10 Things To Know Before Buying A Condo

Before you jump into buying a condo, there’s 10 questions you should know the answer to:

1. How much are the monthly condo fees and what does it go towards?
2. What are the specific rules of the condominium?
3. How much is in capital reserves and how much gets funded every year?
4. Any contemplated or pending special assessments?
5. How is the association managed: professionally or self?
6. Is there any legal stuff happening that the condominium is part of?
7. How many of the units are lived in by their actual owners?
8. What’s the condominium fee delinquency rate?
9. Do you actually own certain common areas such as porches, decks, storage spaces and parking spaces, or are they use rights?
10. The master insurance policy, what does it cover?

Have you ever bought a condo? How did that go? Leave your thoughts in the comments.

For more on these, check out Things To Know Before You Buy A Condo over at Cheapiosity.

Comments

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  1. Dutchess says:

    You should also request the meeting minutes from the last few associationa and board meetings. You can determine what people are complaining about in the building as well as any pending problems.

    • taney71 says:

      Meeting minutes are often posted on the condo board’s website. This often applies for home owner associations as well.

  2. eirrom says:

    11. Will I ever be able to see the condo once I take ownership of it or will I be stuck FOREVER with a property that actual depreciates at a higher level then a typical home and is one of 1000’s intown so the resale appeal is limited?

  3. smo0 says:

    This is my question: the parking area.
    Where I lived before – the condos had two covered parking spots per condo. My roommate who was legally parked in the spot – got towed when he didn’t register his car.

    Personally, if you own the condo, you own the spot – I treat that like a garage… people wouldn’t tow a car from your garage or even your drive way even if it’s out in the open right?
    I see tons of covered “unused” cars in the covered parking as well – so did the lapse in registration get his car towed or was it an over zealous company… on top of that isn’t it a given that you own the parking spaces assigned to you if you own the condo?!

    • AustinTXProgrammer says:

      In my city you can’t park inoperable vehicles in your driveway unless you fence it off, and of course the fencing has to meet the HOA guidelines (not going to happen).

      Operable is almost always defined by having current registration and inspection, but a flat tire or blocks for an extended period of time would also get you in trouble.

      The key is the covered cars. Neither the police nor the tow trucks have the right to lift the cover of the vehicle on your private property to see if it is operable.

      • smo0 says:

        Yeah that was my question – so you can have a covered car that’s on cement block (lol) and be perfectly ok… thanks!! :D

    • ARP says:

      Depends- are the parking spots “deeded?” Meaning, did you pay for them as a part of the condo? Or, are they owned by the condo association and you get to use them as a part of your assessments? If its the latter, there may be additional rules on their use.

  4. sponica says:

    My mom bought a condo when she downsized from our house in 2003. It was in her price range and in a geographically convenient area (right off the highway). She likes not having to shovel, which in southern NH is a godsend. She also likes not having to mow the lawn or paint the house, or do any sort of exterior maintenance. She owns 2 parking spaces. We get access to a pool.

    The downside is the UGLY color and not having a fenced in area to let the dog roam free.

    I’d also ask the question, does the association OWN the land the condos are built on, or do they lease the land. Our assn doesn’t own the land, so the units are not eligible for FHA or VHA funds.

  5. MaytagRepairman says:

    I looked at buying a condo but walked away from it. The complex was new construction and my lender didn’t want to touch it until the occupancy rate reached a certain level. The builder had a mortgage broker (partially owned by the builder) who would be happy to provide a mortgage but the fees and rates were quite a bit above the norm so I decided to walk away from it.

    I later rented a condo from a private party and learned that I disliked it just slightly less than living in an apartment.

    • Dallas_shopper says:

      Condo living can be awful. I rented a condo in Dallas where the association were total Nazis (told me to take down a political sign during the 2008 campaign, I refused, they threatened me) and I was treated like shit on their heel because I was a renter even though the property I was renting was kept impeccably clean and I was never a noise nuisance to any neighbor. Their monthly fees for a dirty pool, dog shit-infested grounds, and cracked parking lots/driveways were $400+ a month. Plus the neighborhood had a growing crime problem.

      I was so glad when my lease ended. As I was driving out of the parking lot for the last time, I saw the HOA president. I slowed down and flipped her the bird.

