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Guest Writer Hanna Stecewicz: Should I Buy A Condo or Not?

As we introduce guest writers this month, today The Hudsucker welcomes Hanna Stecewicz, a Toronto real estate sales representative of Right At Home Realty Inc., with an objective to provide above par service to young urban professionals who want to own property in the city. 


Hanna Stecewicz, a Toronto based Realtor, helps Urban Professionals who want to own real estate in the city. She loves Toronto and everything the city has to offer. Neighborhoods are important, and each one has something different to offer. Hanna makes sure her clients not only love their home, but love their neighborhood as well. For Hanna, the guiding principal is “clients are family – treat clients as one would like a Realtor to treat oneself.”

To contact Hanna, visit her website Hanna in the City or follow her on FacebookTwitter and LinkedIn.


My cousin’s roomate’s mother-in-law’s neighbor told me condos are a bad investment…

So what do you want to do?

You can keep renting that too cramped, too run-down, cigarette smoke infused apartment with that annoying, yogurt-stealing, privacy-invading roommate Becky. Or, you can go ahead and do some research on condos. Your cousin’s roomate’s mother-in-law’s neighbor could be right… in some cases. You certainly don’t want to end up with a poor investment. Last thing you need is your cousin and the rest of the family giving you “the I told you so” for the next eight months.

You shouldn’t give up though. So you don’t have enough income to buy that sensible 3 bed, 2 bath semi on a tree-lined street, but that doesn’t mean you have to waste money on rent for the next five years.

You can certainly be proud to own a condo, if you know what to look for. The first thing I always tell my clients is the cliché, LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION. In every major city, there are good neighborhoods and there are bad neighborhoods.  If you’ve lived in the city for a few years, you’ll know from experience which parts of town to stay away from. This is common sense.

What takes a little bit more consideration? For one, areas are becoming over-saturated  In Toronto, new condo development has gone into overdrive and it’s common to find 15 condo towers in close proximity to each other. This is a problem. It’s the simple economic model of supply and demand. When you have an area where it’s common to find 100 listings for sale within a particular complex at any given time, it’s a case of oversupply. Not only will it be hard to sell the condo with so much competition, you won’t see the same rate of appreciation in value as you would in a less concentrated area.

And secondly, remember you’re (hypothetically) moving out of an apartment, so move away from a neighborhood with a high number of apartment buildings. Surrounding real estate impacts the value of your property. You know how they say “it’s not good to be the nicest house on the block?” That’s because if you’re surrounded by inferior real estate, it brings down the value of your own property. Vice versa is true. If you have the “ugliest house on the block”, then the nicer properties on the block bring up the value of your home. The same is true for condo buildings. It’s better to be surrounded by million dollar homes than low-rent apartment buildings.

Image Credit: Fotog/Tetra Images/Getty Images

Image Credit: Fotog/Tetra Images/Getty Images

In real estate, ratios are important. Focus on neighborhoods with a low concentration of condos, a high concentration of amenities (theaters, restaurants, parks, fitness centers, shops), surrounded by more expensive real estate.

Once you’ve narrowed down on the location, you should focus on buildings that offer differentiation. Differentiation is a marketing term: It is the process of distinguishing an offering from others, to make it more attractive to a particular target market. This involves differentiating it from competitors’ products.

Imagine your roommate Becky comes home with a brand new purse. It’s the same mass-produced purse that your friend Jen has. In fact, your sister has that purse too and you’re pretty sure you’ve seen Amanda carry it. Everyone seems to have this exact same purse. So you don’t really care that Becky has it too. If you were going to buy a purse, you’d buy one that nobody else has.

The same goes for condos. If you buy a generic concrete and glass condo unit with the same floor plan and the same finishes as every other condo, it won’t be as desirable to a pool of future potential buyers than if you had loft with 13 foot ceilings or exposed brick walls, which is more rare.

When looking at condo buildings, age in important. You don’t want to buy a condo that’s too old or too young. A happy range in my opinion is 2-12 years. Pre-construction condos and new builds don’t have a reputation that you can rely on yet and older buildings require more maintenance.

Finally, after you’ve narrowed down on the location and you’ve narrowed down on the condo itself, you want to make sure the building has a good reputation. In Toronto, this stage is called due diligence and it happens when you make an offer. When an offer is made, it’s often made with conditions. One, the offer is conditional upon buyer arranging satisfactory financing and two, the offer is conditional upon the buyer’s lawyer reviewing and approving the status certificate.

I don’t expect anyone to know what a status certificate is. Although you should, especially if you’re making offers on condos. Consider every condo like a mini corporation run by a property management company and board of directors who are elected by the owners. Like corporations, every condo has financial statements that illustrate the condos financial stability. These statements highlight how much money is in the condo’s reserve fund, or bank account if you will, what the current maintenance fees are for the particular unit of interest, the budget for the current year, the forecasted expenses, and so on. Further, the status certificate will show whether or not there are any lawsuits, liens or special assessments against the condo. The last thing you want is to move into your new home and discover you owe the condo board $40,000 to go towards balcony repairs and a class action lawsuit because the glass falling off the balconies is killing pedestrians below and there isn’t enough money in the reserve to pay for it all.

Also, along with the status certificate is a boring 50+ page book on rules and by-laws. It’s good to read through this so you know what you can and cannot do. It would be a shame if you had to give away Feefee Puppy because 150 lb Mastiffs are prohibited inside the building.

If you do a bit of research, there is no reason why you have to listen to anyone when they say condos are a poor investment. I promise, you don’t need to participate in a bidding war against five over-caffeinated power-couples for that overvalued freehold house, and you don’t need to hide your yogurt from Becky anymore either. You can be happy owning a condo, and more importantly, you can be proud to tell your cousin how AWESOME your new condo is!

Disclaimer: The preceding commentary is the opinion of Hanna Stecewicz and does not represent the interests or opinions of Right at Home Realty Inc., Brokerage or the Toronto Real Estate Board. Therefore, Right at Home Realty will not be held responsible and/or liable for any of the opinions herein.

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2 Comments on “Guest Writer Hanna Stecewicz: Should I Buy A Condo or Not?”

  1. Becky June 18, 2013 at 11:58 am #

    Great article! Very useful things to think about when purchasing such a big investment!!

  2. Joanna June 18, 2013 at 11:18 pm #

    Hanna, you nailed it with the relationship between dense neighbourhoods and low condo appreciation. People don’t tend to see that until they become owners and it’s too late. Thank you for your thoughts and advise!

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