Does Anyone Really Believe That Construction Dysfunction In Toronto Is Limited To Condos?


Following a successful almost four decades in Toronto’s Condo Land, it is disappointing to have to admit that the concept of condo has been totally missed!

Having only been involved in the condo side of this, as opposed to detached houses, I recently wondered if the dysfunction that strips condos of their legitimacy, is also present when it comes to detached houses.

As I’m in the process of buying a large to-be-built home in Oakville, this question carried double meaning for me, and being unimpressed with the way I’ve been dealt with in my purchase of a home, I thought it would be of interest and value to people if I veered off of my normal trajectory and do some research on detached house developers.

So last week I spend hours checking out Oakville house developers and came up with some rather well known names, like “Fernbrooke“, “Great Gulf” and “Monarch“, who, coincidentally (or not) are also major players in Condo Land!

The developers that I decided to buy from (I bought right off the Internet site unseen specifically was I was unable to find a quality investment of any description) was a no-name, smaller outfit that had not built in Oakville previously but whom had a rather impressive website that emphasized their attention to detail and preference to sticking with small density developments that allowed them to retain a “personal touch” as opposed to mass production of “rows of houses that are all the same” (as a song from my youth goes).

A good tip that I’ve presented to my global readers over the decade and a half of publishing (now because I cover such a broad range of topics and no longer just condos or Condo Land as Toronto’s condo market is known as) is:  “believe nothing that you hear and half of what you see“.

Well, my no-name developer has proven to be no different that all the other developers that Ive dealt with over the years (I’ve bought and/or sold almost a dozen properties over the past decade and a half) and the message on their web site . . . . . . all propaganda and bull sh#t!

So, in my many hours of real estate shopping using I narrowed in on Fernbrook Homes and found a couple of developments in Oakville that intrigued me and suggested that I should take a serious look.

Cosmetically, Fernbrook’s houses looked impressive!  So much so that I got my cheque book out and made plans to visit their showrooms on Saturday.

Due to yet another delay with my developer that took them outside of the “Outside Occupancy Date” set out in our Agreement of Purchase and Sale (if you don’t read your own documents this opportunity would have blown right past, which I’m confident is what the developer was anticipating when sending out the Notice).

I covered the significance of this material change in the Tarion Warranty in an earlier blog (last week) so if you’re not up on it, you had better go back and read them if you missed them!

The crux of it is that the Tarion Warranty must now (changed in 2012) stipulate a date that is the latest that a developer can drag on the delivery of your home without granting the consumer the opportunity to get out of the deal all together while getting back their deposits plus interest and potentially some cost of living payments as well.

All effective due diligence is significantly easier today as there are “customer rating” web sites today where buyers can post about their experiences with developers.

When I checked out Fernbrook, I was shocked to see the consistency of dissatisfied consumers that bought a Fernbrook home.

It seemed abundantly clear that detached house developers and Condo Land developers are all “cut from the same cloth“.

I still felt that Fernbrook’s offerings justified physically checking them out so, on Saturday morning I drove out again to Oakville and check out these visually stimulating residences and the area in which they were located.

All this experience did was solidify to me that as dysfunctional as my no-name developer was proving to be, that detached house by the lake that I had bought sight unseen, was actually a ten when compared to what the area of Dundas Street and Bronte offered!

I had driven the area briefly before but did not retain the fact that the area is everything I’ve always wanted to avoid!  I’ve always worked hard at not accepting mediocrity and, at best, this massive collection of rows, and rows, and rows, and rows of house that all look  the same, represented everything that I’ve always tried to avoid.

But for the sake of an investment, I was open to reassessing my earlier conclusions about living is “stereotype suburbia“.

Next, I tracked down the winding new streets adorned and/or “surrounded by nature’s green spaces” only to beset by claustrophobia!

Now, the biggest surprise came from garage doors!

Every one of these houses (they call them townhouses but they are only connected at the garage so there is no “shared walls” had these two small garage doors.

Now, I drive an S550 Mercedes Benz and I’m not about to resort to “surface parking” due to my inability to fit my car into my garage.

Oh, I could “inch” it into these miniature doorways but all of my sensors would be having a literal coronary!  I’d be so distracted by alarms going off every time I entered or exited my garage, that I would never want to leave or come home!

I’m not about to leave a car that originally cost over $150,000 out in the Ontario winter, regardless of how much I would like the new home.

These communities of Fernbrook “townhouses” were such a disappointment to me, mostly because of these small garage doors forcing all residents to park in their lane ways ended up making each community look like used car sales lots and the narrow winding road reminded me of depressing low-income neighbourhoods.

These are “family homes” which suggests a mother, father and kids, so the average home has a minimum of three cars!  So you’ve got this narrow winding dead-end road where you have to squeak by any other car entering or exiting the community every time you come in and go out!

I immediately became “claustrophobic” and had to just leave without even seeing the interior of the two homes that were for sale.

Curb-appeal” is not just for selling your home!  You’ve got to come and go every day and this chaos of too many cars, too narrow a street, and the nowhere location simply made my decision for me which was to stick with what I’ve got providing I can get this developer’s feet back on the ground and communicate with us.

The good news was, the fact that my developer of my new home (yes, the deal I’ve been thinking of and blogging about my intentions of getting out of) was so delayed that he hasn’t built anything other than the foundation.

So, I immediately roared over to the site to measure the two doorways into my garage and sure enough, I would not be able to park my car in my own garage!

Fortunately, I remembered that the model that I had purchased had three (3) Elevations and one of those had a “large single door to the two car garage“.

They had poured the foundation and included in it a small bib onto which the garage door separator would be added, so we still have time to remedy the situation, so I immediately called the developer and left them a voice mail (does anyone answer their cell phones any more?).

I returned home and wrote a detailed email informing the developer that we can save the deal that I am already in the position to walk away from, providing we can change the garage door from Elevation “A” to Elevation “C” with respect to the garage door.

He promised to get back to us the next day which, as usual, was one of his promises that remains unfulfilled.

Sometimes it’s better to deal with the snake that you know as to deal with one you don’t know, and I really do like the location, small number of houses on the street, and the layout of the home.

Am I ready to give my developer some sort of “endorsement“?

Not on your life!  They have to “earn” that!

I’m Charles



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