  6. jdmba says:

    #1 – Is the condo board comprised exclusively of power hungry people who have not actually bothered to read the CC&R’s, and who took the executive positions only to make sure that THEY were not the ones persecuted by the uninformed and agenda-laden board.

    Here’s my general advice. NEVER EVER EVER BUY A CONDO. PERIOD. It combines all the negatives of home ownership (have to maintain yourself, can’t just move away if your neighbors suck) with all the negatives of apartment renting (sharing common walls with neighbors, sharing parking spots). IT IS NEVER A GOOD IDEA. PERIOD.

    • girl_scientist says:

      Generalize much? We bought a condo two years ago and love it. We can’t afford a house here in this city, and frankly, we really don’t want one.

      • aloria says:

        Seriously. A house in my area would cost to the millions, and I don’t need that much space. A condo cost me less than $200k. I also like not having to take out my own trash, maintain the roof and exterior, shovel snow, mow the lawn, etc. A house would be way too much work for me.

    • FatLynn says:

      This is bad advice. I am on my condo board because nobody else will take my spot, but I think we are very fair to all residents.

    • Alvis says:

      Seconded. Who would want to live in a glorified apartment their whole lives?

      • aloria says:

        Someone who doesn’t want the burden of maintaining an entire house?

        • Alvis says:

          I can’t get on board with that. It’s like saying you’d prefer having a chauffeur drive you everywhere. Doing things yourself is FUN. It’s also a big part of what makes adults different from children.

          • sponica says:

            yet people are willing to pay for housecleaners to come do the heavy cleaning…it’s the value of time vs money.

          • pantheonoutcast says:

            Hooray! It’s septic tank cleaning day! You get the buckets and I’ll grab the sponges!

          • Doughbuy says:

            First off, I would rather have a nice, decked out condo in a desirable location near the city than a big empty house in the suburb. With a large house, you would need more furniture to make it look nice, greater heating and cooling costs, and a homeowners association riding you to mow your lawn. Since I don’t have no kids nor hate pets, a condo is the perfect thing for me, especially when I can walk to public transportation right down the street instead of driving to the local park and ride.

            And since doing things yourself is fun, why don’t you go full Amish. Build your whole house by yourself. Knit your own sweaters. Grow your own wheat. Show us what an adult you are.

          • Clyde Barrow says:

            Hey great point. I own a house and lost $30k on its value but I still maintain it and have invested about $20k into remodeling it also. My thought? Big deal that I lost hte $30k. It’s my house and I want a nice place; new exterior doors, house is packed with insulation, it’s cold inside when I walk in on a 90f+ day, a/c rarely goes on, gorgeous green grass throughout my lawn which I busted hard to get, $30 electric bills up until December, quiet neighborhood, good neighbors of all colors. I am going to really hate moving one day and I know I will but man, this is a nice place I have. It was built in ’58 and is a rock solid brick home on a huge corner lot.

    • ARP says:

      So, you’re saying you shouldn’t live in most major cities unless you’re a millionaire. Good luck trying to buy a house in NY, LA, SF, Chicago, DC, Seattle, etc. and not spend a small fortune to be in a desirable neighborhood.

    • Bye says:

      IT IS NEVER A GOOD IDEA TO LISTEN TO A PERSON WHO TYPES IN ALL CAPS, SAYS “NEVER”, AND FOLLOWS IT ALL WITH A “PERIOD”.

      NEVER EVER. PERIOD.

    • Dallas_shopper says:

      For this market (DFW), that advice is spot-on. I realize condos are not money pits in every city, but they definitely are in this one! Avoid condos in DFW!

  7. Scrutinizer says:

    How is the housing market?

    I bought a condo in 1990 when a lot of young professionals used them as starter homes. As condo values dipped the owners rented then instead of taking a loss. Unfortunately many of these owners be came absentee land lords with tenants who were less than considerate neighbors. We had one woman who left to live with her boyfriend and left her three teenage sons in the condo.

    An easy way to figure out how things are going at a particular condo is look at the type of cars park there on a weekend evening. A bunch of beater should raise a big red flag.

    • mac-phisto says:

      this is actually good advice whenever you are home shopping as well (at least in my opinion). a neighborhood full of brand new audis is much different than a neighborhood full of 15-year old hondas with tri-color body panels. the cars don’t even have to be new (or imports), just well-maintained. a block full of people with poorly maintained vehicles is likely to be populated by people who don’t care for their real property either.

