Red Flags To Look For When Buying A Condo

Written by Posted On Thursday, 05 December 2019 08:33

When buying a home, it’s extremely important to do one’s due diligence. For this, buyers and sellers tend to rely on professionals to spot any potential hiccups: realtors, home inspectors, lawyers, and sometimes movers too. Choosing qualified professionals to aid you in the process can ensure that everything goes smoothly—to a point.

It’s common for a buyer to learn that the house they’ve fallen in love with has some structural issues, and it’s also common for buyers to accept that. Whether it’s an electrical problem, outstanding property taxes, or a home without great resale value—there are things that can be ignored when you’ve found your forever home. However, not all issues are created equal and there are some problems that should never be overlooked, especially when you’re buying a condo.

Condo ownership is a bit different than owning a single-family home; you’re also taking a shared ownership in the building.  While we’d all like to believe that every building is well-run or that every unit is a solid investment, that’s just not true. If you’re going to purchase a condo then be sure to avoid the following red flags.

High Fees: No Explanation

Maintenance fees or condos fees are a regular part of condo life. Though they often feel like an additional charge, maintenance fees perform a number of very significant functions; they pay for shared amenities, pay for most utilities and insurance, cover repairs and improvements, and allow for the creation of a healthy reserve fund to deal with any unexpected projects.

With all that these fees cover, it’s understandable that they can be high in some cases, but it’s necessary to asses whether those fees are justified. Luxury buildings are known to have high fees — if you’re buying at the  Four Seasons Private Residences or The Florian then you expect to encounter high fees as maintenance, amenities, and staffing are all going to be more expensive. However, high fees can be an indication of poor management: A building that’s always falling into disrepair or has suffered damage to the property. Not keeping a large reserve fund can also lead to high maintenance fees if repairs are needed that exceed what’s available in the fund. If you’re looking at a building with average prices and sky high fees (above the GTA average of 70 cents per square foot) that’s probably an indication that something’s up.

Dated Amenities and Unclean Common Spaces

Just as high condo fees can be a red flag, low fees can also be a red flag if a building isn’t well maintained. When touring a building you’re interested in, be sure to check out all of the amenities for cleanliness and functionality. Is the gym clean? Are machines broken down? Is paint peeling on the walls in the party room? These are relatively small issues, yet they can offer a glimpse into a bigger problem.

Cleanliness in hallways and the lobby is another thing to look for: a lingering smell or dusty floors in a lobby is a sign that routine cleaning might not be so routine.

Lack of Parking Spaces

Can’t find somewhere to park your car? Chances are your friends and family can’t either. For some this is a deal breaker, but there are some condo developments that cater to carless buyers: Residences at RCMI on 426 University Ave has only 9 dedicated parking spots and they’re specifically for car sharing programs.

Most buildings do offer some form of parking and if you’re a car owner it’s important to know the situation. If you don’t have a spot or there’s nowhere in the vicinity for guests to park, this could have a negative impact on your enjoyment of your home. As well, a car that’s parked in an underground garage is going to last longer than a car that’s exposed to the elements.

A Noisy Showing

Given how competitive home buying can be, sometimes you have to see the place whenever it’s convenient; when possible, try and see a unit when neighbouring tenants will be home. Poor insulation can lead to very disruptive living arrangement and it’s easy to recognize this problem if you’re seeing a unit at the right time.

If you can hear a neighbours tv through the walls, you’re looking at a major soundproofing problem, one not easily fixed. When it comes to noise prevention, brick and concrete are your friends.

Demographic Mismatch

There’s nothing worse than downsizing from a large single family home to retire in a beautiful condo, only to find that your building is essentially a frat house. Some neighbourhoods appeal more to students than others just as some appeal to retirees. Your realtor will likely warn you about a building or neighbourhood that isn’t a good fit, but it’s always wise to keep an eye out yourself.

If you arrive for a showing and there’s a group of young men carrying a keg through the lobby—this could be a good thing depending on who you are—this might not be the family building you’re looking for. When buying or renting a condo, find a building that matches your tastes and lifestyle.

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Robert Van Rhijn

Robert Van Rhijn is a Toronto based Realtor and Broker-of-Record at Slate Realty Inc. He founded in 2018 — a Toronto condo website featuring data and analytics you don’t need to be a statistician to understand. You can connect with Robert at

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