So you’re thinking about buying a new condo – or maybe you already have. There are many aspects that differ when buying and living in a condo compared to a freehold home. Here are some tips to help you make the experience a smooth one:
- Get legal advice. A condominium lawyer will help you interpret your purchase agreement. It’s to your benefit to understand both your own and your builder’s responsibilities. For example, the Condominium Act entitles you to a 10-day “cooling off” period that begins on the day you receive the purchase agreement or a document called the disclosure statement, whichever comes later. During this time, your lawyer can negotiate changes to the offer, like capping adjustments to the purchase price, restricting amendments to the size, design or dimensions of the unit or even getting out of the contract.
- Don’t pack your bags just yet. It could be two or three years between the date you sign your purchase agreement and the date you take occupancy of your unit. If construction runs over schedule, it could be even longer. Read the statement of critical dates, outlined in the Addendum attached to the Agreement of Purchase and Sale to get a sense of how long it may take for your condo to be ready for occupancy. If a builder fails to close the sale or substantially complete construction, deposits are protected up to a maximum of $20,000 with any excess deposit amounts being protected by the trust provisions of the Condominium Act.
- There will be some unfinished business. Condo projects are different from single family homes in that the purchase is usually completed in two steps. Step one is interim occupancy. Many buyers find out the hard way that they’re required to take possession of their completed unit before common element features like front reception, landscaping and the swimming pool are finished. This means you could live for many months without the anticipated amenities.
- Inspect your unit carefully. Before you take possession of your unit, your builder is required to conduct an inspection with you. This is your chance to ensure there is no damage, incomplete or missing items, and everything is working properly. Feel free to take pictures of any damaged or incomplete items. If necessary, those photos can be submitted to Tarion at a later date for warranty purposes.
- Condos include shared living space. A new condo unit comes with a seven-year warranty from your builder that is backed by Tarion Warranty Corporation. The shared areas in your condo, such as the roofing, parking structures, exterior cladding and any shared amenities, are covered under the common element warranty. This is a separate warranty from your unit’s warranty. Condo owners are responsible to submit warranty claims for their units only, whereas the condo board handles the common elements.
More information is available online at tarion.com or toll-free at 1-877-982-7466. Information about the Condominium Act can be found through the Ontario Ministry of Consumer Services.