Top Ten: Ways Your Condo Is “Dated”

Condos | March 4, 2015

And by “dated” I’m referring to the word “old.”  I’m just being nice about it.

It’s like that friend-of-a-friend who says she was “dating” this guy, but he turned out to be married, with a child, and he only ever met her at out-of-the-way locations outside the city.  They weren’t really “dating,” and the ten items I’ll show below aren’t really “dated;” they’re really, really old.

Now I’m not knocking dated condos at all.  Many of them represent a great opportunity to renovate.  I am, however, saying that today’s condo buyers want three things, new, new, and, well, I’ll let you guess the third…

Outdated

Where you see potential, others may see problems.

If you want to “add value,” others might just want to unpack and relax.

I see both sides to the coin, and I can’t tell a condo buyer who wants to renovate that they should spend more money for a polished condo and avoid the hassle, just as I can’t tell a busy-body who wants move-in-ready that they should try to improve an older space.

A client of mine recently nixed a unit at Mozo Lofts (333 Adelaide Street East), because, as she put it, “That building is way too old.”  Mozo is about a decade old, and while that’s still young to somebody living down at Harbour Square, ten years is an eternity to some condo buyers.

It’s all relative, and some buyers seek more space where others seek newer finishes.

Having said that, there are some features of a condo that buyers just can’t get past, whether they’re looking to renovate and update, or whether they want something more polished.

Here are the top ten items I see in today’s condos which really, really make the condos feel dated:

10) Floors

It’s a simple fix, right?

It’s not even what I would consider a “renovation.”

You simply hire your good ole’ neighbourhood flooring-guy, swipe your VISA, and you come home to new floors.  Or at least that’s an experience I’ve had before…

Buyers constantly complain about the floors in condos both new and old, since it’s the largest “feature” in the condo, and one you see every single second that you’re not sleeping.

While most buyers don’t nix a condo because of the floors, since they can “live with it” for now and renovate later, there is one type of flooring that offends the senses right off the bat: parquet.

Dated Condo - Parquet

9) White Appliances

Dated Condo - White Appliances

“I care if my food is kept from rotting.  I don’t care what colour the not-rot-maker is.”

That’s what a client once told me when I suggested that she swap out the white kitchen appliances for stainless steel in order to make the condo more current, and I can’t argue with the logic.

But we have become so accustomed to stainless steel appliances in Toronto condos these days, that when we see white appliances, we immediately discount the unit.

8) Vertical Blinds

Sorry if you have vertical blinds, and you’re reading this.

But guess what?  I only see them in like 5% of all condos.

Horizontal blinds?  Yes.

Vertical drapes?  Absolutely.

But these blinds make the condo feel like it’s owned by our grandparents, in Florida:

Dated Condo - Vertical Blinds

Bonus marks for combining vertical blinds and parquet floors…

7) “The Passthrough”

So far, you know that you can change the flooring, swap out the appliances, and easily update the blinds.

But the “passthrough” in the kitchen?  Oh, that’s major work to remove a wall!

Today’s condo buyers want open concept, and they especially want the kitchen open to the dining.  The passthrough in this condo helps show its age:

Dated Condo - PassthroughKitchen

And if you are going to renovate and update the condo, don’t work AROUND the passthrough like these folks have done:

Dated Condo - PassthroughNew

6) Glass Block

Let’s play word association.

I say “Glass Block.”

You say???

Probably “80’s,” which is the most likely answer.  But I recall either Michael Douglas’ beach house, or Charlie Sheen’s condo, or both from the movie “Wall Street” having glass block:

Dated Condo - Glass Block

5) Fluorescent Lighting

The only thing worse than this fluorescent light is the fact that there’s no cover to prevent us from looking directly at the bulb:

Dated Condo - Lighting2

I tell my condo buyers that there are three simple things they can do to improve the condo right away: paint, change the light fixtures, and swap out old kitchen appliances for stainless steel.

But fluorescent lights are a major pain to remove, as they change ceiling height, and often require drywalling.

They also SCREAM “outdated,” and condo buyers are suddenly reminded of Grade 8 homeroom…

4) Black Toilets

Wooden toilet seat?  Yes, that’s bad too.  That’s even older than the black toilet!

Carpeted toilet seat?  Yeah, that’s terrible.  But you know that grandma lives there, and it’s kind of heart-warming.

White toilets with black seats?  Awful!  But it reminds you of Oreos, and suddenly you feel warm, like grandma is handing them to you with a glass of milk (just hopefully not in the bathroom…)

But a fully black toilet is brutal, and apologies to a member of my extended family who still has one.

Although there are remedies available for the black toilet:

Dated Condo - Black Toilet Paper

3) Green ANYTHING

Green is a very cool colour, no doubt about it.

“Greenery” is a much sought after feature of some homes, and “Green Space” nearby is another.

But green tile, and green stone counters, push buyers our the door faster than just about everything on this list, except perhaps #1.

