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5 Things to Know Before Buying a Penthouse Apartment

Posted by Justin Havre on Monday, August 22nd, 2022 at 12:31pm.

What to Know Before Buying a Penthouse Condo

Living in a condo offers many advantages, but choosing to purchase a penthouse unit provides many more benefits and features than buyers typically find in a standard condo unit. As home seekers explore the different condo options, it's important they ask plenty of questions to help ensure they get the lifestyle and home features they seek.

Before signing a contract, be sure to do plenty of research, so there's no confusion about what a penthouse is and – perhaps more importantly – what it's not. This is because the definition of a penthouse has evolved in recent years and what's being sold may not exactly be what's expected.

Determine if a Penthouse is Worth It

How much does a penthouse cost? Is it worth the price tag? These are important questions to answer before a buyer gets too deep into the penthouse hunting process. On one hand, a penthouse is a luxurious unit that offers stunning views and top-of-the-line amenities. However, those amenities come with a higher cost, and buyers may not use all of them. So, how do you decide whether or not a penthouse apartment is worth it? Buyers should consider how much they're willing to pay for the convenience and luxury of a penthouse.

Also, think about what amenities are most important. If buyers have their heart set on a swimming pool or 24-hour concierge service, then a penthouse is probably worth the investment. However, if they don't care about those things, they may be better off opting for a less expensive apartment. Ultimately, the decision of whether or not to buy a penthouse depends on a buyer's budget and priorities. If they're willing to pay for the perks it offers, then a penthouse can be a great place to call home.

Check If The Unit is on the Top Floor

Historically, people who lived in penthouses resided on the top floor of a building, but today the definition of a penthouse has expanded. Sometimes condos with penthouse-like features are marketed as penthouses, despite the fact they aren't located on the top floor. This doesn't have to be a dealbreaker, depending on how important being on the actual top floor is to the buyer. Features that designate a unit being marketed as a penthouse may include:

  • Location where the building starts to "set back" to allow terraces to be built
  • Unique layouts from the rest of the building (e.g. the top five floors)
  • Extra square footage brings the unit to penthouse size
  • Luxuries not standardized with other units in the building
  • Expanded outdoor spaces to use
  • Fabulous views not found everywhere in the building
  • Large living areas with high ceilings/large windows

Even ground-floor apartments are sometimes marketed as penthouses if they offer more luxurious amenities, larger rooms, and ample outdoor private space. Buyers who aren't set in stone on living on the top floor may find other units more appealing.

See if the Views Will Remain Unobstructed

View from Penthouse Living RoomLiving on the top floor is a feature many people find extremely appealing because of the sweeping, unobstructed views associated with traditional penthouse living. However, it's important to ask around and do some research before investing in a penthouse about any surrounding development. It would likely be devastating to learn more money was spent on a penthouse condo for the views when a taller building was built in front of it two years later, totally obstructing them.

To avoid this happening, buyers should scout around for potential development so they won't learn the hard way that their glorious views were only temporary. To learn more, buyers can physically visit the neighbourhood to see if any lots are attractive to developers or even research what's currently up for sale. Additionally, it's a good idea to speak with a trusted real estate agent about the neighbourhood and any potential new development plans that might be in the works.

Learn About the Maintenance Responsibilities

One important concern about penthouse living is understanding the expectations when it comes to maintenance, including maintenance crew access, outdoor space upkeep, roof repairs and preservation, the responsibility for care, and potential leaks.

In most regions, there is likely going to come a time when crews need to attend to rooftop maintenance issues, façade work, snow removal, or basic landscaping. To access these areas, potential homeowners will want to clarify if crews will have a separate entrance to the outdoor areas or if they'll need to come through the penthouse unit. Residents who prefer to keep their condos private may have to agree to take on certain tasks themselves. For building or façade work, owners may not have a choice of letting crews pass through.

Another big concern to ask about is if there has been a history of leaks. Being on the top floor, the weather is always a risk, especially with Canada's wet, snowy, and icy winters. Aside from the weather, it's important to know about mechanical systems associated with building operations are often a source of potential leak issues. If leaks have been persistent, this could result in frequent disruptions or, worse, damage to belongings.

Find Out if There are Customization Options

Penthouses, especially in development, often have custom layouts, expansion, and further customization options. Before signing on the dotted line, questions relating to personalization are good ones to ask.

Some penthouses are more customizable than others and, if owners want to add additional features or change existing ones, this should be discussed prior to closing. In some cases, if a penthouse doesn't offer the desired features, buyers can sometimes negotiate a designer credit to help pay for changes they want to make.

Expansion is another consideration many homeowners will want to know about, especially if the building is still under construction. There may be room for negotiation about expanded space options if units aren't sold yet. If existing neighboring residents plan to move, check to see if it might be possible down the road to buy their unit to increase the size of their penthouse unit.

Is Buying a Penthouse Right For You?

Purchasing a penthouse is usually more costly than the average condo and for good reason. The amenities, features, and other perks are often worthwhile to buyers. However, sometimes unexpected events can and do happen with penthouses, and it's important to know these before making the commitment.

An experienced real estate agent who specializes in condo sales can help buyers find answers to all their questions, along with answers to ones they probably hadn't thought of asking. Agents are also typically knowledgeable about developers and can share insight about them as well to help buyers make educated decisions.

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