So….. you’ve bought and recently moved into a new condo. All should go well. But sometimes frustrations can happen.
The experience of moving into a new condo, or any new home for that matter, can be quite stressful. Some things are within your control, and others definitely not. You are dependent on a number of factors (for example – the degree to which you were able to customize your unit, mechanical and other failures, etc.) as well as other players – most notably the builder and the property manager (if the condo has been registered and turned over to a Board).
Here are some key areas where you should pay close attention:
Customizing your unit:
If your builder allows you to customize your unit, the degree of complexity of the customization will dictate the extent to which you should scrutinize the builder’s work. It is extremely important to set expectations (yours) with the builder. Larger condominium projects don’t always allow for such scrutiny, whereas smaller projects typically do.
- Depending on the scope of the customization, you may wish to bring in your own architect, interior designer and project coordinator (unless you have the time to oversee the work yourself). Some builders allow this and others don’t. Ask.
- If the project is one of full customization e.g. a complete alteration of the floor plan and total custom finishings, you should insist on being able to bring in your own experts.
- Insist on a number of visits to the work in project. Build this into your Agreement of Purchase and Sale. Very important! I recommend at least 4 visits, timed with major milestones in the project plan, and more if there are issues (no issue is too minor). You have to see things with your own eyes. Things can get easily missed and if caught too far along in the project, can deliver a result you won’t be happy with.
- If your customization involves making selections from builder’s samples and the builder assigns you a design coordinator with a set number of hours, insist on 50% more time at least. Decisions take time and be challenging, especially if tile selection is not your thing. Leverage their opinions, but play careful attention to builder pricing, mark-ups etc.
- Once you have taken occupancy (you technically don’t ‘own’ it until the condo is registered and you close the sale), IMMEDIATELY begin to note deficiencies. Builders typically will do a walk-through just before occupancy so they can address as many items as possible prior to your moving in. Accurate descriptions (including photos) are extremely important from the perspective of your Tarion warranty, and your own peace of mind. Tarion sets prescribed milestone dates by which you have to report any deficiencies to them and to your builder. If you miss a deadline, you miss it. Things will get caught at the next milestone. Builders can be sticky on this point. Some stick to the rules and will not address any issue outside of the timelines set out in the Tarion process.
- Decorate at your own risk. Every new owner is eager to have their home look like they’ve been there a while as well as to have the unit quickly showcase their taste and sense of style. However, if you paint, beware. When the builder goes to repairs deficiencies, they will return the wall or ceiling to its original state (usually white) and then it’s up to you to have your trades or decorator return at a cost. Wallpaper, for obvious reasons is the most risky decorating move. If you can wait, my recommendation is to do this work after the one-year inspection and all deficiencies have been addressed. The best way to avoid this headache is to have your builder do the paint customization, thereby ensuring your walls will be returned to the desired state.
- Find out who are the players you should cosy up to. Quickly. Is there a Concierge? They are your new best friend. They can help with letting trades into your unit if you’re running late or out of town, and accept deliveries of furniture and other decor items. Tipping goes a long way in this regard! If there is a builder representative on sight during the initial stages of occupancy, then it’s in your best interests to develop a positive relationship as quickly as possible. If they are unwilling and continually point to the Tarion process, document all interactions. Builders should and typically do understand that your views on the quality of their customer service go far in discussions with family and friends. At the end of the day, the builder, for the sake of their reputation, want you to be happy. Stick to your guns and consult an expert when necessary.
Dealing with Significant Issues:
- Significant issues affect your ability to live in your unit. Leaks and floods from other units, loss of heat or A/C, absence of hot water, and toilet and shower back-ups are among the any things that can happen. A lot will be said about the builder by the way they deal with such events.
- Resolution will inevitably involve the Property Manager and the Condo Board, who are your best advocates in dealing with the builder. Fingers often get pointed back to architects, engineers, mechanical trades, etc. If you’re not satisfied with their progress or the willingness of the builder to deal with the issue quickly, then it’s best to consult a lawyer. Know and understand your rights. Insist on regular (frequency dictated by the severity of the issue) updates from the individual who best knows the status. If push comes to shove, call your builder to task. Remember – you’ve paid a lot of money for your dream home.