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Tips for Buying Pre-Sale, Part 1— The Display Suite

By Alaina Burnett, Realtor

Buying “pre-sale” is a concept that gained popularity in Asia, before taking root in the Vancouver real estate scene in the early 1990s. When this method of development sales was first introduced, it was not an easy sell, primarily because people were accustomed to seeing what they were buying up-front. In response to this need for reassurance, developers created “display suites” or “vignettes” that give purchasers an idea of what to expect when their homes are completed and delivered, particularly with regards to kitchen and bathroom finishes. Here are some tips to consider when you’re looking at a Developer’s display suite:

  • Keep in mind that the display suite will always feel spacious and fashionable—like you’re walking into a designer’s pied a terre. Usually, the display suite doesn’t have a ceiling—so you are getting a “loft” feeling, when that may not be what you are buying. Furniture is often scaled down or sparse to add to the feeling of spaciousness that we crave, even when we are buying a 500 square foot one bedroom suite.
  • When looking at the kitchen offered, ask if it’s a particular brand name. European Kitchens, by companies such as Boffi, Eggersman, Dada, Hacker, Pedini, Poggenpohl, SieMatic and Nobilia, stand by their names, and have been around for decades (if not a century!). No-name kitchens, in my experience, can sometimes have longevity issues.
  • Ask for dimensions. Most developers do not volunteer dimensions on their floorplans, and they are always subject to change. However, measurement estimates are very handy when you are downsizing, or trying to ascertain if your current furniture will fit in your new home.
  • What is the ceiling finish? Nobody remembers to ask this, but I think it’s worth knowing. Many developers, particularly with less expensive projects, will spackle or “popcorn” the ceiling. It is a way of cheaply hiding flaws, and saves a builder the cost of smoothing the ceilings. Concrete ceilings are becoming more popular in some hipper, loft style developments.
  • What is included? All developers are required to put signage in their display suites. Look for labels on items such as elaborate lighting/chandeliers, designer shelving/work stations, textured wall finishes, custom window coverings or kitchen cabinet organizers that are NOT included. Look for small signs that say “It’s Included!” or “Designer Item—Not Included” or “Upgrade Item—Available at an Additional Cost”.
  • Look at the appliance package. Are the brand names of the appliances guaranteed, or is the developer allowed to switch them out for a “comparable brand”? Is KitchenAid comparable to Frigidaire comparable to GE? It is a bit of a grey area. Often, but not always, a developer will list the appliance brands in their brochures if they have already negotiated them with a supplier and they are sure they can deliver those particular models.
  • Caveat Emptor! Be wary of over-the-top display suites, where nothing is included—when you take possession, years down the road, you may be disappointed by the end product in comparison to what you remember seeing in that glamorous display suite!

Stay tuned for Part 2, where we will explore some of the finer points of the Pre-Sale contract you may be about to sign!

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