  8. areaman says:

    There should be a question that combines the features of…

    4. Any contemplated or pending special assessments?
    8. What’s the condominium fee delinquency rate?

    My friend lives in a condo where seniors on fixed income cannot and or will not pay any special assessments. For example there’s a no payer who has a $10k special assessments marker against him at the age of 65. He expects to pay the $10k back out of his estate when he dies.

    In other words will one get into the business of making 5 to 10+ year, no interest loans to seniors by buying a condo?

    • FatLynn says:

      Whoa, I don’t know what state you are in, but I am surprised that the COA bylaws allow this. In my building, if you don’t pay, we take you to court.

      (Then again, it’s very possible that a judge won’t rule against a senior on a fixed income).

      • areaman says:

        That’s the catch, taking the person to court has to be weighed vs…

        -what does it cost to go to court?
        -how long will it take to liquidate the condo?
        -how long will it take to kick the current owner out of the condo so it can be liquidated?
        -since they can’t pay now, will losing in court make then win some kind of loser’s lottery or increase their income?
        -what will it feel like to look at the senior who can’t pay in the halls and common areas of the condo?

        They haven’t tried to enforce the contact directly (circumventing the legal system). Maybe they can use the same tactics that store in NY does on shop lifters. Take the senior’s ID away, take a picture of them and post it in the laundromat or by the pool, ask them to pay the assessment + $400 or face the the threat of legal action.

        This is all happening in California. But the same dynamics are at play in areas outside of the state. You’d think once someone violates the condo rules they can be controlled or they will do the right thing after that. But how often do people set things right after something like this? How often can people pay an extra $277 a month for three years when they are on fixed income?

      • mac-phisto says:

        even if you get a judgment, you likely can’t collect. SS income is protected from garnishment, as are funds on deposit in a financial institution that were derived from SS. pretty much the only exceptions are for federal taxes, alimony or child support.

        http://www.socialsecurity.gov/OP_Home/ssact/title02/0207.htm

        it still makes sense to process the judgment if you live in a state that allows you to attach real property. when the condo is sold, all liens must be satisfied before the seller receives their disbursement.

      • womynist says:

        There’s a condo association in my area (Southern NH) who is punishing residents who don’t pay their condo fees by blocking their driveways with one of those cement thingies that are usually used in parking lots. (You know, the cement rectangle you pull up to to park-I don’t know exactly what they’re called). So essentially, if you park your car in the garage, there’s no way to get it out. It has caused a lot of anger in the condo neighborhood. I don’t know if it’s working to pull in payments from delinquent owners, but there’s got to be some kind of punishment, right?

  9. gglockner says:

    Check the budget/association reports to see the pattern of special assessments. This will give you some idea how often they need to assess for repairs, upgrades, etc. If there is some kind of long-term plans, scrutinize these carefully. If the building needs major upgrades, see if there are sufficient reserves for these, or be prepared to face special assessments.

    None of these are reasons to say no, but you need to understand what you’re getting into. A well-maintained condo can be better than owning a home because you’re not solely responsible for the cost or effort of maintenance. But a poorly-maintained condo can be a nightmare.

  10. jmujeff says:

    I usually don’t comment very much but this is an issue that has affected me so much that I feel the need to share…

    I bought a condo for my then fiance’ and I back in 2006, during the beginning of the market downslide. We wanted a house but couldn’t afford a 3BR ranch (at the time in Virginia Beach they were running about $250k). The condo we bought was in a nice neighborhood with good neighbors, good location, etc. All was well.

    My wife became very ill suddenly and necessitated a move away from Virginia. We had to rent the place out. All of a sudden I was eating condo fees + difference between rent and morgage (all said about $200 a month).

    Then the fun started – a city inspector found wood rot in the siding on one building and the city ordered it investigated. After their “investigation” it was found that each owner would owe between $12,000 and $18,000 to replace the wood siding. I scraped together the money and wrote the most painful check of my life. The work that this money covered was supposed to occur almost a year ago and still hasn’t happened yet.

    Even more fun – I have a second floor unit which a staircase and that has to be replaced as well, to the tune of $4,000. Still waiting for that bill to arrive.

    These issues were all things that no home inspector caught and as a first time home buyer, are things you really aren’t looking for.

