Living in a condominium eliminates many of the stresses that come with homeownership. Condo living affords a maintenance free lifestyle and luxury amenities such as a pool, work-out gym, or tennis courts offer plenty of health and leisure benefits.
Buying a condo, however, is trickier than buying a house. Not only do you have to find a good location at an affordable price, you also have to consider extra costs from association fees and special assessments to how well the building is maintained and how strictly it enforces rules on everything from noise to pets.
10 things to consider when buying a condo
1. Management team
You will want to interview the condo manager. A poor manager can make condo living a grueling experience. Some condos manage themselves – that is there are no property managers and the residents meet to make decisions together. The good side to this is that it often means monthly fees are much lower than professionally managed communities. Although self-management works in some cases, think carefully before moving into such a community.
2. Storage space
Some condos offer residents personal storage space. Ask if you will be provided any extra space to store bikes, skis, luggage, etc.
What gripes are people airing at the condo board meetings? Get your hands on the minutes from the last few meetings, or talk to current owners. If the association is not quick about fixes, you want to know about it before committing to live there.
4. Insurance coverage
Make sure you get a copy of the condo association’s insurance policy. Find out exactly what is covered, including the cost to bring the building up to code (if it is an older building). Also make sure the estimates to rebuild are accurate, and not minimized or outdated. If the policy is confusing, it might be worthwhile to bring a copy to your own insurance agent so you can go over it together. It is also important to check if their policy will cover your personal belongings if the roof leaks or the building catches fire. If it does not you will want to consider taking out a policy on your own, which will be yet another monthly expense.
5. How long do you plan on living there?
Condos usually appreciate slower than single-family homes. While it is impossible to predict the future, make sure that you really want to live in this community before you decide to buy.
6. Monthly association fees
Condo association fees are calculated based on how many units there are, what it costs to maintain the property (both short and long-term), whether or not the community is professionally or self-managed, and if funds are set aside for litigation and major repairs. Get your hands on a breakdown of the monthly dues you will be responsible for. Make sure you can truly afford this extra payment and that you understand what you are getting for this payment.
You also need to look closely at the Repair Fund. Every condo association must put a certain portion of dues aside for major repairs. If the complex is less than 10 years old, the repair fund should have 10% of the cost to repair major items (i.e. roofs, tennis courts, etc.). If your community is 10-20 years old, the Fund should have 25%-30% or more on hand for major repairs. If the community is more than 20 years old, 50% needs to be funded. Many communities promise their residents “ultra-low dues.” Be wary. Although this may seem appealing, chances are it means the community is not funding their Repair Fund like they should; if the roofs end up needing a replacement, you and all the residents could be hit hard with a major bill.
Find out the delinquency rates on monthly dues as well. When other owners fail to pay their monthly dues, this often leaves everyone else holding the bag. Good communities will have a delinquency rate of 15% or less.
7. Condo rules & Restrictions
What are the rules? Go over the community rules line by line. Will restrictions prevent you from changing visible elements such as the color of your front door or your window treatments?
Make sure the condo does not have rules that you simply cannot live with.
Condo communities can often be rife with drama – owners sue other owners, as well as the management team or developer. Make sure there are no past or pending litigation in your community, since it is often a sign of a poorly run community, or one filled with litigious neighbors.
9. Owner/Renter ratio
What is the percentage of owner occupied units? Lenders will often balk if the majority are rented.
10. Units for sale
How many units are the sale? A large percentage could be a sign of problems.
Bottom Line: Buying a condo is no small affair. Take the time to research the community, review condo documents, and talk to residents to get as much data as you can to make an informed buying decision.
St. Petersburg Communities
Greater Pinellas Point
Historic Old Northeast
Historic Roser Park
Isla del Sol
If you’re interested in any of these of communities or live in one and are thinking of selling, talk to The Mesimer Team.