What do I need to look out for when buying a condominium?

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At Ashlar, I firmly b that an educated home buyer or seller is best equipped to make their own decisions. That’s why I take time out of my day each and every day to answer someone’s real estate question.  And, when I think the answer can be useful to you as well, I share it here.  So without further ado:

Question:

What do I need to look out for when buying a condominium?

They are not HOAs, they are Condo Associations. There is a legal difference between the two… condos will usually have a lot more authority. So make sure to call them Condo Associations (or Co-Ops if you run into one of those).

Condominium is a particular type or property ownership.

You will have time to review the condo docs to make sure you’re ok with the rules, financials, etc. The seller is required to give these to you, whereas HOAs the seller is not required to give you that information. The timer starts once you get all the docs…. 15 days for brand new condo, 3 days for an existing / resale condo.

Usually there’s only one maaaybe two internet providers (phone and cable legacy if it’s an old place) , contract is signed by the condo association.

Condo fees typically cover maintenance of the structure, roof replacement and maintenance, elevator maintenance, and for the amenities. In addition it also pays for insurance for structure (which has spiked recently), engineer reports if it’s 3 floors or taller.

And many times the fees will also pay for sewer, water, trash and sometimes cable tv or internet. They’re all different so you have to check, it’s not just ‘high fees bad’.

If you’re doing particular financing (VA, FHA) many condos are not going to qualify. You have to check a list of approved condos for those. For conventional loans down payments can be significantly higher than for single family homes. This stems primarily from the condo ownership type and the legal differences with regular single family homes, even ones in HOAs.

Renting is usually medium to long term only, AirBNBs usually very frowned upon. They can also have blanket bans for any renting, require ownership of X years before you can rent, tenant approval, bans on any pet, only allow dogs under certain weights, and any other manner of rules. Also bans on any outdoor grill, only allow gas grills, only allow gas grills out from underneath porches, only allow grills at the end of the driveway, or have no rules on condos at all.

I’ve also seen some condos that will replace all interior appliances (hot water, a/c, range, fridge) though as you imagine their fees were a bit higher for that.

Some of what you’re asking the board and even the property management company (did I mention they are usually separate?) won’t know and won’t show up until finance requests it (the resident ratio, for example). They outsource the legal stuff to a third party so many times just don’t have that information.

Roof replacements can easily be hundreds of thousands to million or two to replace. There can also be significant structural issues that a lot of condos in Florida are facing, especially close to water. Orlando is of course inland, but anything 20-40 years or older with balconies you want to ask last time the structure of those balconies was checked.

People complain about condo fees but people forget they should be putting about that amount aside per month for eventual roof replacements, structural repairs, painting, etc.

Parking is probably the main one you missed. Assigned? Open? Paid? Where’s the guest parking and what’s the rules on that?

Really though your best method here is to find a condo you are really interested in and love, then see if you can live with the rules

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