Seriously, is there anything appealing about this:

Dated Condo - Green Tile

2) Baseboard Heating

Dated Condo - Baseboard

This doesn’t just make a condo seem old; it guarantees that the condo is old!

Developers in 2015 condos don’t get together and say, “Hey, instead of using gas, why don’t we use baseboards to heat this condo?”

It’s like a home-builder installing an oil tank instead of a high-efficiency furnace.

This is one thing for sure that you can’t change in a condo, and while the cost of electric baseboard is exceptionally high, I think it’s more the “feeling” of the heat source that makes buyers feel the space is just far, far too dated.

1) Kitchen

Yes, the kitchen.

Number one with a bullet!

You can change a LOT of things on this list, and you can even change a kitchen, but when buyers see that familiar “brown wood stripe” on the kitchen cabinets, they immediately check out of the condo:

Dated Condo - Wood Panel Kitchen

The brown-wood stripe is undeniably 80’s, is it not?

And whether consciously or subconsciously, we all start to feel like we’re in somebody else’s condo, and that

Bonus points here for combining the old kitchen cupboards, fluorescent lighting, AND a home phone on the wall:

Dated Condo - Lighting

The kitchen is the focal point of almost any condo these days, and it’s the first thing people check out when they set foot inside.

Sure, some of the more detail-oriented buyers will open the hall closet when they enter, or peek into the powder room, but most buyers make a B-line to the kitchen.  And if they see something out of the 80’s, 90’s, or hell – even the early 2000’s, they’re turned off.

Has it really come to this?

Does a condo really have to be less than 5-years-old to be considered “current?”

Kudos to those who are looking to do some work!  You’re definitely adding equity!

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34 Comments

  1. Clifford

    at 7:08 am

    Nothing worse than cheap laminate flooring. See Vu Condos.

  2. jeff316

    at 7:14 am

    I love the pass through! And watch out – black appliances and glass block are totally coming back. You read it here first!

    1. Frances

      at 4:11 pm

      I love the pass through too. I don’t understand why people want the whole kitchen on view all the time.

  3. Appraiser

    at 7:53 am

    Here’s my vote for the feature that’s going to look way dated in 5 years (maybe less). Any type of multi-coloured mosaic tile in the kitchen or bathroom.

  4. Marina

    at 9:04 am

    Floors, window treatments and appliances are easy updates and there is no excuse for them.
    Like chintz sofas, hideous art, and hot pink paint – wrong, wrong, and very wrong.

    1. Frances

      at 4:13 pm

      But they’re not cheap. And neither the floors and the appliances would bother me much.

  5. Fro Jo

    at 9:21 am

    David, I’m concerned about the “buyer’s market” tone of your recent posts. Am I reading too much into them?

    1. Appraiser

      at 10:09 am

      @ Fro Jo: This morning’s stats for Feb. / 2015 from TREB might shed some light.

      “Greater Toronto Area REALTORS® reported 6,338 home sales through the
      TorontoMLS system in February 2015. This result represented a substantial 11.3 per cent
      year-over-year increase compared to February 2014.”

      “The overall supply of homes for sale, as measured by the count of active listings at the end
      of February 2015, was down by 8.7 per cent compared to the same count in February 2014.”

      “The overall average selling price for February 2015 home sales was $596,163– up by 7.8 percent compared to the average for February 2014.”

      Average price for a detached home in the 416 for Feb. was $1,040,018.

      Does that look like a “buyer’s market” to you Fro Jo?

      1. Fro Jo

        at 11:35 am

        @Appraiser,

        Thank you. Yes, I have seen similar reports and inferred that renovations, updating, staging etc would have proportionately less importance in our current environment.

  6. Jay

    at 9:34 am

    I’d rather have a well built older building than a new glass box – and even if you buy new, it will also eventually be dated – there’s always something newer and shinier! There’s an MLS listing right now at the Quantum buildings that states that the pipes inside the unit have already been replaced – how old are those buildings – 5 to 7 years old and they’re replacing pipes already? I don’t like the cornflake box glass towers going up now. Maybe it’s because I’m old and dated myself!!

    1. CondoMadness

      at 2:35 pm

      Quantum was built with Kitec orange plastic piping which has to be replaced as it is s defective product.

      There are other condos, (towers and townhouses) that have this stuff and it all has to be junked. That is why buyers need experienced condo home-inspectors. http://bit.ly/17RnkI8

      1. Joe Q.

        at 3:38 pm

        I think the situation is that it is not the plastic piping that is itself problematic, but rather the brass fittings that were used with it were made of a poor quality metal that corroded prematurely (leading to floods etc.) A bad situation in any case.

    2. Frances

      at 4:16 pm

      I’m with you on that. And you’re not old and dated, you’re experienced. Something which is lacking in these buyers who want only the latest thing and don’t have a clue about anything else. They’ll learn!

  7. Joe Q.

    at 9:46 am

    There’s decor, which is one thing — but if a whole building is considered “dated” after just a few years, what’s the end-game?

