You’re thinking of buying a condo. Maybe the location of the condo is in an up-and-coming neighborhood. Perhaps you’re tired of the apartment life and ready to make the next step toward home ownership, or maybe you’ve decided to downsize. Many condos are part of a community that might include a pool, fitness area, or community center. And maybe there’s a security team that keeps an eye on everything. For many a plus is that while a condo is their own home, there are less care-taking responsibilities. When weighing the pros and cons to condo-ownership, here are some basic questions to ask to be well-informed in your purchase.
Attend a condo board meeting of the complex, or get the copies of a recent meeting’s minutes. What are the biggest complaints that current owners are airing? For example, maybe the general tone is that the board isn’t very quick about fixes. In doing a little bit of homework, you’ll know before committing to live there.
What’s the management team like? Take a drive and visit with them personally, or ask neighbors. If you determine that the management is lousy, or difficult to get along with, it could be a long drawn out nightmare living there. If the complex is self-managed, meaning that there’s no property managers and residents meet to make decisions together, what’s the flavor of the group? While the fees are usually less when a community is self-managed, think about it. Do you want to manage something with the same people that you have to live next door to?
Is there any additional storage space? Many units will lack a basement, garage or attic for storage space. If you have bikes, kids’ outside toys, or holiday decorations, you will need to keep in mind where you’ll put those things when not in use.
What does the condo complex’s insurance cover? Sometimes these policies can be pretty confusing to dissect, so consider having your insurance agent take a peek. For instance, check to see if their policy will cover personal belongings if the roof leaks or the building catches fire. Many do not, and if not, consider taking out a policy of your own.
Will you need to move in the next five years? While the condo market is generally slower than the single family market anyway, what is the market like overall in the area that you’re considering buying in? While there would be no way to actually predict with 100% confidence what the market will be like in five years, make sure you really want to live in this community before you decide to buy. If you end up hating it and want to move in two years, say, you make take a loss on your investment if there is little-to-no appreciation because enough time hasn’t passed.
What do the monthly association fees cover? Typically, the fees are determined by how many units there are, and what it costs to maintain them in the short term, and in the long term. Is the community professionally or self-managed? Are there, and if so how much are, and funds set aside for litigation or major repairs if necessary. Once you determine what the fees cover, be sure to determine the affordability of them on a monthly basis and how that fits into your budget.
What about the rules of the complex? Are pets allowed? Can you rent out the unit? Can you plant a bed of flowers or tomato plants?
Is this my porch? Many units will offer porches or balconies. Look at the Unit Deed and the Master Deed. While the porch may be attached to your unit, do you really own it? Meaning that it’s your responsibility to maintain or repair it as it breaks? Or do you own it in the sense that it’s “yours”, but the community actually maintains it.
Purchasing any property is no small affair. In buying a condo, there are different aspects to consider that you don’t have to with other residential housing. It’s important to go into the process knowing what to look for and what to ask.
Melissa Rolland is a licensed Connecticut realtor. She lives in Tolland, along with her husband Todd, a licensed broker. Together they manage the Rolland Realty Group at Keller Williams Realty. You can connect with them at www.RollandRealtyGroup.com.