Know them, and you’ll enjoy a happier home hunt
For a while now I’ve been getting many requests to define various real-estate terms. I hope this will cover some common ones.
• Condo-Townhouse vs. Freehold Townhouse: The main difference here, condo-town falls legally under the condo structure. You own a percentage of the condo rather than your unit. The main difference for buyers is this type of townhouse comes with maintenance fees. The freehold townhouse is just like a semi-detached or a detached home, except that it is connected to at least two other townhouse properties.
• Maintenance Fees: As mentioned, the monthly fees payable to the condo-corp. What’s important to understand is what these fees include — heat, hydro, water, central air conditioning, common elements and more. In the case where heat and/or central air conditioning is listed as “included” in your monthly fee but hydro is not, confusions can arise. If your hydro meter is billed directly to you, the amount of AC and/or heat you use is tied to your hydro bill. So why do they say it’s “included?” Good question! Technically, you’re not paying for the ability to cool or heat your home; you’re paying for the enjoyment to be able to do so, and the maintenance of your equipment. To be clear on this one, the builder/MLS listing should say AC/heat is “available,” not “included” because it’s misleading.
• Buyer’s Agent vs. Agent/ Realtor: No difference really other than the fact that Buyer’s Agent refers specifically to a Realtor acting for the buyer. What’s important for buyers to know is those who say they specialize in buyer agency, more often than not, are not speaking on behalf of education or licence, but rather frequency of practice.
• Property Taxes: Annual taxes payable to the government, based on the size and assessed value of the real estate that you own. Important to factor in when calculating your costs/payments for ownership.
• Deposit: The down payment, a show of good faith for the real estate to be bought/sold. Yes, this same money can be arranged to go towards the down payment percentage of your mortgage.
• Loft: A type of condo unit that, unfortunately, has gained too many definitions. This is a term that has been coined by many builders and used where, really, it shouldn’t be. Be careful to not assume that a loft is necessarily going to boast 15-ft. ceilings, exposed brick and an open-concept layout. It may have eight- or nine-ft. ceilings, relatively normal layout, and a clever marketing plan instead.
• Square Footage: Technically, this should refer to the amount of living space above ground level. That means finished basements do not count. In the case of condos, it’s important to determine if the balcony has been included in this figure.