Canadian brokerage and real estate marketplace Casalova has teamed up with Dream Maker Developments to be the first in Canada to offer a digital purchase option for pre-construction condos. Unit sales for the pre-built development at Yonge & King Urban Towns in Richmond Hill, Ontario, open online April 10th.

"We're the first brokerage and real estate marketplace in Canada to empower buyers to purchase a home online," said Ray Taaeb, CEO and co-founder of Casalova. "Buying a condo, or even looking for a rental unit, is incredibly stressful and time-consuming. We want to remove the legwork and make it as easy as possible to make the purchase. This feature will give homebuyers the opportunity to research and compare all units without any pressure before making an informed decision."

Taaeb notes that condos are the perfect place to test-market a "buy-now" option; while he concedes that buying a resale may require on-site visits, pre-construction plans and demonstrative technologies make online touring equally as effective as in-person.

Potential buyers will be able to review the details of each unit online, notably including the square footage, floor plans and condo features. To purchase a condo, buyers can complete and submit all paperwork online and put down a deposit using their credit card. Similarly to in-person purchases, buyers will still have a 10-day cooling off period after the transaction is finalized.

"Our team is thrilled to be working with Casalova on this new project. This digital approach appeals to a huge market of potential buyers and also saves resources that would otherwise be invested in model suites and sales centers," said Isaac Olowolafe, CEO of Dream Maker Developments. "Developers are always looking for new ways to reach more homebuyers and this offering modernizes how people purchase a pre-construction condo."

Traditionally, when potential buyers look into purchasing a unit before it is built, they have to visit a sales centre and often have to wait hours in line only to find that units have sold out or that the floor plan they wanted is no longer available. Casalova is removing this step by making the process completely digital, and giving buyers the option to purchase a new until from the comfort of their pajamas.

“I think it’s interesting, I mean, everything’s being bought online today, so why not a condo?” asks Toronto realtor Elli Davis. “But I think that people probably want to see finishings still, and the mockup of the building.  I think it’s a lot more difficult to buy it without seeing and touching something more solid.”

The difference, she concedes, may lie in the generational preferences between Baby Boomers, who may be less likely to embrace this method of home purchase, and Millennials, who often want options that are more convenient, more efficient, and that involve fewer interactions with people. It was only a matter of time before digitally purchasing a home became an option. As with all things, homebuying trends have begun to lean toward the digital, and we’ve seen this in the development of mortgage applications and digital options when it comes to submitting mortgage paperwork. Mobile apps and widgets are available from some lenders that not only allow buyers to electronically submit the documents to qualify for a mortgage, but also allow them to sign the documents digitally as well as correspond directly with a mortgage specialist within the app. For prospective buyers, technology can help all parties involved make the best use of their time by streamlining the process – and interaction – required to get a mortgage.

Still, Davis isn’t convinced, saying that there’s real value in being able to see the mockups of certain areas of the home, such as kitchens and bathrooms, and those can be what really sells the unit to the buyer. “I don’t think it’s going to be that popular, but ask someone in their 20s and they might say something else.”

Interestingly enough, there’s also a down side to the digital purchase option for developers. It’s often the case that buyers won’t be wowed by a standard unit or a floor plan, but once they see an example of a model unit, as well as all of the upgrades and bells and whistles that are available, then that’s when the interest goes up – as well as the price.

Jamie Harnish, a sales representative with Bosley real estate, thinks that this is an issue with pre-construction developments in general.

“You don’t get a chance to see, touch . . . The model unit won’t necessarily be exactly reflective of what you’re getting. The model unit has all the great upgrades and yours won’t, or you’ll have to pay for all those upgrades.”

The developers will, of course, be able to showcase these upgrades with virtual tours and other alternatives, but whether or not they end up as effective as the in-person units remain to be seen.

And, as Davis points out, there is always the 10-day “cooling off” period. This period only applies when buying a new home from a builder or a developer and allows for a buyer to back out of the signed purchase agreement for any reason during that 10-day period. So it might also be the case that a buyer gets very excited at the options and purchases a unit online, only to get cold feet and want to see something in person first, even if it is only a model unit at the sales centre.

Then again, they might not. Buyers – or at least the early adopters – might be truly excited about this option. Casalova's end-to-end real estate marketplace allows tenants and buyers to search for properties, schedule viewings, make offers online, and process payments directly through the platform. Buying a home digitally has the potential to help buyers keep up in a market that’s already moving at a breakneck pace.

For homebuyers or investors interested in the condo market, it’s now just a click away.

Related stories:

Condo affordability around the world
GTA condo market is undersupplied
Choosing a condo: old versus new

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