A stack of condo real estate catalogues.

Don’t judge a condo by its marketing cover…

By now you’ve probably heard about the “condo boom” going on in the GTA, which is quickly spreading across the province. If not, just look up. I’m sure you’ll see condos that have either gone up, or are under construction all around you.

With this flurry of construction also comes stiff competition among builders and developers. So much so, that they’ve had to find new ways to vie for your interest – and your money – versus a competitor. As a result, sales presentations have become full productions. Advertising promises the utmost in “luxury” and the marketing materials, while beautiful and glossy, are not always representative of the final product. It’s not that these images are false, it’s just that something might get lost on translation. So, what you think you’re getting is not what you actually get in your new condo, and likely for a variety of reasons.

A rendering of the interior of a condo.

What we found was that many of the complaints arose from the descriptions in the marketing materials not matching the completed product.

When you buy a condo, what are you actually buying?

Tarion was recently contacted by a group of condo owners who felt their builder did not deliver the same quality of finishes that was described in the marketing brochure that was handed out years ago, when they first made their purchases. We performed an inspection to see for ourselves what the issues were. What we found was that many of the complaints arose from the descriptions in the marketing materials not matching the completed product. And here’s where it’s important to know the difference between how a condo developer can market and sell a condo, and what you are actually purchasing.

When you purchase a new condo, the marketing brochure that may have influenced your decision is often quite different from what you agree to with the builder in your purchase documents. Technically speaking, the builder does not have to deliver on any of the images or descriptions in that brochure. Here are some of the buzz words that were used as descriptors in this condo’s marketing materials:

  • “Hand crafted”
  • “Beautifully created”
  • “Intimate lighting”
  • “Art-deco inspired”

These all sound very nice, but unfortunately, the warranty doesn’t cover any of this. What the warranty does cover is outlined in the feature sheet attached to your Agreement of Purchase and Sale. You’ll find that the feature sheet is more specific on items and less specific on descriptions. For example, it may describe what is located in the lobby – like a fireplace or seating. But it will not be specific on what kind of fireplace will be provided. In some cases, we have found that the images in the marketing materials are different than what is described in the feature sheet. In this condo, for example, the brochure image of the fireplace was wood, but the feature sheet stated that the fireplace would be marble – and that is what they received.

What’s with all these changes?

While this can be frustrating to new home buyers, there may be very sound reasons for a builder to make changes from the original sales renderings. It takes many years for a condo to go from the sales centre stage to a completed building. The finishings that were originally planned may no longer be available when it comes time to purchase them. Maybe a municipal regulation has forced the builder to make alterations to the design. So, while the majority of builders do strive to follow through on their original concepts, keep in mind that sales brochure is not a substitute feature sheet. In fact, if you read the fine print on any marketing brochure, you’ll probably see something like this: “Artist’s concept. Design concept is for illustration only and subject to change without notice.”

There is a very extensive warranty on condos that covers the unit, and a separate warranty on the common elements for up to seven years

So, what is covered by the warranty?

There is a very extensive warranty on condos that covers the unit, and a separate warranty on the common elements for up to seven years. While most details in the marketing materials are not covered, you will be covered for anything outlined in your Agreement of Purchase and Sale. For example, with the condo mentioned above, the feature sheet included solar panels, but none were actually installed. The warranty will cover the missing solar panels.

Here’s the bottom line: When purchasing a new condo or house, read your Agreement of Purchase and Sale and the feature sheet located within it. The marketing materials will give you an idea of what you are purchasing, but it’s nothing more than an “artist’s concept.” Remember, if you are not clear or comfortable with what you are reading get a real estate or condominium lawyer to assist.

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