    The moral of the story is – if you want to own a home, buy a house. Condos can be great in certain circumstances but you have to be willing to shell out for fixes as they come, and you have almost zero control over the costs of those fixes. at least with a house you can get a second opinion or hire a buddy to do the work. With a condo you’re stuck with whomever the board chooses.

    • Bakergirl says:

      Sorry to hear about wife, but I’ve seen that happen with condos alot where I live. One condo we were looking at had the occupancy, but our morgage guy looked into the property and found out the the siding on virtually all the condos in that complex was defective and that any morgage company would’nt touch it until it was all taken care of. If fact, he said it was a lawsuit waiting to happen between the owners and the construction company. My Aunt’s condo(different area) had the same issue, but the condo was still under warrenty and was able to get it fixed….Eventually.

      • jmujeff says:

        I’m sure that mortgage lenders look much more closely at properties than they did when I bought my place…definitely sucks that a condo management firm can essentially put a lien on your property if you don’t pay by a certain date, but at the same time can promise you dates of completion and not deliver on them. They’ve completely lost my trust, and even though I’ve got a wonderful tenant in my place right now, I’m stuck with the condo for the forseeable future unless I take a short sale or walk away. sucks.

    • saerra says:

      I’m sorry to hear about your wife too.

      Just wanted to add to the concept of “you’re stuck with whoever the board chooses” (re: repairs) – this is also the case for services that are covered in your HOA fee.

      My condo fees include pest service, but the exterminator is an incompetent idiot. I had HUGE nasty bugs invading my home my first year here. I now pay my own exterminator, who only comes once a quarter, but is able to keep the bugs away (versus the condo guy that comes once a month, yet accomplishes nothing!)

      The thing I didn’t think through – if the services suck – you can’t just fire them. You can have them stop coming to your home, but you still pay for them via your HOA fee, whether you use them or not.

      It also makes it harder to cut back on things for saving money. My HOA also includes cable. I can tell comcast to stop the signal to my house, but I don’t get any money off my HOA for that.

      All that said though, as a single female, I’m still not sure I’d have the time/energy/ability to take care of a “real house” with a yard. (Or the finances, for that matter…)

      • Dallas_shopper says:

        You can get around that by not buying in a neighborhood with an HOA. They do exist! :-)

  11. rpm773 says:

    11. What is the address of the condo?

    Actually, that’s pretty important. I’d probably bump it up to 6 or 7.

  12. Rachacha says:

    Actually, the same advice should apply if you are purchasing a single family home that has a Homeowner’s Association. Obviously there are a few pieces of advice that won’t apply (like who owns the porch or parking spaces) but ensuring that the HOA is in good financial standing, has sufficient reserves, and has a long term plan to repair any common properties/facilities is important to know.

  13. SomeWhiteGuy says:

    Check on what the pest-control policies are.

    Have a friend of the family who bought a condo and is having issues because of termites from the previous owners, or the neighboring condos. It’s written in the contract that the individual owners are liable for any damage caused by termites in their own condos. Not a fun experience for them right now.

    Apparently the wife saw what she thought was a mud-dobber’s nest in the corner of the living room (yes inside…). It got bigger during the week, so she informed her husband who hadn’t noticed it yet. He proceeded to knock it down and a swarm of winged termites flew out. Yay!

  14. AshleyKeen says:

    I am not ashamed to say that I looove love love heart heart my condo.

    I’m a busy single lady, and so not having to shovel snow or mow the lawn makes me a happy camper. The neighbors can be a little annoying at times, there are community gossips just like there are anywhere. But I love being able to second-hand benefit from my neighbor’s heating and cooling.

    I’m in a high turnover area near an Air force base so I’m not too worried about selling someday, and I bought the condo at thousands less than it was built at.

    :) win win win for me!

  15. RandomHookup says:

    What’s the deal with 2 unit condos (common where I live)? Does one unit get 51% vote in the condo association meetings, therefore getting to make all the decisions?

    • taney71 says:

      The bylaws for our condo association figured the vote by square footage of the unit.

    • yourbffjill says:

      Depends on what’s in your HOA agreement. Ours is a 50/50 split and has a mediation clause. If something came up and we absolutely wouldn’t budge we’d have to hire a mediator to help us reach a decision. I think there’s something in there about arbitration too if a mediator doesn’t help, but I haven’t looked at our bylaws in quite a while.

