There are many advantages to buying a condo off-plan, but there are also risks involved. We’re here to tell you what they are, and how to best protect yourself.
Buying a condo off-plan can be a good idea. You get to take your pick from all the models available, personalize the space with slight modifications to the design, and pay current market price, despite the fact that by the time construction is complete, the market value of the property may have increased.
“Being one of the first buyers also allows you to choose among the best situated units in the building” adds Ronald Panneton, Vice President of the Groupe Alta-Socam.
It is important to exercise caution and know how to protect yourself, because buying a home that hadn’t even been built yet can bring on some complications.
Taking Possession Later than Expected? Make Sure You’re Compensated!
Managing construction is not a simple task and delays are frequent. Protect yourself by ensuring that the date you are expected to take possession of your new condo is clearly indicated on the contract you are signing. While, for example, a two week delay may be acceptable, you can negotiate a penalty for longer delays.
And because you don’t want to have to wait forever in condo limbo, it is important to also state that after a predetermined amount of time has passed, you reserve the right to terminate the contract, according Ms. Ginette Allard, a notary at the Grandpré, Joli-Coeur firm.
Gross Surface Area or Net Area?
When you buy an off-plan unit in a multi-storey building, you are provided with the architect’s measurements. They include columns and supporting walls, among other things. Once the unit is built, a surveyor will determine the net area of the unit, which translates to habitable surface area and is less than the gross surface area. Although the difference between gross and net surface area can vary according to the type of construction, there is always a difference, which is important to keep in mind when you buy so you don’t later feel like you were misled.
“The buyer and developer should agree on what percentage of difference between gross and net square footage is acceptable. There should be a clause in the contract that either ensures a flat rate of compensation, or a rate of compensation per square foot for differences exceeding the percentage agreed upon. There should also be a clause allowing the buyer to annul the contract if the difference between gross and net area surpasses a predetermined threshold that the buyer deems too high,” Ms. Allard explains.
Negotiating Your Contract
To quote the Latin proverb: “spoken words fly away, written words remain”. When it comes to buying a condo, this means you must have all elements you consider non-negotiables explicitly stated in your contract, be it the pool or chalet on the roof, or the quality of the soundproofing or finishing materials.
“Have you negotiated with the sales office? Ask that every promised inclusion, from luxury countertops to ceramic tiles in the shower to lighting under the kitchen cabinets, be included in your contract” Ronald Panneton counsels, adding that one should never assume that what you see in the showroom is what you’ll actually get in every unit. Keep in mind that this model unit is made to boost sales. Productive negotiation requires good preparation!
Find more aspects to consider in the article: How to Efficiently Negotiate the Purchase of a Condo
Navigating Your Warranty
If you buy in a building where there are four or less superimposed units, the Garantie de construction residentielle automatically applies and has been in effect since January 1st, 2015. To understand the ins and outs of the guarantee as well as what’s included, consult their website. For taller buildings, the developer is free to adhere to any warranty plan offered by entrepreneurial associations such as l’Association des professionnels de la construction et de l’habitation du Québec (APCHQ) and its program called Garantie des immeubles résidentiels (GIR), or l’Association de la construction du Québec and its program called Plan de garantie (PGAI) or finally the Garantie Habitation des Maîtres Bâtisseurs (GHMB).
These warranty plans vary from one to the other, but all protect down payments (up to a certain amount), and some of them compensate buyers if they take possession of their unit later than planned. They all protect buyers in case of incomplete construction, and unit defects or malfunctions.
Know Your Developer
Because warranty protection is inevitably limited, it is smart to learn about the developer that you’re doing business with.
- How long have they been in business, and how many successful projects do they have under their belt? (Mr. Allard suggests you go see their previous projects and ask the co-proprietors about the quality of the construction and the after-sale follow through.
- Does the developer frequently change business names, and have they faced criminal prosecution? To find out visit http://jugements.qc.ca
- Has the developer has many complaints filed against them at the Office de la protection du consommateur? Check at http://opc.gouv.qc.ca
- Is the developer registered with the Regie du batiment du Quebec? You can find the list of registered developers at https://www.rbq.gouv.qc.ca/en/home.html
- Are the documents they provide clear and easy to read? Is it easy to obtain information from them?
- Are the staff at the sales office able to answer specific questions about the project?
It is good to note that the Civil Code of Quebec ensures that if the developer fails to pay the people who took part in the construction of a building, such as labourers, architects, and those who provided materials, those affected can file a notice of legal hypothec that will force the co-proprietors to pay these debts. Ms. Allard says that you can get Title Insurance to protect against this, albeit paid for by you and not the developer.