As a lawyer who specializes in Condominium and Real Estate law, I spend a good portion of my time dealing with angry new home purchasers who are frustrated when things don't go as they planned and, of course, blame the developer. Many issues that arise during the purchasing phase are a result of owners not being aware of the process and I often hear the words "I just didn't know."
To be fair, there are some unscrupulous developers who promise one thing and deliver another or who cut corners to save on costs and meet deadlines. But in my experience, they are very few and far between. The reality is that our well-known, established developers are very good at bringing projects to market. I think what may be fueling some of the negative perceptions of developers is that the condo buying public doesn't fully understand the building process, which in turn fuels unrealistic expectations. Another factor may be the "no news is good news" mindset---it's only when developers encounter problems that we tend to hear much about them.
Let's deal with the unrealistic expectations issue first. Buying a condominium is not like buying a car. If you arrived on the lot to pick up your new car and found a dent in the bumper or were told the stereo hadn't been installed yet, you simply wouldn't take it. But when you're buying a condo, you have to learn to appreciate that there will be a certain amount of imperfections, defects, incomplete items and possibly even mistakes---the wrong counter top has been installed, for example---upon taking occupancy. Such is the reality of building multiple unit dwellings, each with its own set of features, where there are literally thousands of ways for even the most skilled, well intentioned builder to go wrong. But what buyers need to know is that there is a process for identifying and rectifying these deficiencies---at no cost to you---after you have taken occupancy of your unit.
Next, let's address what is perhaps the single biggest complaint when it comes to the building process---delay. First, bear in mind that the delays are not intentional. The developer wants the project to be completed just as much as you do. It can't get paid in full until the condominium has passed inspection and been registered. Second, bear in mind that more often than not, the delays are due to matters that are largely out of the control of the developer. Currently, a chronic shortage of skilled trades people is slowing down construction in the GTA, for example. Lengthy inspection processes, designed to protect the consumer, can also cause delays. We're also seeing construction times rise as purchasers become more discerning and demanding in their tastes, which has caused in increased in the demand for units with high-end finishes and design features.
Still not satisfied? Then take some comfort in the fact that the market has a way of weeding out the bad developers from the good. In an industry where reputation is everything, only the good developers survive and prosper.
Denise Lash is a condominium lawyer at Heenan Blaikie LLP and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org