  16. Geekybiker says:

    Parking parking parking. That was the biggest issue I didn’t check out enough when I bought one. Also knock on a few doors and ask how the association treats them. Some are fine, others enjoy their petty power way too much.

  17. majortom1981 says:

    I just bought a condo and hand the closing yesterday. My credit union who i have the mortgage through MADE me find out all these things plus made me get a copy of the rules and meeting minutes.

    I had to get a condo because here on long island a condo is the cheepest thing you can own . my condo was 155k when decent houses are 300k – 500k

    MY Condo complex is all self run . So if you dont like what the board or HOA is doing you can run for them yourself.

    I am paying $200 less a month for two bedrooms , golf course, indoor and outdoor pool and rec house then i was for my 1 bed appt.

    As long as you look into the community first you will be ok .

    • Clyde Barrow says:

      Ohhhhhhhhhhhhh Long Island? Oh brutha-man, me thinks you’re cool. I have always wanted to live on the east coast and either in Boston or Long Island.

  18. tidalfae says:

    11. Do you own the land that your property is situated on (i.e. like a townhouse) or is it commonly owned, or leased by another agent (i.e. 100 year leases)

  19. Foil says:

    I purchased a condo, and was pretty much new to the condo world. I learned about these questions the semi-hard way, ended up educating myself, getting a seat on the association board and started to work towards improving the condos for everyone. I decided to upgrade to a bigger house and instead of renting and messing up their owner ratio, I sold and ended up doubling my money.

    Association dues can be a tough cookie to swallow unless your montly payments are decent. All in all I had good experiences, once we all worked together to clean up some of the crime/drugs and repair the units.

  20. Fantoche_de_Chaussette says:

    Bedbugs. If one apartment gets them, they’ll be in the building forever, chased from apartment to apartment by extermination efforts. It’s pretty darn easy to get bedbugs (from a hotel stay, or from just having your luggage stacked on top of an infected bag during a flight), and unbelievably expensive/traumatic to get rid of them. And the richer the demographic, the more likely there will eventually be a bedbug infestation in the building (rich people travel more).

    If you’re in a bedbugged apartment, at least you can move out. If you’re in a condo, you’ll never get rid of the unit (unless you lie on the disclosures — in which case you’ll probably be caught and sued into bankruptcy).

    The bedbug epidemic is growing exponentially. Bad time to lock yourself into owning a piece of a large bedbug magnet.

    • aloria says:

      Moving isn’t much of a solution to bedbug infestation. They’ll just stow away in your mattress and follow you to your next home.

      • Fantoche_de_Chaussette says:

        Yeah, moving, all by itself, is just a recipe for spreading the bedbug infestation to a new building.

        But if you wash, steam, or throw away everything you own as you move it to the new place, that’s a pretty effective way of leaving the little bloodsuckers behind.

        Exterminators have a better chance of killing all of the bedbugs in an apartment if it’s empty, or mostly empty. On the flip side, once the “food sources” (i.e. you) move out of an apartment, the bedbugs don’t just quietly stay and starve: they migrate to other apartments. So a truly altruistic resident would continue to live in the apartment as “live bait” until the exterminators kill all the bugs.

    • areaman says:

      Or one can invested $20 in a vinyl mattress cover.

      I have a full sized mattress so it costs $20. The bigger ones cost more than that though…

      • Fantoche_de_Chaussette says:

        Were it that easy.

        The only way a mattress cover will do you any good is if you’ve bought an infested mattress.

        Bedbugs, despite the name, are perfectly happy to live in walls, headboards, nightstands, dressers, couches, etc, etc, etc. — as long as it’s got a cozy crevice to hide in that’s just a few feet from where a warm-blooded human routinely lies still, the bedbug’s happy.

        Once they’ve been made their way into a home (e.g. in used furniture, via luggage, or just by crawling in from next door), the bugs certainly won’t be deterred by a wrapped mattress.

    • mac-phisto says:

      “If you’re in a condo, you’ll never get rid of the unit (unless you lie on the disclosures — in which case you’ll probably be caught and sued into bankruptcy).”

      there’s a fix for that:

      Does your property have bedbugs?
      [ ] yes [ ] no [X] unknown

      also recommended for the lead paint, asbestos, mold, radon, etc. in fact, when i was house-shopping, it was rare to see a disclosure that had anything but “unknown” checked.

