You're investing in more than just your unit when you buy a condominium. The unit is part of a development that is usually run by a condominium association made up of condo owners. You own your unit but only get a small interest in the unit's building and common areas shared with other owners. Before you buy a condo, you need to take a close look at its community and association to avoid unpleasant surprises after you move in.
What is the Association Budget?
The condo association's budget covers the financial aspects of the community, including how much debt the association has and the number of owners not paying their share of the fees. As the buyer, you'll need to request the budget copy from the seller, since he has the right to ask for a copy from the association. A development with a high delinquency rate is harder to obtain financing for and might indicate the community is struggling. With less money coming in, the association may cut back on areas such as maintenance.
What Insurance Does the Association Have?
The association should have property insurance that is enough to cover the event of the building's total loss. If your unit building is damaged beyond repair and the association doesn't have enough insurance, you might lose your investment. In addition, your lender may require proof of enough insurance as a condition for loan approval. Ask the seller for a copy of the association's current insurance policy and take it to an insurance professional for review.
What Are the Condo Fees?
You'll have to pay association fees in addition to your mortgage payment. Fees vary by development and can run well over $100 each month. The money goes toward the costs of maintaining the development and all its common areas. The association may have the right to foreclose on your unit if you don't pay your fees, so you must confirm you can afford the fees before you buy a unit.
What are the Rules and Restrictions?
A condominium's declaration contains all the rules and restrictions placed on unit owners. You need to review all the rules and regulations regarding your unit and the development itself before you commit to buying so you know what you're getting and what you're allowed to do. Some associations have limited common areas that only some unit owners have access to. For example, although you might see a garden patch at the complex, you might not get the right to use it.
You should ask to review the association's records to confirm that they take action against condo owners who violate rules. For example, ask the seller if there is a volunteer organization that assists the association in rule enforcement. Follow up a "Yes" response with inquires about how the well the volunteers do their job, and the methods they use to enforce rules. Also, walk around the development and check for signs of neglect or poor maintenance. If it is in poor condition, you might be better off buying a condo somewhere else.
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