They say “a picture is worth a thousand words“, so today I’m going to paint you a picture of a real life purchase of a home priced at over one million dollars.
All the academic theory in the world fails to expose just how repugnant the purchase of a pre-construction home actually is.
The day before Christmas in 2015, frustrated by failed investment market opportunities, I ended up looking at buying two high end pre-construction houses in London, Ontario, a market that history shows does not show a lot of “upside return” on equity growth, but a safe and conservative college town.
We were in our Florida home getting ready for Christmas when I came across a Listing on Realtor.ca, offering four bedroom detached houses at Bronte and Lakeshore, Oakville’s most prestigious residential area!
I jumped on it and called the listing agent, who was evasive at minimum, and told me that there were actually seven remaining for sale, but she told me she’d have to “get right back to me“.
My “radar” told me there was something in the wind.
It was actually one of those “too good to be true opportunities” so I asked a past associate of mine to go check it out for me.
She was quite to tell me that there was no need for her to drive over there because “that price simply was not reflective of the Lakeshore / Bronte Village area“.
We called the developer directly, who told me that the Realtor no longer had the listing and that the mls listing should have been removed.
He told us that he was the C.E.O., also told me that there was “only three homes remaining, but it was Christmas party time for their employees and nothing would happen before at least Boxing Day (day after Christmas).
We had their full colour brochure with all the floor plans (have you ever seen an ugly sales brochure at a condo site?) and had chosen one specific model and told him that we wanted to lock that unit up and asked him to simply send the paper work.
Here’s a walk-through of that brochure:
The cover is a professionally shot photo of a couple enjoying a leisurely sail on a hot sunny summer afternoon with the words: “18 exquisite homes. Close to the water. As rare as their Oakville location”.
The large format full colour brochure is certainly well written by a skilled ad agency who was hired, to create a “bullet proof” advertising campaign for the developer.
The inside first page goes on to announce “how proud” the developer is, “to present this exclusive neighbourhood“, promising “the ultimate in traditional craftsmanship combines with the very latest in contemporary design and finishes to create luxurious homes of exceptional quality“.
The next page of their brochure is titled: “A Focus on Building Excellence” and fundamentally is a builder profile that their later conduct would suggest to be absolutely false.
What ended up being just these two young guys, announce “more than 20 years of combined experience in land development, commercial development, residential infill projects and subdivisions“.
The developer says that they “have built an enviable reputation for excellence and customer service“; that they are a “trusted builder” that “prides itself on its strong integrity“.
I’ve already said that the ad agency did a great job, but my issue is that this brochure is nothing more that propaganda, with the majority of what is published here being “factually untrue“!
My point is that there is no mechanism in place to police (on consumer’s behalf) the “integrity” of material published by developers to entice consumers into legal binding contracts for the sale of something that will be constructed at some time later.
The next page in this very impressive (but “substantive deficient“) sales brochure is a nicely articulated presentation of the geographic area, which I had already been sold on as a result of my having looked everywhere to buy our home.
No one had to sell me on the area. It is priceless, and I’ve heard all of my life that the three most important things in buying real estate are, “location, location, and . . . . . . location“.
All the floor plans followed, and then a beautiful photograph of a magnificent kitchen with the heading “Finished to the ultimate in perfection“.
The truth ended up being that absolutely nothing in this photograph had anything to do with the house that the purchaser was buying!
The developer had included an appliance package that we fully intended to trade-up with the supplier later, but it was nothing like that shown in the brochure.
I was born at night but it wasn’t last night!
And having done this so many times over my lifetime, I knew what to expect and possibly that this developer might not expect from me (game on . . . . and, “watch out“).
We were supposed to get “occupancy” last September and since that time the developer has missed occupancy date after occupancy date, stepped outside “Outside Occupancy Date“ twice, and basically stumbled their way through a rather challenging ongoing negotiations with me.
Fortunately, this developer (in whom I have no confidence what-so-ever!) was fortunate enough to hire a good contractor, and really, that’s all that you can hope for as these so-called developers (they actually are only builders as another company actually developed the site).
I could not be more impressed with this contractor (and would be happy to refer anyone to him if you are looking for someone to build you a home).
I anticipated pretty well (except for the extreme level of stupidity) each development along the way and have held the developer’s shoulder to the wheel, repeatedly catching him in outright lies.
The lots were all pre-designed for certain houses and these two guys, instead of simply being honest and telling us that the home we selected would not fit on the premium lot that we paid an additional $50.000 for, he had chosen to go to the architects and draw up a completely new floor plan WITHOUT DISCLOSING IT TO US!
I simply cannot come up with the dysfunction or flawed logic that would lead a developer to create a completely new floor plan of a customer’s home and choose to hide it, to the extent of continuing to send the original floor plans and holding back the new plans!
And the real killer is that they had another plan that would have worked!
I was in it on the weekend and I am tremendously impressed and satisfied with it, although I see my neighbours or to-be neighbours, being what I see as “exploited by the developer” on yet another front.
These homes are POTL (“Parcel Of Tied Land“) meaning that the road is private condo, thus a condo board will have to be formed to manage that condo corporation.
The issue that I am looking at is the fact that the developer is contractually entitled to charge “Occupancy fees” on the entire balance.
There is a way to avoid occupancy fees by simply “advancing all cash at closing“.
The result is that you pay only your share of tax and maintenance fee avoiding the “Phantom Mortgage“!
The legal issue I am investigation rest with “how the developer can charge the phantom mortgage on the full sale amount when only a small portion is involved with the condominium“?
This is something that I’ve done with every property we’ve purchased and it saves you a ton of money!
Seldom is this option extended by, or ever disclosed by the developer (I impose it into our Agreement of Purchase and Sale).
I am confident that my 17 new to-be neighbours may legally be entitled to the return of any portion of their occupancy fee, in excess to their obligations to the condo component of this POTL.
I’m not a lawyer, but I do understand the objective of laws.
So, what were represented and sold as “an exclusive collection of detached homes . . . the ultimate in traditional craftsmanship combined with the latest in contemporary design and finishes“, without the “six figure upgrade” that was required to bring our home up to Standard, to upgrade the laminate counter tops in bathrooms, ceramic tile in kitchens, foyer and bathrooms, low standard appliance package and extremely “base” kitchen from a named supplier!
The question of the day is: “is there any laws to protect consumers when they are spending upwards of a half million dollars to buy based on a developer’s word“?
Some of the buyers are already living in their “construction zone homes” amidst the dust and debris!
We were schedule once again to move in on the first of June and never even received legal notice of yet another delay in occupancy.
We’ve been packed for months!
The developer sent us a letter announcing that there has been a strike but no dates or details or scheduling was included.
How can consumer not be given legal notice of delays and rescheduled dates for occupancy.
Right now (fortunately we go and visit it every weekend or this would really be a tragic tale) it’s about sixty days from completion and we are more than happy to wait it out.
The workmanship of the trades is superior!
Tragically, the average consumer (I assume most of the other 18 buyers in this community) not knowing what my decades of condo experience equips me with, is once again getting shafted.
Municipality of the Town of Oakville