  8. Pingback: Top Ten: Ways Your Condo Is “Dated” | Realties.ca
  9. Darren

    at 9:55 am

    I was really surprised to read about vertical blinds. I love them! I wouldn’t put anything else.

    1. condodweller

      at 8:15 pm

      I agree absolutely. As long as they are good quality cloth though. The hard plastic ones are a definite no no. The reason I love them is due to their practicality. I had solar blinds installed in my last condo which seemed like a great idea at the time, however they were extremely impractical. Verticals you can open just enough to match the opening of a balcony/terrace door opening, you can let light in but block the direct sun etc.. They also make sense in today’s small condos as they fit inside the window opening. I also love the dramatic shadows they can produce with the “black bars”.

  10. Lee

    at 10:03 am

    In my 20-year old condo, we are not allowed to have horizontal blinds. No joke. We are required to have these awful, white plastic vertical blinds. I hate them and want to change them, but we are only permitted to buy new ones from one supplier and they have to be white, plastic, vertical blinds. Definitely dated.

    I think black and white appliances are making a comeback! Look at any appliance store and you’ll see new collections featuring white appliances – and not just cheap $500 fridges anymore. We just bought all new appliances, getting rid of stainless steel (I HATE stainless steel) and replacing them with beautiful, black appliances. I saw some really lovely white appliances, too – very modern, I think.

  11. Chroscklh

    at 10:40 am

    David out-do his self. Great post – I laugh because I see these think when first buy condo in this country. Problem this day is correlation with old feature and high condo fee, and negative correlation (over time) with price. Land appreciate – Buildings depreciate in long ran (see Forest Hill – old apartment demolished for new apartment build). I wish so bad to find good value in old condo – but rarely model out good – One time, I almost pull trigger on, I think 1,800 sf condo in St. Lawrence Mkt – 2-bed, 3-bath, office, living AND family room with bar – a 1mm$ -1.2mm$ condo for 699k$ (at time, few year ago) – because condo fee 1,200$. Is crazy maybe never sell this one 5 year later when fee 1,500$! As asside, this condo reno but did have glass brick.

  12. Jim Smith

    at 10:47 am

    Problem with removing the pass-through is you are usually losing a substantial amount of cupboard space.

  13. Frances

    at 4:21 pm

    All I can say is if these things bother people to the point that they can’t live with them, they don’t know what they’re doing and they are probably wasting their money. No wonder we are a country deeply in debt!

  14. GinaTO

    at 8:27 pm

    Am I the only one not bothered by parquet floors?? I’d take them over carpet anytime, or too-cheap laminate. I’m also getting tired of stainless steel appliances (always dirty) – I wish the people we bought our house from had gotten high-quality white appliances instead of the crappy stainless steel ones we currently have. I guess we’ll see what’s trendy when the time comes to replace them.

  15. steve

    at 9:42 pm

    Buying a new condo today is like driving a new car off the lot …. instant depreciation kicks in!

    1. Kyle

      at 3:19 pm

      That’s just plain delusional, from a probability stand point it’s nothing at all like buying a new car off the lot.

      1. Glutenmiester

        at 5:36 pm

        And from a quantum physics stand point head cheese is good for your salary.

  16. FritoBandito

    at 10:41 am

    Sorry, but stainless steel appliances are so last decade.

    When they first came out and were a big ticket item, they were cutting edge. Now, anyone can buy cheap-o versions at the Brick. And buyers just list them on their must-have lists because they think that’s what they should be getting. There are new and more interesting options out there that are not white if you’re willing to spend more.

    Stainless steel will soon be the avocado of the past decade.

    1. Paully

      at 7:46 am

      Frito,

      I was thinking more “Harvest Gold” but I certainly agree with you!

  17. condodweller

    at 8:57 pm

    I think stainless steel gained popularity when high end “professional” style appliances were made available however these were mostly unique styles and shapes and of high quality with the price to match. I still like these however recently manufacturers are producing cheap versions which are simply the old style appliances just wrapped in stainless steel which reek of look I can’t afford the pro stuff therefore I bought the cheap, low quality look alike. I find the latter looks ridiculous in an open concept kitchen.

    My current condo came with “stainless steel” appliances the builder put in and I found them at Lowe’s and each one is the cheapest one you can by in the store!

  18. condodweller

    at 10:25 pm

    OT David, I found your blog recently and find your posts very interesting and informative. Occasionally I check out older articles and I came across the one about how to value similar units on different floors/views/ balconies etc. Great questions; are you planning to do a follow up with answers or at least suggestions based on your experience?

    Cheers

  19. ValerIe

    at 6:28 pm

    I thought popcorn ceilings and those ubiquitous brown and black mottled granite countertops would be on the list of dated features. Surprised by the vertical blind issue – as someone with allergies these are the best to keep clean – I can’t imagine being deterred by something so easily removed.

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