You Have Got To Budget An Additional 10% of the Purchase Price On A Home For “Upgrades”


If you bought a property in and/or around Condoland, you will already know about the “hidden fees” charged by the Municipal Government in “Levies“, “hook-up fees“, “school charges“, etc.

I’m not talking about those today.

I’m taking about “getting the home that you are envisioning buying” which is not always the home “that you end up getting“.

Actually, this is true in the decided majority of cases.

I knew this going in to buying my new Oakville Home.

Buying real estate isn’t as “personal” to me, but I am fully aware that it is a very emotional thing to the majority of buyers out there.

Buying from plans” (as it is called) introduces a whole new landscape, a virtual land-mine field, that can implode even the most solid foundation (psychological not structural) around that “dream home“.

You see, our minds seem always to be optimistically “naive” and we thus can convince ourself that all that written fluff, that magnificent model suite, and those gifted words of the sales agent, actually represent what we’ve boughten into.

It all boils down to what is written in the contract, and that’s all there is folks!

In reality, we’ve just bought into better odds of a nightmare than a pleasant dream in Condoland.

I can’t count the number of times I receive phone calls from disgruntled home buyers who are “at their wits end“, suffering immeasurably from the vast invisible threshold, apparently separating their concept of what they thought they had purchased and the reality of what they have now moved in to.

Having just purchased my own home “from plans“, we found it extremely refreshing to enjoy the freedom to modify the home and make changes.

This is our first “detached home” after numerous concrete condos in Condoland, all of which turned out to be disappointments, resulting in us just getting out all together.

Not only had we purchased from plans again this time, but we purchased “site unseen” directly from a “stale listing” on  I don’t recommend this but with almost four decades of experience I was confident, based on my knowledge of home prices in the immediate area, that we couldn’t go wrong with this buy.

Frustrated by getting the run around from the agent, we spoke directly to the developer on Christmas eve and locked in our deal on the last lot remaining.

The best investment that you can ever make is in your home, especially if and when you spend the significant amount of time that we choose to, enjoying it.

You just can’t find the kind of attention to detail and/or unique taste in finishes that we look for, in a resale property.

Trying to make material changes in Condoland’s cement construction is very limiting, and costly.

Seldom, unfortunately do novice buyers know what they are doing, and if they don’t ask all the right questions, many times they end up with the actual delivered product factually matching the Agreement of Purchase and Sale, but coming nowhere close to the “vision” that has manifested itself in the minds of the buyers.

Very few buyers actually ever read the contracts, mostly due to social conditioning suggesting to them that they cannot “understand the legalese”, when in fact they are not difficult to understand (well intellectually they are but that’s another issue).

Another consistent error made by many buyers is not using a knowledgeable law firm, that is experienced in the marketplace in which your real estate is located (different municipalities have different laws, etc.).

I used the same lawyer all of my investing career and referred him to hundreds of clients during my career and consistently received warm letters of thanks for having referred them to him, and I have no hesitation in endorsing him (Myles Waxman in Toronto).

Many buyers hold the documents for their lawyers until closing (big mistake) and many try not to use a lawyer at all and then, at the last minute grabbing a flat rate guy they came across in a discount big box store.

I’ve always been amazed by how cavalier buyers are about getting a professional legal opinion on real estate transactions regardless of the price point!

So, here’s today’s tip.

When you are buying a home today, especially a home that you intend to live in (best investment you’ll ever see) you have got to budget an additional 10% to simply bring that property up to the standard that your mind has manifested it to be, despite what the documents actually say.

It is usually, “that which isn’t even said” in all of the material that catches you.

For example, I am quite experienced at buying homes and condos, having been top condo buyers agent in Toronto Canada for many years, so I knew what questions to ask the developer before submitting an offer and during the “Rescission Period“.

He answered my three page questionnaire (I also did this for every client that I represented in pre-construction investing) quite thoroughly, but avoided a couple, which I then “red flagged” (it wasn’t as though they would have gotten this far without knowing what counter-tops they were using, or what door and ceiling heights were, and if the interior doors were solid core or hollow core, etc.).

We wanted this specific location and bought blind, knowing that, as we used to say in the television/rock video  production business, “I would fix it in the mix“.

Sure enough, months later while talking with Paris Kitchens (a big name in kitchens which impressed us about their promotional material) our kitchen we discovered, hidden in the fine print of the material they had us sign, was the disclosure that the counter tops are “Laminate“.

This contradicted absolutely every word of their brochure, but we knew this, factored a 10% ($100,000.00) Upgrade budget.

We replaced all interior doors with solid core eight foot doors, converted all the ceramics into magnificent porcelain tile, converted all laminate counter tops to quartz, installed waffle ceilings, coffered ceilings above the grand custom staircase, upgraded the appliances and modified the master ensure, and got the home that our creative minds envisioned when we bought the place.

We were pleased to use less that half of that to end up with exactly the home that we had envisioned and manifested in our minds, and through negotiated credits and offsets, we ended up paying the price we had all agreed on while not being disappointed with any part of the home of process.

It’s all about how you approach the challenge.

I built my successful career on the motto:  “Believe nothing that you hear and half of what you see“.

When a developer doesn’t tell you anything, then know that it will NOT be “an upgraded quality“.

When the developer doesn’t specify what counter tops are made of, then they will be laminate.

If the developer  say that the main floor of the home “comes with smooth ceilings“, then you must know that “other floors DO NOT“.

If a developer doesn’t specify “interior doors are . . . “ then know they are “hollow core standard 6 1/2′ doors“.

When you do get “marble countertops” (for example) know that there are various grades of marble, granite, or any/all other stones, and your included marble countertop will be “level 1 quality” (we upgraded ours to level 3).

Know when a developer says “stainless steel appliances” that they will be the basic version of appliances.  Don’t allow your mind to envision state of the art, high tech, top of the line, appliances (our minds tend to go this way!).

When you do get “Paris Kitchens” (or another brand name kitchen) know that you are getting the “basic kitchen“.  We spent an additional $11,000 to bring ours up to speed.

These are but some of the questionnaire questions that I imposed on behalf of my clients when I was active as a buyer’s agent.

My point is, if you don’t know what you are doing . . . . walk very cautiously!    Find a knowledgeable, professional buyers agent, verify that they “know what they are doing” and then, ask your own questions, get your own answers, read all the documents and you will then, “know what you are doing“.

Real estate in Ontario is based on “Caveat Emptor . . . . Buyer BEWARE“.

After the fact arguing is a waste of time and emotion, no buyer wants or needs.

Buyers must become “informed” and “active” in making the largest investment they may ever make.

I’m Charles

Sunrise Homes

Municipality of the Town of Oakville

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