House Hunting 101: What You Need To Know About Buying A Condo

by Staff Editor on June 11, 2013

Condo Colors

While we think of a condominium as a type of housing, the term technically applies to the type of ownership. Like one would own a single family home, you own your individual unit outright. Like any type of residence, there are important considerations to see if this is the right place for you to call home. If a condo is in the mix of possibilities for your new home, here are some important considerations to guide you.

Advantages

Condo living comes with many advantages. First and foremost, you do not have to worry about many maintenance issues that consume the time of a single family home owner. You do not have to worry about pushing the lawnmower on a hot day, or the backbreaking work of shoveling snow off your walkway. Often times, there are a range of services and amenities that can make your life more enjoyable or easier, such as a gym or pool onsite. The Homeowner’s Association will typically take care of insuring the units, but you would still need insurance for the contents of your condo. There is also a greater level of security.

Disadvantages

With the sweet must always come the sour, and there are aspects to condo living that might not appeal to some. You are in close quarters with others and you may feel like you do not have as much privacy. The HOA may dictate rules that seem unreasonable to you and you may feel like they are intruding on your freedom to live in the unit as you please. Because you only own the unit and not the land around it, you are often restricted in making any changes to the area right outside your property, such as the tree on the front lawn that you would just love to chop down.

Considerations for Choosing a Unit

If you think you have found a development you like, come back to the area at various times of day to get an idea of what it is like throughout a 24-hour period. There are many different types of condos, such as low-rise and high-rise—visit a few different kinds to really get a feel for your preferences. While you may only want a studio or one-bedroom, you should consider buying a larger unit if you can truly afford it, if you plan on selling the condo one day. These smaller units will be much more difficult to move. Look for units with a pretty view; while southern exposure might be appealing for all the light, this can make for a hotter environment in the summer. Stay away from units that are across or next to the elevator. Condos do not offer a lot of storage space, so you should look for developments that offer lockers. You do not want to be overlooking the street traffic, the garage or the garbage units.

HOA Documents

When considering the purchase of a condo, you will receive a number of documents from the HOA; it is important to carefully look them over as they contain important information that can inform your purchasing decision. Take a look at the minutes meeting to see what types of issues the board is dealing with. You will also receive financial statements that indicate how much money the HOA has to tend to major repairs. Check the tenant to ownership ratio—developments where a high number of units are rented rather than owned can be problematic; for example, renters have less incentive to keep up the property than an owner and this could contribute to a lower valuation of the complex. Also, some lenders may not offer financing for a condo where tenants occupy over 25 percent of the unit.

About the author

Kelli Cooper is a freelance writer who blogs about all things real estate.

photo by: Keoni Cabral

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