19 October 2010 ~ 0 Comments

Buying a new loft or condo? Caveat Emptor!

Recently I have been dealing with a higher than average amount of frustration regarding brand new lofts and condos purchased by both clients and myself (yes even a real estate insider is not totally void from some mishaps).
A little background information…every year I typically assist a half dozen or more clients with the purchase of brand new construction of either lofts or condos in the downtown Toronto area. The new condo/loft real estate market has been a busy one alongside the robust market conditions being experienced in the resale market. Pre sales that were written three to four years ago are being completed and coming into the marketplace in 2010.
Now purchasing brand new construction in general is a fairly complex procedure. There are a multitude of considerations to factor (way too many to list in detail here) and the process is one which requires above all else a generous amount of patience on behalf of the buyer. But lately it seems that developers are really pushing the “patience” threshold!
Without naming names or being site specific over the past year I or my clients have experienced the following issues on taking occupancy possession of their lofts and condos.
  • Incomplete use of the only shower/bath area in the bathroom
  • No use of elevators for a five week period in not one, but two six storey loft buildings (as luck has it both units were on the higher floors)
  • Daily barrage of the builders trades people entering the units to complete repairs or finish off items that were not completed before taking possession
  • The same trades people helping them self to use of the toilets without consent and then leaving behind a mess for the owners to clean up (this has happened in FOUR separate units)
  • No central air conditioning hooked up for almost one whole year (and counting)
  • Promised and purchased locker spaces not available for almost an entire year
  • Building amenities such as: party rooms, roof top terraces, gyms, guest suites not being available for anywhere from six months to one year plus after moving in and paying for these amenities
  • Shoddy craftsmanship
  • No mail delivery

The list goes on and on but I think you get the point. The question is why is this happening at such a frequent rate and what can we as consumers do about it?

Why is this happening is the easier part to answer. Developers have successfully sold an incredible amount of units during the past five years and many are coming to market within a one to two year period of each other. There are only so many plumbers, electricians, drywallers etc to go around. Builders are under the time lines (and loose guidelines set by Tarion) to complete the units by dates set out in the purchase agreements three to four years before when the buyer purchased the unit.

I personally took possession of one of my units while the paint was still wet on the walls and about 10% of the finishing touches needed to be complete. This was after the builder pushed back our occupancy date by an additional 30 days to get the work completed! And although the developers customer service staff attentively listened to my almost daily frustration of having to pay for a unit I could not even use, and they did their best to make things better it still left me with a bitter taste in my mouth. It also cemented the fact that I would again not purchase for myself from any of their upcoming projects but be extremely hesitant to recommend any of my clients to do so as well.

Sadly it seems today that builders are operating by the attitude “that it’s easier to ask for forgiveness then for permission”. But what they seem to be forgetting entirely is that customer satisfaction is extremely important and an incredible opportunity exists for those developers who wish to make the customer experience a positive one from start to finish.

Maybe next time I walk in to a developers million dollar sales center and leaf through the fancy colour brochures with large print floor plans I will see scattered about pictures of past projects that the developer so proudly displays of barren hallways, uncompleted interior units and drywalled only amenity rooms alongside the happy go lucky models pictured living in pure harmony.

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