A beautiful new condo, your dream home in the sky

Why your new condo may not feel like home – yet!

Our condo expert delivers the straight goods on what to expect after you get the keys to your brand new condo.

We sat down with Tarion’s resident condo expert and asked her to share some of the most common surprises that wait for excited, though unsuspecting, new condo owners.

High expectations are fine as long as they are also realistic expectations.

The Real Condo Relationship

We often hear about new condo owners who are initially disappointed that their new unit is not as amazing and spectacular as they dreamed it would be. “Of course, dreaming is fine just be careful you don’t slip into an unrealistic fantasy,” says our expert. Condo expectations it seems are directly proportional to the amount of time between the decision to buy a condo and final ownership. It works something like this: Back when you and your condo were still dating, you were both on your best behavior. Maybe you remember your first trip to the model unit. It might have been love at first sight. However long it took, there was definitely something in the sales office that hooked you. Perhaps it was the builder’s reputation, the view or the location. You might even have been swayed by the designer touches; trendy wall colours, décor accents, furniture choices, artwork, etc. Whatever it was you made the commitment to own. Then came the wait. Sometimes, the long wait. Time makes the heart grow fonder and the memory fuzzier. So, by the time you actually walk into your brand new – and very empty – condo unit it does not quite match the décor magazine fantasy you’ve harboured for so long. High expectations are fine as long as they are also realistic expectations. Some people believe they will walk into a picture-perfect condo that has all their amenities ready to use on day one. The reality is a little different.

When owning a new condo is a kind of, sort of, not quite yet thing

We recently met two new condo owners at our Annual Public Meeting who were getting a taste of this new condo reality. Mary and Jane (not their real names) had moved into their new condo some time ago and didn’t understand why they were still paying interim occupancy fees and why the common elements were taking so long to complete – no one told them that they would be living in a construction zone!

Boxes piled up inside somebody's new condo

The date you move into your building and the length of time you pay “rent” before you actually become the owner is not within Tarion’s control.

So what exactly is going on here?

We answer these questions from new condo owners all the time. Here’s the short version of what we say: individual condominium units get completed before the rest of the building, including common elements. So on the one hand, you get to move in faster, because you don’t have to wait for the very last coat of paint to dry. On the other hand, even though you have the keys, you don’t actually own your unit just yet. And since you’re living there but you don’t own your unit, you’ll be paying rent to keep the building up and running.

And now, here’s a slightly longer answer: The date you move into your building and the length of time you pay “rent” before you actually become the owner is not within Tarion’s control. It’s the municipality that grants condo owners the right to interim occupancy and to move into their unit. It’s the builder who sets the interim occupancy fee (based on the guidelines set within the Condominium Act). And it is also the municipality that grants approval for registration. The reality is that some new homeowners may live like this anywhere from a month to two years — and it’s not uncommon.

When do condo buyers truly own their unit?

You won’t legally own your unit until the builder registers the condo with the municipality. The unit owners then get to elect the Board of Directors who handle things like the management of the condominium and the reserve fund. Then, (finally!) you get final occupancy, which means you now own your dream unit. You stop paying the interim occupancy fees and start to pay your mortgage and maintenance fees. Condo units get approval from the municipality to get registered with the Land Registry Office.

The one, two and seven year warranties on your condo unit start on the day you take occupancy. The Common Element Warranty starts once the condominium is registered.

Holding the keys to your new condo

So when does the warranty start?

The one, two and seven year warranties on your condo unit start on the day you take occupancy. The Common Element Warranty starts once the condominium is registered. Of course, if you have serious concerns about the common elements during interim occupancy, you can always contact Tarion and we will work with you, your property manager, and your builder to see what can be done.

And what happened to Mary and Jane?

Their condominium has since been registered, the condo board has been elected, and we have completed a presentation on the warrantying timelines with the Board of Directors, property manager, and their builder. Mary and Jane are working with their newly elected board and property manager to resolve their common element issues and Tarion is here to help them all work together.

Lessons learned:

  1. Buying a new condo is not a simple process. A lot can happen between the time you sign the Agreement of Purchase and Sale to the time you move in. It’s very important that condo buyers thoroughly read everything they sign in order to fully understand the process.
  2. Any time you purchase a new condo unit, it is unlikely it will look exactly like the model unit as soon as you move in. The reality is that the building process allows some leeway for move-in time, so you will rarely move into a fully completed building.
  3. If you move into a new condo before it has been registered, it’s not yours yet. You are essentially renting your unit from the builder and have no claim to the amenities you have purchased.

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