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Condo Upgrades: Where Should You Spend Your Money?

Posted by Richard Robibero on March 23, 2015
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Condo Upgrades

In a city where a single building will house 300 units on average you’ll need a leg up on the competition when you eventually have to sell your condo. You’ll also want features that make living in your condo a pleasant experience. So what upgrades make sense? What changes will see a return in value and which ones are strictly for the home-owners enjoyment?

First, here’s a quick little lesson I’d like to call “Condo Upgrades 101”. Condo developers make great money on the units they sell but they also make a ton of money on the upgrades they offer. Developer friends of mine quote a premium of 50% to 100% over and above what you would pay a contractor to do it. Here’s the thing, depending on the upgrade it sometimes makes sense for the builder to take care of it. For one, the work done by the developer will be covered by Tarion while the upgrades you make may void the warranty on other items (more on this in a future article) but second, certain things are easier to do when there is no drywall or hardwood to scratch up.

If you are buying pre-construction here is a quick summary of the upgrades available and where you will see a return.

Stainless Steel Appliances – Worth It
I don’t think I’ve met a Buyer who prefers white or black appliances over stainless steel. They just plain look nicer. Not much more to it than that. Most new condo developments offer stainless steel as standard appliances.

Upgraded Appliances – Home-owners Enjoyment
What if the builder offers upgraded appliances or you replace your stainless steel fridge that has a top freezer with one that has a freezer on the bottom? These are personal choices and although some buyers will notice they will not add any specific value to them usually. The same applies with washers and dryers. I recall offering $370,000 for a unit and the Seller mentioned that he put in an upgraded washing machine. The Buyer obviously isn’t upping his offer to $370,600.

Premium Countertops – Worth It
It’s worth putting in a premium countertop as it adds to the overall look of the kitchen. You’d be hard-pressed to find a developer that doesn’t include granite or caesarstone nowadays. Look for a supplier in Mississauga versus Vaughan and save up to 40%. I would do this if I was going to live there for a few more years and not a couple of weeks before listing for sale.

Hardwood in Bedroom – Worth It
I would guess more often than not that a buyer prefers hardwood in the bedrooms. It’s a convenience in terms of cleaning and “sleekness” for most people. When purchasing my own condo units I always instruct the developer to not put anything in the bedrooms including carpet (Sometimes I get a few hundred dollars back) and then get my own hardwood installers to install the exact same product. Developers hate this but it’s saved me an average of $2,500 on each unit. Granted you must be comfortable negotiating this and dealing with the flooring contractor. You could also do it after the fact but I stress that if you cannot get the exact same hardwood or a professional to do it you may want to reconsider.

Bedroom Ceiling Junction Boxes – Home-owners Enjoyment*
You would think that a bedroom ceiling light is standard in all buildings but it’s not. In many buildings the upgrade will cost you $250 – $500. I put an asterisk here because while you won’t see a return when you sell, the convenience outweighs it. Also, don’t make the mistake of doing it after the fact because the wires will have to be fished through the ceiling and if it’s a “popcorn” ceiling, you will see the cutout marks no matter what anyone tells you.

Feature Walls, Crown Molding, etc – Home-owners Enjoyment*
You could spend a lot of money on features that, while you love them, others may feel lukewarm. Worst-case is you can turn off half your buyers with 10-inch crown molding with 8-foot ceilings or best-case, your unit will look nicer than your standard unit.

Paint – Worth It!!!
Builders paint is the bane of my existence. It gets dirty when you lean up against it, it’s hard to clean, and it just doesn’t look as good as a quality paint. Painting your condo with some nice neutral colours will go a long way in the overall look. Nothing earth-shattering here.

“What if I upgraded my appliances or put in crown molding? Will my unit sell?”

Of course it will! Don’t be discouraged if you’ve spent on items that “aren’t worth it” according to the list above as they are probably worth it to you and add to the enjoyment of the home and that’s very important. A good Realtor will help you price your unit accordingly and will highlight these features when bringing his own Buyers through the home.


Call Richard at 416-277-8025 if you want an experienced Realtor who can provide you expert advice in buying or selling your condo, choosing your condo upgrades, and what goes along with it.


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