period to get out of the deal, even if it’s for no other reason than you’ve changed your mind.
David Fleming is a Realtor with Bosley Real Estate in Toronto, and author of the best known real estate website in the city: www.torontorealtyblog.com. A constant thorn in the side of condominium developers, David’s sarcastic, opinionated, outlandish thoughts can be read daily, although for some people, that’s far too often.