Buying a pre-construction condo, either as a place to live in or a as a rental investment property, is a big decision and a significant investment. With condo prices in Toronto still aggressively growing, more and more buyers are turning to pre-construction condominiums.
The biggest difference that you are facing when buying a pre-development condo in Toronto, is that you can’t see your unit and must rely on floorplans and drawings. It is extremely important to carefully review the floorplan as often there is important information “hiding” in them. We put together a guide showing signs that should make your alarm bells ring once you look at the pre-construction condo floor plan.
Pitfall #1: Too small or “hidden” square footage data
Some pre-construction condos in Toronto naturally come with small square footage (due to high real estate prices), but builders often try to overcompensate with larger balcony and terrace areas – see an example on the left. This condos’ square footage is only 402 sq. ft. Don’t be fooled though! A large terrace or balcony is nice but for at least half of the year you will not be able to enjoy it due to the weather.
Also look carefully at the square footage data – every square foot is important for small pre-construction condos. In some cases, builders might include balcony space into the square footage (which is an unfair practice and luckily most builders/agents do not do that). Confirm that the square footage does not include the balcony.
When buying a small condo in Toronto (it also applies to other locations such as Mississauga, Vancouver, Calgary and other cities), make sure that the living room/bedroom/kitchen spaces are maximized and do not waste a single square foot. In the next paragraphs you will learn how to recognize such wasted spaces.
Pitfall #2: Irregular floor plan shapes:
Some pre-construction condo unit shapes are dictated by the geometry of the building. Though some people can find this attractive and full of character, most people will find it inconvenient in the future, especially in terms of the wasted space and the difficulty in finding furniture that fits into the condo.
Another important aspect to consider is that condos with irregular shapes offer, as a rule, less furniture setup configurations. Curved walls and irregular spaces will be an obstacle that means once your furniture is set up, chances are that’s the configuration you’ll have to have for the duration of your time in the unit.
An external rendering or drawing of a condominium building can give a good idea if irregular shapes are going to be an issue. One of the most prominent examples is the famous Marilyn Monroe (Absolute Towers) in Mississauga, where nearly all the condo units have irregular floorplans.
Pitfall #3: Narrow corners and columns that steal space.
Some pre-construction condos come with narrow corners and spaces that are hard to use. Though, at the first glance, it may seem that they add personality, it is important to consider that in most cases this is just wasted space. Despite the fact that it is calculated into the condo square footage, you cannot use the space for furniture. Very often, the only possible options for these areas are plants or a floor lamp.
The same can be said about columns. While some of them give a condo a unique touch, especially in larger condos where they act as virtual space separators, columns in smaller condos tend to reduce space – and your setup options as well.
Pitfall #4: Excessive corridor space
From the first glance it may seem that a spacious corridor or foyer is a great feature. Don’t be fooled by this.
More room in one space means less in another. In most cases, a long or spacious corridor will be compensated through smaller living space. You want to have extra square feet in your living room, bedroom or kitchen, but not in the corridor.
Be careful, if your pre-construction Toronto condo plans show long corridors.
Pitfall #5: Large auxiliary spaces
Auxiliary spaces, such as dens or solariums, represent a debated topic. In fact, there are situations where you’d like to have a bigger den, such as if you plan to use it as an additional bedroom or office.
At the same time, a den or solarium that is too big, reduces square footage from your main condo spaces, such as the living room, bedroom(s), or kitchen.
This illustration shows a den that is almost the same size as the living room, making the social space where you could meet your family or friends very small.
In most cases, a den has no windows, making it a less desirable option for an extra room. Focus on pre-construction condo floor plans where the den is not taking too much space from your living, sleeping and entertaining quarters.
Pitfall #6: Bad exposure/views
It is easy to judge the view / exposure when you see a condo live but how can you assess the view based on the floor plan?
The main way it can be discovered is in a small overall building/floor graphic that is often located next to the floor plan.
An example on the left shows that this particular condo will be “locked-in” between different wings of the condominium building; this will significantly limit the views. The maximum that you would get is a concrete-surrounded view of a small inner yard.
Another thing to consider is morning exposure. Should you appreciate an extra couple hours of sleep in the morning, remember that eastern exposure provides sunlight that will wake you up (unless you invest in blackout curtains.) Very often, you can tell which direction your pre-construction condo will face when you look at the plan, as most plans show north indicated by an arrow.
Pitfall #7: Pencil box planning
This is a classical Toronto design for many one-bedroom pre-construction and existing condos, and it is one of the floorplans to avoid (see on the left). The truth about this pencil box floorplan is that in most cases you will get a one-window condo where both the kitchen and one of the rooms are devoid windows. This condo setup is darker than others, lacks individuality and offers exposure in just one direction. Solid walls represent more than 85 per cent of the condo’s walls as opposed to 50 per cent of light-inviting windows in corner units.
Real estate agents are well-aware of all disadvantages of pencil box condos and you will typically find the light turned on during open house days in these units to compensate for the lack of windows.
Instead, try to see if there are any corner units left. Even with the price difference, you will appreciate it in the long-run. Plus, you will get exposure in two different directions, meaning the views will be much nicer.
Pitfall #8: Rooms without windows
Imagine waking up in a prison surrounded by concrete walls. Though not that bad, this is a feeling you can expect when waking up in a bedroom of a condo that does not have any windows. In most cases, these rooms come with a sliding door, making the feeling complete once the door is closed.
Luckily, your pre-construction condo floorplan will allow you to identify this issue quickly. Our advice? Eliminate from your choices all pe-construction condos in Toronto not offering windows in the living room, bedroom(s), and kitchen.
Pitfall #9: Entrance directly into kitchen/living room
Some condos offer no corridor or entry space at all. Though, first it could seem to be a great thing since you are maximizing on your living room, bedroom(s) and kitchen space, this is not a preferred option.
Do you really want people to enter your kitchen when you are cooking? Aside of being less sanitary – imagine a crowd of guests in late fall coming from outside in wet clothes and shoes. Also, where are you going to hang coats, put purses, or place shoes? A small closet might be good for your things, but where will you put your guests’ items?
Another disadvantage of such kitchens is that they would often come without windows since they are located in the inner part of the condo.
Pitfall #10: Elevator proximity
Another useful hint you can often get from the floor plan of your pre-construction condo is how close the unit is located to an elevator.
Condos that have an elevator-adjacent wall or are close to the elevator come with noisy disadvantages. Most likely you will be able to hear the elevator mechanics when an elevator is moving and, especially, when doors are opening and closing at your floor.
Another source of noise are floor visitors, either owners or renters or their guests – if you live just in front of the elevator, it is likely that you will hear people’s conversations, move-in/-out activities or partying guests returning home late. This is less of an issue if your condo unit is located further down the hall.
We hope that these insights will inform your choice of future condos. Our real estate specialists are happy to help you with your pre-construction condos in Toronto and make your dream of condo ownership and investment property come true.