Friday, June 28, 2013
Get the dirt on Toronto condos using new review site
A new crowdsourcing site, thedirt.co, officially launches Monday, with a mobile app for iPhone. It joins a number of other sites, like rateyourcondo.ca, that are trying to take word of mouth about condos in the city to an online level, which may be good news for consumers, but not so much for some developers.
So far, the fledgling site has comments on about 400 of the more than 1,300 registered buildings in Toronto — from buyers, renters and the equivalent of condo plane-spotters who just get a kick out of taking a look around and uttering an opinion.
“You’ve got developers and (real estate) agents who are always going to tell you how great their condos are, but a lot of consumers have a tough time discerning what is a good and what is a bad development,” says the site’s co-founder, Brandon G. Donnelly.
“They want to know about the quality of the development, how well is the building managed, what are the demographics and the vibe.”
Donnelly is unabashed in admitting the site is built on the Yelp.com model, where online users rank everything from restaurant meals to local businesses in a sort of collective protecting of the unsuspecting masses.
There are no guarantees, of course, that they really know what they are talking about, although some have become such regular, and well-regarded, critics, they’ve become minicelebrities of sorts. Donnelly is hoping a few of those will emerge here in Toronto over time.
“I hope our reviews will really be able to give a sense of who is in the buildings,” and whether it’s a platform for parties or a welcoming place for, say, the over-50 buyer.
In time, says Donnelly — a former architecture student who worked for more than three years in the commercial real estate industry — there will also be commenter profiles, as there are on the two-year-old rateyourcondo.ca, so that you’ll know just who’s talking, be it a twenty-something renter or a veteran condo buyer.
Buyers are all bound by a few common concerns: how high are the maintenance fees, how much noise will we hear from the units above and beside us, and what are the overall demographics of the building, says downtown realtor Mark Savel.
“Sites like this help you get a lot of raw content from people who actually rent or own in the building. It’s a good way to get a bit of insight.”
Many such sites have come and gone over the years, notes realtor and condo investment expert Brian Persaud, but none have really achieved the critical mass needed to be successful. As well, very few owners are really willing to dish the dirt on their own buildings for fear of driving prices down or being unable to sell if the building gets tainted, he added.
That’s why he prefers online forums at sites like UrbanToronto.ca and buzzbuzzhome.com,which can contain some important condo tidbits.
Better yet, “I just like talking to people. I find word of mouth is the best.”
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