Consider cost of commuting in condo pick

Saturday, September 24th, 2005

Transportation now a huge issue in the hugely booming — and confusing — marketplace

Jason Craik

VANCOUVER SUN/FILES The MAC Real Estate Solution partners, Cameron McNeill (left) and Jason Craik, have generated $350 million in sales for developers so far this year. The Flatiron in Coal Harbour, for which this photograph was taken, was the latest MAC assignment to be profiled this year in Westcoast Homes; Brix in East Vancouver (top). the first.

Homes in more than 300 condominium developments are currently for sale in the Lower Mainland and cranes are (seemingly) pulling more out of the ground daily.

It can be a confusing marketplace for even the most diligent purchaser. But there are many things a purchaser can do to ensure the choice made is the best choice.

Choose your area wisely and try to take the emotion out of the purchase.

The location may seem perfect. But commuting costs could be high, bridge traffic a hindrance, personal safety may be an issue, or shopping and schools not up to what you want.

Buy close to where you work. Or make your condo purchase with public transportation in mind.

Transportation costs are a huge issue these days. A condo purchase on a major transportation route like the SkyTrain or West Coast Express could mean shedding the cost of a second car. Or no car may be necessary. The savings in vehicle cost, maintenance, insurance and gas will go a long way to making a mortgage payment. It may mean a much better condo purchase is possible.

Get out and see the area. Walk around. Talk to people who live there. Check public transportation by taking a test ride. Drive through the community. Many developments aren’t advertised. The only way to see the widest selection of condo developments in the community you may choose to live in is to go there and have a thorough look.

Take notes. Be a good researcher. Compare features like suite positioning, height and views. Does the suite have a balcony? Are there building amenities that you will use? Is the quality of construction giving you the best value?

Purchasing before or during construction makes it difficult to visualize room sizes. Marketing drawings often do not show room dimensions and when your new home is complete you may find it hard to fit in that precious antique wardrobe. Get room dimensions from the salesperson and make a furniture layout.

You should decide if you need all the amenities that a particular development is offering? Many people won’t use a pool, spa, exercise room or party room. You may not need parking for one or more cars. Factor that in. Don’t buy what you won’t use. This can save thousands.

How many bedrooms do you need? Can you get by with less? You may be able to get a much better location by purchasing a smaller suite. Arrange to put excess belongings in storage.

Research the developer before looking at the product. Choose your developer before you choose the condo project in which you will invest or live. Quality can vary just as developers’ reputations vary. Ask for references for people who have bought suites from a developer and check those references. You may be very surprised by what you learn about quality, after sale service and follow through with promised amenities.

Check out the warranty. New rain screen technology should eliminate most concerns about leaky condos. Frame construction is cheaper than concrete. But wood can rot when it gets wet. Contact the Home Owners Protection office for information and advice along with the new home warranty company. Check the builders’ reputation with the Better Business Bureau. If there are complaints, they will show up there.

Before you go home shopping, get a pre-approval for a mortgage. Determine how much you can afford to pay for a condo and how much money is available for a down payment. Do the math. Programs enabling 100-per-cent financing for some purchasers are available.

Make sure you understand the monthly maintenance fees and what they buy. Upkeep of amenities has a cost attached to them and that is reflected in the monthly fees. If you don’t need all the amenities, don’t seek them out. You will save money if you are not making monthly payments to maintain amenities you will never use.

Finally, shop and compare. Take your list of features for suites in each development. Features such as granite counters are expensive. But they add great value to suites and may be a factor in return on investment.

Compare amenities such as pools and fitness centres. Location can determine the cost of a suite. This can also affect the return on your investment when you sell. Construction features like soundproofing can be a big factor in enjoyment of your condo purchase.

Since many new condos are sold up to two years before completion of construction, asking questions and gaining full satisfaction before you sign on the dotted line is essential.

There has never been a better time to buy a condominium be it in a low rise building, a tower or a town house.

Doing your homework before the final choice just makes sense.

© The Vancouver Sun 2005

Comments are closed.