  21. looneytunes says:

    Find out what the percentage of renters to owners is. We bought a condo a few years ago because it was what we could afford at the time. The complex was quiet and (for the most part) well-maintained. However, over the past year or two, the percentage of renters has crept up and our level of happiness has gone down. Renters have no investment in the property and are less inclined to follow the rules or care about maintaining their space.

    • Dallas_shopper says:

      I’m sorry to hear about your experience but not all renters are like that.

      I rented a condo for almost 2 years and while I was sneered at and looked down on by some of the complex members for being a scummy renter (as opposed to them, tied down by mortgages in a falling area and under the thumb of a condo none of them could EVER sell, haha), I always kept my unit and the area around it sparkling clean. I never created a nuisance with noise. I did not own a dog so was not leaving dog shit everywhere. Basically I was the ideal neighbor. I was quiet, kept to myself, did not make a mess, and did not disturb anyone else.

      I only wish some of the OWNERS had been as well-behaved.

      Renters aren’t all scum. Please treat them as you would like to be treated unless they prove they don’t deserve it. That goes for everyone really….golden rule and all.

  22. jaybee24 says:

    I would add that you should look at how many units are available for sale within the complex. I bought a unit three years ago and had limited leverage with the seller, as it was the only unit available at the time in the nicely located complex. I couldn’t simply say, “Well, I’ll just buy the other unit,” or play offers off of multiple sellers.

  23. AliceMaz says:

    I live in Northern NJ where a decent house is at least $300K so our $180K condo fit the bill. We’re in a nice one-bedroom condo for about $700/month where if we were to rent a comparable apt. would be at least $1200. There is PLENTY of parking and all concrete construction means we never hear our neighbors.

    That being said, I wouldn’t buy in any complex that was newly-built or that had not enough parking. In my area, there was a building boom in the early 2000s and there are lots of stories in the news about homeowners suing the builder for bad work and not being able to sell their units for the exorbitant price they originally paid. The new units back then were about $500K and are now worth about $350K. (still too much, I think)

    I think as long as you are serious about your due diligence, you can be happy in a condo. But, you really need to check it out A LOT, before you dive in.

  24. Dustbunny says:

    I’ve owned 3 different condos in the last 10 years. I would never own a house – I have no interest in doing building upkeep & landscaping. But you never know how the experience will turn out until you’ve lived there. One complex had a lot of seniors living on fixed incomes who didn’t want to spend a penny on things like upgrading the lobby & common areas (which would improve resale & property values). Current complex has a board made up of 1st time homeowners who are not very savvy when it comes to dealing with the developer & property management company. Hopefully they’ll be voted out in the next election.

  25. Arcaeris says:

    Ugh, I’ll never buy a condo again. I wish I’d had this list of questions, because I was hit by every single one of them. A major piping problem led to special assessments, and since the reserves were empty paying for repairs, we had $400 a month fees going to just filling up that empty account.

    If I’d asked these questions, I would have never bought this place.

  26. A Pimp Named DaveR says:

    Just to add to #10 — not only should you know what the master insurance policy covers, you should also know what the deductible under it is. Because you’ll be responsible for insuring your property up to that deductible amount. Which might be a material expense for you if you have valuable items (musical instruments, art, etc.) covered by your homeowner’s policy.

  27. theblackdog says:

    These questions would also apply to buying into a housing co-op as well.

    That being said, what I do know about them is they’re pretty strict about letting you rent your unit to someone else, and you have to have 10% down, free and clear, to even be able to be allowed to buy a unit. Maybe that’s why they haven’t had many foreclosures in my neighborhood.

  28. donovanr says:

    11. What process is involved to change the management company?

    Around where I live every condo development company becomes the permanent management company for the condo. They just pocket most of the condo fee as profit and are near impossible to remove. Older buildings from an earlier age have condo fees in the low hundreds. Newer buildings have condo fees typically well over $1,000. The older buildings are totally self managed. The newer ones are all “Professionally” managed. Many of the older ones are very very nice. The newer ones seem to be built with old Chinese newspapers but with a granite countertop. Things like the elevators start falling apart 1 day after the last unit sells.

    • BridgetPentheus says:

      +1 I lived in that sort of nightmare, the developer had the veto no matter what and owned the management company, the only tv/internet/phone company allowed and everything else.

