My first real estate purchase was a 2 bedroom condo in a beautiful condo community.  I was in my early 20’s and single.  Since I lived alone,  I loved that the complex was gated with 24 hour security, and also had a pool, clubhouse and tennis.  I didn’t need to cut my lawn or landscape and the outside always looked beautiful.  There was a maintenance person on site who took care of plumbing and electrical issues immediately.

In general Condos offer affordability and less maintenance. Most are located in a community and there are rules as to what you can do to your unit and property. Sometimes there are additional amenities such as pool, clubhouse, tennis courts, security and gyms.  Owning a condo comes with a Condo Association, additional fees and each complex is different.  Here are some questions you should research:

  • How much are the condo common fees and what do they cover?

    

These costs vary from complex.  They are usually based on the number of units, what it costs to run, fees for management company and reserves for unforeseen costs or lawsuits. Some complexes may have pools, tennis courts, gyms that will need to be maintained, which will increase your common charges as well.

  • Are there any special assessments coming up shortly and if so how much?

Special Assessments are usually a major expense that is not covered in the monthly common charge.  How old is the roof?  How old is the pool?  When was the last time the roads were blacktopped?  Are there any major expenditures or projects in the future? Is it a one time fee for condo owners or is it amortized over a few years.

  • How Much Money Is in the reserve fund?

Request to see the financials. It’s important because you want to ensure there is enough money for unforeseen expenses.  As a general rule, the fund should be around 10%of the annual budget if the neighborhood is under 10 years old, closer to 25% if older than 10 years.  What is the delinquency rate on the monthly fees?  Also may want to check and see if the condo complex is on the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) approved list for financing eligibility.

  • Are there any pending lawsuits against the complex?

Most of the time there won’t be, but it’s worth asking because it may impact financials in the future.  An example may be a contractor not finishing a job or faulty work and the homeowners filed a complaint.

  • What is the policy on renting units? What is ratio between owner occupied and rented?

Some Lenders may be hesitant to write a mortgage on a condo that has a high percentage of rentals.  In general, lenders look for owner occupancy of at least two thirds.   The other reason you may want to know about rental policies is you may want to consider renting your unit in the future.

  • What is the parking policy?

Some complexes have designated spots for your unit.  Guests have separate parking.  In other cases, there are no designated spots and it is first come first serve.

  • Are there specific restrictions- Do they allow pets? Can you add a patio?  

Every complex is different as to what is allowed.  Some complexes give you the option of having a balcony or porch.  Confirm who is responsible for the repair and maintenance.