Each piece of real estate is different from one another, so naturally, buying a condominium for the first time is not the same as a single-family home, contrary to what some people may think.
That said, there are several considerations before purchasing, such as location, amenities, budget, etc. It’s also vital to note that every condominium community is different, and as a first-time “condo” buyer, you must know which type of community fits you best, so be sure to do your research!
Are you feeling a bit overwhelmed? Here are nine helpful tips for buying your first condominium.
Determine whether living in a condo works best for your situation
Owning a condo is much different than owning a single-family residence, so weighing the pros and cons is a must!
Do you hate to mow the lawn and trim the hedges? What about pressure washing your driveway? Are your finances such that having to lay out $5,000 or more for a new roof will be a burden? If yes, condo living might be for you.
Similarly, if sharing walls, ceilings, or floors with a neighbor seems unappealing, a condo — which comes with literally living on top of your neighbors — might not be the answer. Condos tend to work best for those comfortable with most aspects of apartment living, minus the built-in maintenance.
Determine if condo-living is the best fit for your lifestyle and pursue the search if it’s what you prefer.
Hire a real estate agent experienced in selling condos
Aside from the unique contingencies that condo living has over the common contingencies in a residential purchase and sale contract, one main difference when purchasing a condo is most communities will require a contract to be signed in addition to the typical sales contract before closing. It will state that you understand and agree to the association rules and regulations.
Due to these differences, you should work with a real estate agent with experience in selling condos. He will know how to guide you through the process and ensure important documents are not overlooked.
Choose the perfect property location
Consider the condominium’s security, traffic around the area, and proximity to your workplace and school, especially if you are looking at a long-term investment. Your condo’s location may also affect most aspects of your daily routine and future value, so be mindful of the property location you choose.
Research the property management company
In owning a condominium, understanding who upkeeps the property is crucial if you want your property to be well-maintained. You don’t want to pay for association dues and have the amenities fall into disrepair, right? Poor management can also affect your property’s value or increase your HOA dues.
During a condo tour, ask who’s in charge of the day-to-day operations and handles resident requests and community rules to the property management company. Consider doing your own research on the company’s reputation– find out what other projects they manage, and talk to board members to see if they are satisfied with the company’s services.
Be sure to attend an open house or unit viewing
While photos and videos are helpful when looking for a property online, nothing beats surveying the unit personally. Attend an open house or schedule a unit tour and eliminate any reservations you may have. It will also be easier to assess whether the unit is spacious enough for your things.
While you’re at it, take the opportunity to inspect the unit’s interior and exterior to see if there are any underlying problems, especially if you are buying a condo that has been owned previously.
Decide which amenities you want and need
Each condominium offers an array of amenities. Some might be barebones offerings that cover snow removal and other maintenance in the common areas, while others include a gym, outdoor grills, and other luxury-level perks.
Work with your realtor and address the amenities you want in addition to factors like location and budget. Note that you’re buying access to these amenities when you buy your unit, so don’t be shy about putting them on your wish list. Keep in mind that any amenities you don’t plan to use may still be worth having if you plan on reselling in the future.
Know what the association fees are
Most condo communities require a monthly, quarterly, bi-annual, or annual fee from each resident, and these fees cover usual expenses such as insurance and maintenance.
A reputable condo community will be transparent enough to share its financial statements with a potential purchaser. In this way, you’ll know that the community has enough reserve funds, especially if a significant repair is required, such as a roof replacement. Ask the community how the association fees are divided and where they are distributed.
Lenders also add the association fees into the monthly debts of the buyer when approving a buyer loan. If a condo community has a very high monthly due, a buyer may not afford it due to the high fee.
Review the association’s rules and regulations
As most condominium units are close to one another, the community association is bound to have rules and regulations to “keep the peace” in the community. In most cases, buyers don’t care to review the association rules and have their attorney review on their behalf instead. This behavior is a BIG NO!
Ask about the community’s house rules when touring a unit. Understanding these rules ahead of time will help you figure out whether the neighborhood you’re looking at is a good fit for you.
Also, it’s best to ask the board and the property management company how they handle issues or complaints — how responsive they are on weekends and holidays, for example. Pay attention to how they respond even when you first make contact — this can be an indicator of how much support you can expect to receive when an issue crops up.
Asking about special assessments is key
A special assessment is typically an expensive fee charged to cover a significant project within the community, like a structural repair to the condo. If one like it is in the works, association fees are bound to increase for a specific time, so be sure to ask about any before signing up for a condo unit.
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