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Clubhouse Completions May Be Elusive for Canadians

Written by Posted On Tuesday, 04 September 2001 00:00

Many Canadian new home buyers, on asking, "When will the promised clubhouse be built?" are not happy with the reply they receive from their developer or builder.

The problem: You bought a home in a new development community with promises of an elaborate clubhouse or social centre for residents. Now, months or years later, there's still no sign of construction on this crucial amenity or the building is still incomplete and you can't get a straight answer on the completion date from anyone.

"It is important to understand that building a clubhouse is difficult for developers," explained an Ontario builder, referring to the costs of construction and maintenance that come out of developers' pockets until there are enough residents to share the costs. "Some of the first to move in have to be patient. If [the clubhouse] is built then, operating costs would be extremely high and there would be no one to use it."

He explained that builders have to sell a pre-determined number of homes before construction and maintenance of the clubhouse becomes feasible. This developer planned to own the clubhouse and share costs on a 50:50 basis with the residents until, eventually, the facility could be owned and maintained by residents through their common fees.

Unfortunately, not everyone is so open about their plans. Canadian developers, builders, real estate brokers and other housing professionals have often not shared behind-the-scene financial realities with buyers. To compound the problem, some developers try to coerce residents into supporting sales efforts, as in: Help us sell more homes so we can build that clubhouse we promised....

Well worth waiting for

Ontario's Swan Lake Village, an exclusive adult lifestyle community located on about 100 country acres north of Toronto, recently celebrated the official opening of its community centre, The Swan Club . This 16,000 square foot, $2.5 million residents-only clubhouse has amenities galore, including a 57-foot indoor swimming pool. The Swan Club serves the 415 Florida-resort style homes currently clustered around a 30-acre man-made lake, however, the development will eventually contain approximately 1000 homes.

Planning for this development and its clubhouse began 9 years ago and home construction started in 1996, with the first residents moving in about 4 years ago.

The Swan Club, expected to open Christmas 2000, will be ready for residents to use very soon. According to the builder, The Daniels Corporation, delays stemmed from design changes (An exposed beam was added and there is only one person in Canada who does that type of work), building permit delays and the difficulty of attracting trades people to a small construction project.

Daniels also made a big effort to include residents in the design process, even to appointing an honourary "foreman" who collected feedback from the residents. Additional meetings and design fine-tuning added to delays, but increased resident satisfaction with the process and the end result.

When you're new home shopping, look for a builder or developer who stresses that much more at stake than merely building buildings and who explains the development process instead of making hollow promises. Take your research beyond interior design choices and the glitzy features. Among other questions, ask how many units must be sold before the clubhouse and related amenities will be constructed, and ask what the developer and sales team intend to do to ensure that sales targets can be reached by projected deadlines.

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PJ Wade

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