Whether because of popular culture or due to the experiences of friends and family, first-time home buyers are often more familiar with the resale market or "second-hand houses.” Therefore, when they start the process of buying a brand-new home, they sometimes have to face their false perceptions.

It is particularly true in the case of a condo off-plan, confirms Tania Sergi, sales director at Groupe Quorum. If she notices that there is more interest for brand-new condominiums, she admits that buyers are sometimes unrealistic when it comes to their expectations. "Some people seem to think that building off-plan means that everything is custom-built,” she explains. For example, some people want to install the flooring themselves or move a wall. "It is what I would call of magical thinking,” adds the sales director

In short, yes the home is yours, but not all the rights!

Many benefits nevertheless

One thing is sure: experts notice that first-time buyers have a lack of preparation and knowledge when it comes to buying a house off-plan. It is the case of Félix Cotte, real estate consultant: "The first time, there might be a lot of frustration and disappointments,” he argues. "However, second-time and third-time buyers are more receptive, since their expectations are more realistic.” Moreover, he notes that, nevertheless, the people who have bought once off-plan are numerous to renew the experience. "Expectations are one thing, but there are a lot of benefits. People can choose their colours, their linings, their kitchen countertops, etc. On top of that, a condo bought off- plan can cost up to 10% less before it has been built than after."

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Promoters attempt as much as possible to accommodate the buyers. "It is certain that, as constructors, we are open-minded, but there are some modifications that just cannot be done. Moving the whole kitchen, for example,” says Tania Sergi. Same thing for John Faratro, president of the real estate development group Struktur: "It is hard to make modifications when segments are already set up, but enlarging or reducing the size of a bedroom is always possible, without additional costs.”

While talking about modifications, a few additional modifications to your project may occur during construction without prior notice. It could be due to materials being out of stock or due to a change of plans. "Obviously, if it is a major modification, like a balcony that is smaller than expected, the buyer will have to be notified and he will have the opportunity to withdraw and take back his deposits,” underlines Félix Cotte. However, if it is a minor modification, the latter will be replaced by something of an equal or superior value . . . that might not always please the buyer.

Projet de maison

It is taking so much time!

For Félix Cotte, people are often surprised by the construction delays. Indeed, it often happens that projects are delayed for a number of reasons. For example, a very cold winter can delay work!

"Regarding delays, people need to understand that there are steps before the construction can even begin and it is beyond our influence,” says John Faratro. For example, Montreal's boroughs are often responsible for the delays. "They are very slow at delivering permits and at reviewing projects,” explains the director. “One must say that laws are interpreted differently from one borough to the next. However, the presale has already started at that time . . . But once this step is over, the constructors are in charge of the building site."

Another false perception: buyers also sometimes believe they can come and go on the building site whenever they want, in order to keep an eye on the work in progress. But, for most projects, the buyers will only be allowed to visit the property once it is near completion. This process differs from one constructor to the next. At Quorum, for example, owners are invited to visit the site when the project is near completion during a guided tour. "Then they can bring their paint colours, their measuring tapes, etc.," explains Tania Sergi. For her, it is first and foremost a question of security and efficiency. At Struktur, things are a little bit different. "We prefer to grant access to the building site during construction since we prefer to make the modifications during that step,” confirms John Faratro.

In short, first-time buyers may have unrealistic expectations when it comes to buying off-plan, but nevertheless the results are worth it!