It's buyer beware when it comes to purchasing pre-sale condos, especially in a softening market.
That's what one Port Coquitlam couple found when they finally got to see their brand new condo after a four-year wait.
With plans to downsize from their townhome in PoCo and move to their Port Moody condo within reach, Judy Fialkow and her husband Lewis Dahlby were excited.
But instead of the home of their dreams, the couple found the street-facing unit on the 14th floor was too noisy.
Even more surprising, however, was the size of the parking stall they were assigned — and it was minuscule.
Enclosed by two walls and with a metal cage protruding from the wall, the parking stall was more of a storage area than a real parking space.
"You couldn’t even open the doors. You had to shimmy in," said Fialkow, who, with her husband, Dahlby, purchased the two-bedroom-plus-den condo at The Grande at Suter Brook in Port Moody.
The couple approached Onni Group about the tiny parking stall and were "stonewalled," according to their real estate agent, Lorne Martinuik of RE/MAX All Points Realty.
Stall didn't meet bylaw requirements
Martinuik said he pointed out to the developer that the stall didn't meet size requirements in Port Moody's bylaws — it was about two feet too narrow.
"I believe that it was an oversight by Onni to assign a stall that was basically unusable even for a small car. And the initial request by the buyers to have them assign a better one was stonewalled."
Onni eventually offered the couple a small-car stall, not a regular-sized stall, which they needed for their truck.
"The worst part is was the way we were treated by Onni, there wasn’t an apology for giving us a substandard stall," said Fialkow.
Time was also running out on the couple who decided to sell the condo because of the noise.
With prices dropping and interest rates rising, they were worried they would suffer a huge loss on their biggest lifetime investment.
"We are not flippers," said Fialkow, "We were planning to live there."
They needed a regular-sized parking space to entice a buyer so they could sell quickly.
Buyers pay top dollar for pre-sales
These types of issues used to be handled by a discount offered to buyers of pre-sale units because of the risk they were taking by purchasing the unit before taking possession and seeing what it looked like.
Martinuik said those discounts were eliminated when the market was strong in the belief that appreciating value would compensate for problems later.
"But this case has to do with parking spots and how little control buyers have over which stall they will have assigned to them," he said.
What Onni eventually offered, and the couple accepted, was an electric-vehicle stall (EV), which is regular sized and also has power to charge an EV battery.
However, they had to pay $7,500, to get it, even though they don't own an electric vehicle nor does their prospective buyer who wouldn't purchase the unit without a regular-sized stall and insisted on it as a subject clause.
It hurt to pay thousands extra for a stall that should have come with the unit — but it was a price the couple had to pay to be able to get a standard-sized stall.
Fialkow urges prospective buyers of pre-sale homes to read the fine print.
"The bottom line is, if you're expecting a normal-sized stall, you might not get one."
The Tri-City News has reached out to Onni for comment.
Meanwhile, the City of Port Moody has acknowledged that it is working with Onni on the parking space, although there will be no penalty.
"If a stall does not meet city bylaws, it must be fixed," said Robyn MacLeod, manager of building, bylaw and licensing."