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Startling Extra Costs To Get A Better Turnkey Apartment

Last Updated on March 30, 2021 by Mr. FightToFIRE

While we are crawling closer to the delivery date of our baby girl (27 May), there is another delivery that is causing more headaches: my heavily delayed turnkey apartment.
Progress is being made of course, but at the current speed, I shouldn’t expect a delivery sooner than March 2022. Given these delays, I was startled when I recently received a mail about the fit and finish of my delayed turnkey apartment. My shock continued when I saw the standard finish and how much they charge for extras.


These finishing details were sent right after I received the second invoice as stipulated in the deed.
It’s as if they act like the apartment will be finished soon. Most likely they are looking to get our cash as soon as possible.

Hidden downsides to a turnkey apartment I wish I realized sooner

One of the big selling points of turnkey apartments or houses is the idea that you pay a certain price and you get a finished house at the end. You literally just have to turn the key and enjoy your new home.
Almost every developer promotes this way of working as easy and worry-free for the buyer but as I have experienced, it’s anything but worry-free. Even though you usually pay a hefty sum for these turnkey apartments, but even before you can enjoy it, extra troubles pop-up.

You are at the whims of the developer and the (sub)contractors

The biggest grievance has to be this. If it’s your own house and project, you can at least push and try to mitigate any delays your contractors might face. But when you work through a developer, you better hope they are open about their process. But if online -and my own- experiences are anything to go by, don’t expect them to be.

Even as my apartment clearly won’t be finished by the agreed and contractual delivery date, I have yet to receive any official correspondence from the developer let alone a reason for the delays.

The deed provides compensation for delays (for anything besides force Majeure), but enforcing these fines is near impossible due to the skewed power position.

As just one person not directly involved as the client, it’s not possible to clearly prove the delays are due to incompetence or mistakes.

In fact, they continue to provide updates as if things are moving along as expected and even send out correspondence on the finishing touches, at an extra cost of course.

Details of what is and isn't in the initial specifications matters

In my breakdown of reasons to get a turnkey apartment, I mention the choice between a completely finished house or a hull that you finish yourself. A finished house might cost extra but it will be done according to your preference. What I didn’t realize at the time was that the definition of “finished” can be interpreted in different ways as well as what “paid for it” means.

Your understanding of finished is different from the developers’

Finishes for the Kitchen of my turnkey apartment
These are all the “extras” I can choose to finish my kitchen. Prices are anything but cheap.

What you will get is all in the initial specifications of the apartment. The developer is required to provide this. However! The details vary and if they are not clear on the specifications, rest assured, corners will be cut. For my apartment that means:

  • A fridge and freezer are provided but the actual size is omitted. A reasonable size is an extra €800.
  • Same with the finish of the kitchen. By default it’s not completely closed up, this is an additional cost of €280.
  • The size of the bathroom sink is not mentioned. I now know it’s 60 cm by default (small!) and increasing its size is #460. Increasing the size does mean a larger shower is not possible.

All of which is excl. VAT of 21%. There is more but these are the more obvious ones.

All in all, having a completely finished turnkey apartment will set me back another €6,808.75 + 21% VAT = € 8,238.59.

Mind you, this is without the heavily suggested furniture packages which was the finish I thought they meant during the talks before buying the apartment. Having the apartment furnished and ready to let, will be another €15,000!

You are the buyer; They are after your money, so be very meticulous before signing

My main advice after having gone through the experience of buying a turnkey apartment is the following.

The developer is looking to sell all of his apartments as soon as possible. So while talking to one of their “advisors” know that they are specialized in selling their apartments or houses to customers like you.

Knowing that, look into every detail of the apartment. Don’t take anything they say at face value. Are they emphasizing the fact they provide quality built-in kitchen appliances? Ask what type or even how big, i.e., the size of the fridge.
Do they promise they communicate clearly, let them show it through examples.

Finally, regardless of what you hear, know that you are in the weaker position. If they don’t sell it to you, they’ll most likely sell it to someone else. However, don’t let this pressure you into jumping in. Don’t believe for a second this specific apartment or house is the only one available.

My final thoughts and decision

Am I salty for seeing these absurd prices and having my hands tied behind my back? You bet I am.

In theory, I can always not take these extra finishes, but that’s just theory. The “standard” fit and finish is basic for the rent fork that I’m aiming for.
On top of that, due to it being an apartment, the use of space is very important. Case in point, there is barely any room for a separate freezer. Without a decent fridge-freezer combo, the apartment will have a clear downside resulting in it being less attractive to potential renters. Same for the bathroom.

As a result, I’m half-forced to take the extra finishes to make it appealing.  Not that I’m throwing away money, but the feeling of having been played is very strong.

All in all, it has been an eye-opener, to say the least. However, sulking on it won’t change a thing. I will move forward and select the best possible combination of finishes to create an apartment that renters will enjoy and call home.

Did you buy a turnkey apartment or house? What was your experience with the whole process? Did everything go smooth, or did you also experience setbacks and underperformance of the developer and contractors?
Or maybe you managed the development yourself and had bad experiences with contracts?

Please share your experiences with hidden costs during construction in the comments below.

I'm a developer for a major financial institution in Belgium that is present in over 40 countries. I have over 8 years of working experience in the development of customer applications focussing on all aspects of banking. This helped me gain a deep understanding of the inner workings of a commercial bank. All of this experience in both banking and life culminates in this blog about personal finance and my fight towards FIRE.

Road to home ownership
1. Starting my journey towards my own home
2. Should I buy or rent my first home?
3. The Truth About Room Investments: Off-limits
4. Buying an apartment in Brussels while renting elsewhere
5. The big move and moving around
6. My mortgage: an interesting experience
7. Apartment progress: 5%
8. How one tax deduction reduced my apartment cost by 17K
9. Coronavirus impact on my new apartment
10. 6 reasons why you should(n’t) get a turnkey apartment
11. Apartment progress: 15%
12. Startling Extra Costs To Get A Better Turnkey Apartment
13. Apartment progress: 30%; finally above ground!
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Roadtriptofire

Thanks, I probably would have not thought about such details either, so thanks for the warning!

Turnkeybuyer

I’m looking to buy a turnkey apartment as well.

You mentioned the following:

The deed provides compensation for delays (for anything besides force Majeure), but enforcing these fines is near impossible due to the skewed power position. As just one person not directly involved as the client, it’s not possible to clearly prove the delays are due to incompetence or mistakes.

So does that mean that you have gotten no compensation for the delays? Could you elaborate a bit on the power position? When buying a turnkey apartment should I just assume that I will not be compensated for delays or are there certain measures I can take?

Any other advice?

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