February 7, 2019 | Buying A Condo
Let’s not kid ourselves. A good condo is a highly subjective thing. One person’s dream kitchen is another person’s room they’ll never use. For some, it’s better to use the oven to store your workout gear than to bake a ham. So, for the purpose of this blog, let me be clear that when I discuss a good condo, I can’t help but filter this through my own subjectivity of what I find important in a condo purchase, but I am also basing it on the opinions and thoughts of the many, many buyers I brought through condos over the years. From all those sets of eyes, you start to see certain patterns form. I have been able to get a pretty good sense of what often works and what does not.
Even if you have quirky and unconventional tastes that goes against popular taste, then you should seek out what will make you happy, But be warned! Buying a condo with a good layout or a certain style may mean a better sale price when it comes time to sell.
So, let’s begin by looking at what people don’t like. These are not deal breakers by any stretch, but they are often what causes my client’s to groan.
I personally see old kitchens as an opportunity. Older condos with older kitchens may often be purchased for less because buyer in Toronto generally don’t like them. The younger you are, the more likely you will bristle at an old kitchen. If you pay less for a condo with an older kitchen, you may be able to re-do the kitchen the way you would like with the money you saved on the purchase. Most older condos often have larger kitchens than the newer ones. So, in the end you many have a larger newer kitchen. So, if you are able to put on your potential goggles when you see a kitchen, you may see what many people cannot. But the truth is, most people don’t have potential goggles on. And for many first time buyers, they often put all of their money into the purchase of their condo unit with little left over for renovations. So, few buyers want to live with the dated kitchen for a long time. If you are selling with a dated kitchen, there are small things you can do. You can paint out the cabinets and update the hardware to something more current. These little things do make a difference! Selling with a dated kitchen will likely mean a lower price for you.
Though older condos may bring dated kitchens, newer condos have brought us the more recent phenomenon of the baby appliances. Little appliances came around about 8 years ago. For little kitchens, developers thought the smaller appliances would leave room for things that people want like a larger dining room or closet space. In reality, I find most people are turned off by the wee appliances. I’ve been asked if the little ovens are actually microwaves. If you are a fan of turkey dinner or any baking, those ovens really don’t fit any thing much larger than a chicken leg. A recent client couple who bought a house told me they are thrilled to move into their new home with standard sized appliances because their condo fridge could not fit enough groceries that would last longer than a few days.
HALLWAYS, THE SPACE EATERS
When you are in a condo and you want to take advantage of all the square footage you are purchasing in a city that is pretty stingy with space, you want to make sure you maximize every centimetre of space. And a unit with a lot of hallways has far too much wasted space. When I walk through a condo unit with a hallway or two, clients will tell me how this unit feels smaller than the square footage indicates. They are not wrong. The hallway(s) are eating up a good portion of the square footage. So, you have smaller kitchens, living rooms, dining rooms and bedrooms.
SLIDING CORNER DOORS THAT COME TO A CORNER
In order for a developer to call a room a “bedroom” it needs a window or reasonable exposure to light. So, when developers began to make units longer, the living room was placed near the window, and the bedroom set back with two sliding glass doors that come to a point. They look like this:
The idea was that since light is coming in like a window, we could call these bedrooms. What I have found, though, is that sometimes people don’t like these doors. It’s not so much they need a window, though that can be part of it. They just don’t seem to like how the doors opened exposes their bedroom to the rest of the unit and any guests they may have. So though I don’t think this really is a huge problem, and I have seen some nice condos with this style of bedroom, I find that buyers are not the craziest about these kinds of sliding doors.
GENERAL WEIRDNESS I recently saw a condo unit with two windows facing outside. One of the windows was in reasonably placed in the bedroom. The other was in a walk-in closet. Not exactly a space your going to spend a lot of time. And if there’s anywhere in the building where you don’t want a window, it would be your closet. Not exactly a place you need fresh air and light. You also don’t really need your neighbours watching you select your morning outfit.
This is kindof a given, but generally if you want to sell your condo, get rid of the florescent lights. It’s a home not an office from 1983.
With that list of what to avoid, here are some things to look for when buying. Again, these may not matter to you personally, but for resale, this will make a difference.
People like light. We are plant-like that way. We have an innate desire to seek out vitamin D. So, go to those condos with some light. It’s not always easy in a city like Toronto, but some of the sunniest homes in the city are in the sky.
WINDOWS IN THE BEDROOM People like to have a bedroom in their window. I don’t know if it’s the cool breeze you can have if your window opens or just the act of throwing the curtains open in the morning to see the skyline, but windows in the bedroom are a good thing for most buyers.
Even if condo buyers are not big cooks, they do aspire to be. And they will seek out a condo with a kitchen they can cook in, even if they hardly ever use it. And a note to those folks who have island counters with stools along side to sit. Make sure the counter doesn’t end at the base of the counter bar. Extend it over the edge of the counter so your guests knees will fit underneath.
A DEN THAT’S A DEN…
…and not a space in the hallway. Also, a den that doesn’t look like a place where you would send someone for solitary confinement.
A PLACE THAT FEELS BIG EVEN WHEN IT IS NOT
Less hallways, wider units as oppose to long ones. Possibly a deck that makes the inside extend to the outside in the warmer months. When it’s more open, it feels bigger, though people prefer their bedrooms separate if possible.
Hopefully this list will be a guide for you if you are currently buying a condo. It may be tough to get them all, but try to get most of them. If you are selling, and you don’t have the condo that does not seem very appealing according to my points above, don’t worry. There are things that can be done to minimize these downfalls. Sometimes unappealing condo units have things that buyers do like such as location and proximity to friends, family, work. And there is always ways to maximize your condo for sale, no matter what you have. But that’s a discussion for another blog or with me directly.