14 Signs That Will Allow You to Spot a Bad Condo

Are you thinking of buying a condo in Toronto or any other Canadian city? It’s a big step—and a considerable investment. The costs of an average condo in Toronto went up to $558,000 in the first quarter of 2018. It’s a steep climb from what was already a steep price, and while that creates a significant investment opportunity, it also raises the stakes of making the right decision.

CondoEssentials.com is the largest condo review platform in Canada and based on thousands of consumer condo reviews, we compiled 14 signs that you might be buying a bad condo.

Let’s get started…

  • BAD ONLINE CONDO REVIEWS: There is nothing more useful than using the experiences of people who already live or have lived in the condo you are interested in, to judge what kind of an investment it might be. You can get a better idea of the property from those that have lived there rather than from the perspective of those who are trying to sell you the condo. CondoEssentials, the largest condo review site in Canada, offers reviews for condos in Toronto, Mississauga, Vaughn, Richmond Hill, and other locations. There are also other useful resources available, like Google or bedbugs registries.
  • AIRBNB RENTALS: This shouldn’t be your sole decision-maker, but it is important to note that there is a correlation between a bad condo and the presence of AirBnB rentals within the building. People who own units in condos that have flexible AirBnB policies tend to be less happy. It’s really no wonder as many of those who come and stay for a few nights are less concerned about the property. That means they might be messier, noisier, and more destructive than condo owners like their neighbours to be.
  • BAD SECURITY: Check the security of the building as well as the unit. How easily can you get into the building? How easy would it be to access your potential unit by alternative means (are the windows accessible, etc.)? How well do the security staff seem to be doing their jobs? If anybody can access the condo, the door is not properly locked, and security staff are not asking guests who they are visiting, then the chances of something happening are a lot higher.
  • CONSIDER ELEVATOR APPEARANCE: Elevators can be considered the first indicator of the building’s quality – scratched and vandalized elevators definitely do not promise a strong condo management team. Especially concerning are new buildings with elevators that look like they have seen several years of service.
  • BAD CRAFTMANSHIP: There are many small things that will inform you of lower quality craftmanship, such as cracks on the ceiling, drywall, or in room corners; gaps between laminate in the floor or buckled floor boards; and doors that are not fitted well, thus requiring some force to close them.
  • BAD/AWKWARD FLOOR PLANS: Have you ever walked into a condo and thought, “how could this floor plan have been approved?” I’ve seen many condos in my life, and I’m still surprised about the ones that waste half of the square footage on long corridors, that have irregular corners you can’t put anything in, that have wardrobes that are not easily accessible, or that have bedrooms without a single window.
  • HIGH LEVELS OF NOISE: Try to visit a condo in the evening when most of your potential neighbours will be home. Can you hear them or smell odors from other units while they are cooking? If so, there is bad isolation between the units. A separate note about units that are located close to the elevator: it is worth a quick test to see if you can hear the elevator arriving to your floor. If so, you might regret that in the future.
  • CONDO IS GLUED TO ANOTHER BUILDING: Many condominiums take pride in the great views they offer. Some, however, have tons of units facing a wall, or there may be another condo close offering zero pleasant exposure. While you are visiting the unit, take a look out the window. Do you see a beautiful lake view, a vibrant city, or a grey concrete wall? It’s also worth inquiring with the city about construction plans that may be in discussion as you don’t want to invest in a unit with a great view only to have another building put up directly in the way of it.
  • LONG ELEVATOR WAITING TIMES: Again, if you are visiting the unit in the evening when everybody is returning from work, pay attention to the waiting times for the elevators. Visiting a condo on the weekend is a good proxy as well; typically, one elevator will be blocked for move-ins and move-outs and that will give you an idea how the elevator situation will feel when only a portion of the elevators are available.
  • GYM/POOL NOT CONNECTED TO THE BUILDING: Yes, there are actually some condos that do not have a gym directly connected to the condo building. That is extremely inconvenient, especially in the colder months.
  • SMALL AND CROWDED GYM/SWIMMING POOL: Coming to see a condo in the evening, during post-work hours, can give you a good idea of amenity use and availability—the gym in particular. Are all of the machines busy, leaving you with no chance to exercise until late in the night?
  • AMENITIES UNDER REPAIR: If there are several items under repair in the gym, swimming pool, jacuzzi, etc., then that would probably indicate that condo management is not really in a rush to get things fixed.
  • TIGHT PARKING SPOTS: Some condos save on space and do not leave you with enough room to park your vehicles. That isn’t just an inconvenience, it may also result in additional scratches and damages to your vehicle. As an additional tip, try to understand how far a vehicle parking space is from the elevator. If it’s quite a walk, you may regret that in the future when you have a lot of stuff to carry.
  • PARTY, PARTY, PARTY: Coming to see a condo later in the evening on Friday or Saturday can also indicate how much of a party-vibe a condo has. While nice parties where neighbours respect each other are fine, wild frat parties at 3 AM lose their charm quickly. Their presence might indicate that the place isn’t such a good investment for anyone who wants to get a good night’s sleep or avoid stepping on beer cans in the elevator in the morning.


What about the “grey area” indicators?

There are some subjective condo qualities that don’t necessarily mean the condo is bad, but may contribute to a negative condo perception. One is condo design (including both the exterior building design and the interior design of the common areas) and the other is condo landscaping (or its lack thereof). Your perception of these aspects may vary as tastes differ, but it is still useful to make a note of your impression of these things. The attention to detail here could be an indication of what the building’s overall management services are like, or they could influence the value and salability of your unit if you decide to sell in the future.

What should you take away from all of this?

While you should pay attention to all of these tips, your response to what you see will differ based on your personal preferences. Just remember that, if you want to get the most informative perspective on your future property, the best times to visit are:

  • In the evenings, when everybody is home from work.
  • On the weekends, around midday, when some people are moving in or out (but avoid long weekends—that’s when most people are away, so you won’t get a real picture of what the building environment is like).
  • After supper on Friday nights, so you can see if your building is calm and relaxing or party central.

We hope that you find these tips useful. They were compiled from the real experiences of thousands of condo owners and renters on CondoEssentials.com. If you are really serious about getting the best condo, check out our list of 22 things to search in a condo when buying like a pro.

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5 years ago

Good heavens. The most important of all: don’t make an offer until you’ve looked at the Reserve Fund Study and the Status Report (the document that’s the financial snapshot of where the building stands financially at this exact point in time). Make your offer conditional on YOUR approval of the both. The Reserve Fund Study is the document that tells you what to expect in terms of capital repair projects in the future, (roof repairs, elevator replacements, windows or hall carpets replacements, and more). It will also tell you if a special assessment is planned. Get used to reading these… Read more »

5 years ago

Thanks for the tips useful!

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