7 Things to Do Before Buying a Condo
Condo shopping can be an exciting event. But before getting too caught up browsing through the latest listings and planning for the condo-warming party, there are some things to check off your to-do list beforehand.
Explore the area
Make sure to take the time and explore the surrounding area before buying any condo. It’s surprising how many people rush into the buying decision without having spent adequate time checking out nearby amenities, schools, and transportation options. Talk to neighbors and get a feel for what the community is like. Many areas in Toronto have their own unique aspects and history to them. For instance, the Church and Wellesley area is Toronto’s LGBT-oriented enclave, while The Annex is home primarily to college students and fraternities.
Learn about the complaints
Review the minutes from the condominium’s HOA board meetings, which can sometimes be found online these days. These minutes will reveal day-to-day issues and provide an indication of how the property is run. You may be able to learn about noise complaints, lack of maintenance, poor management, any impending lawsuits on the condo, and more. If you can’t get your hands on the minutes, talk to current owners and see what they dislike about the building.
Understand the monthly association fees
Condo owners must pay an amount every month to cover common area maintenance and association fees. Fees can vary widely, and are based on how many units there are in the building, the property’s maintenance costs, and funds set aside for one-time issues. Obtaining a breakdown of these fees will help you determine how much you need to set aside every month and whether they’re reasonable or not. Note that these fees aren’t tax-deductible like mortgage payments are.
Find out delinquency rates
Delinquency rates let you know what percentage of owners have failed to pay their dues or mortgages. This is important to any prospective buyer because mortgage and insurance providers will often not provide services for condos with delinquencies higher than 15%. When a condo association is short on fees, they have less money to spend on maintenance and repairs, which also negatively impacts home owners.
Inquire about the rules
Decide whether the condo association’s rules are a deal breaker or not. Some older associations have terms such as, “no business can be done in the unit.” Others will not allow pets or for owners to renovate units in a certain way. Still others prohibit using the balcony or patio for barbecuing. These are all issues that could impact your quality of life.
Check your credit
It’s wise to check your credit before any big purchase, since your credit score and reliability is what determines the interest you pay on any loan. Get a copy of your annual credit report and review it carefully to determine if there are any mistakes. Doing so will make the pre-qualification process of obtaining a mortgage from the bank a lot easier, as well.
Hire a broker/realtor
It’s much better to have an experienced broker at your side that is aligned with your needs than it is to rely on the buyer’s broker, who will have an incentive to push for any sale. They’ll help you sort through the fine print in contracts, negotiate better prices and fees, save you time and energy, and have access to a wide network to help you out.
Purchasing a condo is a big decision and requires plenty of due diligence upfront. Do these seven things before diving in and you’ll be well on your way to finding the perfect condo.
5 Qualities to Look for in a Real Estate Agent
When it comes to buying or selling a home, sometimes picking the real estate agent is an afterthought. Most people simply don’t spend the time to find the perfect agent. However, there can be a big difference between a great agent and a mediocre one – not only in monetary terms, but also in comfort, loyalty, and customer service – so it’s worth the upfront effort to find one that matches your needs. Here are 5 qualities to look for in a successful agent.
- Excellent communication.
Great real estate agents are lightning-quick communicators, returning calls or emails as soon as they can. The real estate market moves quickly, especially in Toronto, so a responsive agent who will keep clients up to date is critical. They understand buying or selling a home is one of the biggest decision in a person’s life. Every piece of information – no matter how insignificant – can be important. Lack of communication from an agent is simply poor customer service and leads to anxious clients.
- Local knowledge.
Top agents have intimate knowledge of local neighbourhoods. They should be able to inform clients what’s on the market in a particular neighbourhood or even street, what’s recently sold, how the overall market is moving, and the general status of a neighbourhood. A lot of information is online these days, but an agent deeply familiar with the area can provide hidden insights as to what’s beneath the surface. Just like location, location, location is important when buying real estate, the same is true when finding an agent. Look for someone who specializes in a particular area or who has a consistent presence in a community.
- Tech savvy.
These days a large part of any business is done online, and this is especially true for real estate agents. An agent with an up-to-date website, smartphone, and social media presence will likely generate more leads, have a deeper network, and have access to vital market information. If your dream condo hits the market, for example, the tech-savvy agent will be pinged immediately and notify you to submit an offer right away. Because they’re equipped with the latest technologies, they’ll also be more responsive and likely more in tune with clients’ needs.
- A strong network.
An agent depends on his or her network, and the bigger and more intimate the network, the more the clients will benefit. Someone with a vast network of contractors, lenders, appraisers, insurance providers, and developers will be able to help clients beyond just selling or buying a home. They’ll be able to refer clients to people they know and trust to provide tailored solutions. At the same time, it means other professionals in the industry likely trust and enjoy working with the agent. Plus, agents with large networks will be privy to information otherwise unavailable to most people.
- They deeply understand their clients.
The best agents are entirely client-motivated. They’re in the business of helping clients make the right decisions, helping them get the best deals possible. They listen more than they talk, they ask questions, they know their clients’ time frames, and most of all they know their customers’ buying or selling motivations. At the same time, a great agent will be able to provide comfort and some hand-holding. The buying and selling process can be stressful and they understand it’s important the client feels happy and relaxed throughout it all.
Working with a real estate agent can be a fairly long process, so it’s important to find the right one who can tailor his or her skills to what you’re looking for. You’ll want to take the time to get to know the agent and if (s)he fits your style and has your best interests in mind. Keep in mind the five qualities above of successful real estate agents, and the buying and selling experience will be that much easier to navigate.