The search for a new apartment or condo can take months, and for some people, years. It’s important not to rush the process and to be very clear about what you are willing (and not willing) to compromise on.

Start by looking at properties on the web, through sites such as MLS.ca, MLS.com, and Zillow. Pick up your local real estate guide and also let your friends and colleagues you are looking to buy. They may know of a new listing or know someone who is thinking of selling.

Once you’ve done some groundwork on your end, and determined what you are looking for, it’s important to start viewing properties with a realtor or real estate agent.

View multiple properties in a row

It’s important to get a good feel for different neighbourhoods and buildings, so try to view as many properties as possible. Your agent should be able to set up multiple viewings in a row at times at times that are convenient for you. Taking photos, videos and notes during viewings can help you remember which properties are worth a second look.

What to look for inside the unit

Pay attention to the layout of the unit. How does it feel? How do the rooms flow together? If there is more than one bedroom, is there good separation between the two bedrooms? Many buyers like to have the two bedrooms separated by a living room or kitchen for privacy.

Take note of the condition of the appliances, as well as the walls and flooring. Upgrading appliances in a standard apartment or condo kitchen can cost between $2,000 to $5,000, not including installation. Add in new kitchen cabinets and counters, and costs can reach $10,000 or more. Turn on the burners on the stovetop to make sure they all work. Check the fridge and freezer to make sure they are functioning properly.

How is the bathroom? Check under the sink for any wet spots or leaks. Is the toilet running constantly? It may need to be repaired or replaced. Check the water pressure and temperature in the tub or shower and make sure it is to your satisfaction.

If all these items seem overwhelming, your’e not alone. Many buyers decide to hire a home inspector once they find a property they are interested in making an offer on. A home inspection usually costs around $500.

Things to look for around the building

Does the building seem clean and well-maintained? What is the condition of the common areas of the building? Is the lobby well-maintained? Are the hallways kept in good repair? Any odd smells – cooking, musty or otherwise?

Take a look at the building’s gym, if any, as well as the parking garage and any common and amenity areas. In the gym, check to make sure the equipment is kept in good repair and up-to-date.

Walk around the exterior and perimeter of the building, paying attention to the condition of the building’s exterior, landscaping and infrastructure.

If you encounter any neighbours while on site, take the opportunity to ask them how they like living there. If there are issues with the building, many people will take the opportunity to tell you about them.

Your realtor is working for you

Hopefully your agent has good knowledge of which buildings are good and bad. It’s important to hire an agent that specializes in the area you are interested in. For example, don’t hire a suburban real estate agent to help you find a downtown condo.

And remember, if you are not happy with your real estate agent, don’t hesitate to find a new one. They are working for you after all!

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