For many of us, buying a home requires all of our senses. We have to walk through the physical space, touch the finishing, look at the décor and imagine our life in the new space.
This sensory experience is difficult to satisfy when you’re buying a pre-construction home or condominium. Instead, we are often left to look at one-dimensional blueprints that have little pull on our emotions.
To help buyers tap into their imaginations, builders make great use of model suites, renderings, brochures, and more often these days, virtual tours. But, such marketing tactics can be misleading.
Just ask Jacek (not his real name).
Before buying his new condo, Jacek toured the model suite and reviewed the brochures over and over again before making the final decision to sign over his money for a down payment. It was because of all that preparation that Jacek knew something was not right with his kitchen island when he finally moved into his new unit.
From everything he saw in the model suite and the marketing material, Jacek argued that his kitchen island was supposed to be a rectangle in the middle of the kitchen that provided comfortable seating for three.
From everything he saw in the model suite and the marketing material, Jacek argued that his kitchen island was supposed to be a rectangle in the middle of the kitchen that provided comfortable seating for three. What he had instead was a tiny square-shaped island that was located too close to a wall and could barely fit two people.
Jacek pulled out his Agreement of Purchase and Sale (APS) to double check the drawings of the kitchen. And, there in Schedule C of the Agreement, the kitchen island was shown as a rectangle with three accompanying chairs. With proof in hand, Jacek called Tarion for help.
When Tarion reviewed the APS, we noticed that, apart from the drawing, the builder did not actually document the size or shape of the island or how many people it could accommodate. The Agreement also had no information or detail about how far the island would be from any walls. Finally, in the fine print at the bottom of the Schedule C Amendment, we found the following statement: “all measurements are approximate and may change.”
So, despite the drawing, we explained to Jacek that the documentation was not specific about the kitchen island dimensions but was clear that the builder had reserved the right to make changes. We had to assess the situation as not warranted.
If you’re in the market for a pre-constructed condo or home, here are a three tips to help you see through the marketing.
1. Marketing isn’t reality
From model suites to renderings, websites, brochures and online virtual tours, each marketing tactic is created by many hands; artists, interior designers, illustrators, graphic designers and others. And, like any piece of creative work, there is plenty of room for interpretation. Take the model suite as an example, to show off the full potential of a building’s unit, the designer will be sure to include all the upgraded finishes, designer furniture, artwork, fine china, ambient lighting, area rugs, etc.
For this reason, unless the APS clearly spells out what will be included in the home, Tarion cannot hold builders responsible for expectations inflated by creative marketing alone. This is especially so when there is ‘fine print’ in the Agreement that makes it clear the builder has reserved the right to make changes.
2. Ask questions
A picture is worth a thousand words, which is why the most compelling marketing and advertising is light on copy. So, it is up to you, the homebuyer, to ask questions when you are touring model suites and reviewing brochures. Understand which finishing are standard and which require an upgrade, determine the size and position of fixed features like a kitchen island or supporting column. Ask questions you may have about the building’s amenities, the neighbourhood and so forth. Research your builder’s reputation and track record.
You can direct many questions to your sales representative. For questions specifically about your builder, start by viewing Tarion’s Ontario Builder Directory. For more tips on researching a builder check out our Top 5 Ways to Research a Builder blog or our The Top 5 Ways to Choose the Right Builder video.
3. Read your purchase agreement thoroughly.
The only way to understand exactly what you are buying – and what the builder can be held accountable to – is by reading your APS. This includes the addendum clauses and the fine print.
The purchase agreement confirms the dimensions of rooms, cupboards and countertops as well as other details within your home. It also outlines what features are included in your new home and what may be excluded. Anything not specified in your purchase agreement cannot be covered by the new home warranty. To help navigate your APS and understand what’s in it, we recommend you seek help from a real estate lawyer.
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