  29. donovanr says:

    #12 check the rules for any way to game them.

    Some condos give 1 vote per condo regardless. Thus if a few people start acquiring units you might end up with say 5 people with 25 units in a 75 unit building. Seeing that you are unlikely to get most people to vote and those who do will probably split on most issues you might have 5 people voting as a block on any issues that affect multiple unit owners. Thus it might become impossible to evict a noisy tenant from any of the multiple unit owners or implement a rule such as no units owned for the sole purpose of renting. Keep in mind that the multiple unit owners may have gamed the system by doing things like having numbered companies or family members own the units.
    If the system can be gamed it will be gamed. If not now maybe 10 years from now.

  30. NydiaGeben says:

    Never buy a condo near the pool, a busy street or with any units above your unit. You will regret it if you do.

  31. Darkneuro says:

    Something I think needs to be said to anyone who may be looking at a condo: You’re buying airspace, not a house. You own paint to paint, not drywall to drywall. In a house, you would own (at least) the building. In a condo, you own the airspace from the backside of your interior paint on one ‘outside’ wall to the backside of your interior paint on the other ‘outside’ wall.

  32. Wburg says:

    We have a condo that we rent out…one thing that wasn’t so nice was a rule they enacted after purchase. Renters must live there for a minimum number of months (I think 6?) which has made it particularly hard to keep rented. They also must interview all renters before they can live there.

  33. buddyedgewood says:

    Find out if the Seller owes any back HOA dues, before you look at the place. Not sure in other states, but In California the Buyer is responsible to pay the back dues at closing. I looked at one condo and the Seller owed $10,000 in back HOA dues, obviously I walked.

  34. BETH says:

    Don’t buy a condo that allows children. Actually, don’t buy one at all; it’s just one tiny step above an apartment (which is a horrible way to live). But if you do decide to go with a condo, choose one that doesn’t allow children.

    • Dallas_shopper says:

      No such thing unless you’re talking about retirement communities. You can’t NOT sell or rent to someone because they have children. It’s highly, highly illegal…at least in this state! I assumed this was a federal law.

  35. Clyde Barrow says:

    I will never buy a condo. After listening to my 62 yr old coworker tell me for the past 1.5 years about their “condo lawsuit” and all the issues between her and her neighbors and the management office I’d rather rent (if I didn’t have my house). Getting things fixed is a nightmare and you will end up fighting the office at one point. It is never a clear and free contract to move in and enjoy life because sooner or later the management office will come a-knockin on your door telling you that you’re doing something wrong and that their lawyer is sending a notice right away.
    BTW, you can ask these questions, but it is their choice to answer them. Don’t bet on it that they will especially if you haven’t moved in and signed on the dotted line. They have don’t to tell you squat ever AFTER you move in. Their lawyers will have a reason to justify why too.

  36. Glomarization says:

    I’ve lived in 3 condos, a single-family residence, and numerous rented apartments. Right now, I’m an urban single mom and I like the advantages of living in my low-rise, 3-unit condo: I know my neighbors; I have a “security buffer” of the interior hallway between me and the sidewalk outside; and I’m not the only person stuck doing the snow shoveling in winter.

    Very, very important to read and understand the condo declaration and the HOA rules before you buy! Condominium set-ups can vary a lot from building to building, city to city, and state to state. Most of the conflicts I’ve seen in the 10-odd years I’ve lived in condos have been due to people not reading the paperwork ahead of time. They do something that they think is completely ordinary — a new rail on the deck, a flagpole, something different in the garden, or even a completely interior home improvement project — but which was actually explicitly disallowed in the condo dec or HOA rules. Now, some condo associations will turn a blind eye to the paperwork and let you do what you like to a limited common element, but you can’t know that until you’ve lived there. And even then, you may get some turnover, and what was once an easy-going group of adults is now a bunch of Nosey Parkers who want to sue you or take your home since you painted your front door red and started hanging your laundry to dry outside.

    Love living in a condo, though sometimes I wish I had a yard and gardening space. Works for me right now, where I am in my economic and family situation.

  37. Rebzen says:

    This is a great list for starters. I’d also add that you should find out how HEALTHY the HOA is. Lots of people don’t realize it initially, but buying into a contentious or ineffective HOA is going to cause big problems eventually.