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Questions To Ask When Buying a Condo?

Reviewed by: David Naimey

Approved by: Chad Turner

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Are you thinking of buying a condo as your new home? Condos mix convenience and community living, which sets them apart from traditional single-family homes. They can make life easy as they are found in bustling urban centers as well as quiet suburban neighborhoods. 

The perks of condo living include shared maintenance responsibilities through a homeowners association, access to amenities like tennis courts and gyms, and a potentially shorter commute to essential services and work. 

However, before you put a down payment for a condo, you should also consider some key aspects. Here is a list of questions to ask before you get pre-approved.

Understanding Condos

Condominiums are individual units within a larger community complex, each owned by a separate owner. In condo communities, residents have access to shared amenities such as pools, gyms, and recreational facilities. Condos share some similarities with apartments, but with a significant difference: condo residents are owners of their specific units. 

Unlike apartments, condos often lack occupancy restrictions, making them suitable for single families. This flexibility can be a significant advantage over apartments.

How much are homeowners association fees?

Condos typically come with homeowners association (HOA) fees that cover various aspects of communal living. These monthly condo fees contribute to services that make living in a condo property more pleasant and easier. 

For example, in colder climates, HOA fees cover the cost of snow removal services. In warmer areas, they may fund lawn maintenance, etc. 

You should ask about the specific HOA fees that will be required for the condo you’re interested in. You need to know how much you will pay in mortgage, insurance policy, and condo fees so you can assess if your income can cover these costs in a comfortable way. 

Always give yourself a little bit of financial wriggle room. HOA fees can fluctuate and unexpected increases can impact your monthly expenses. Ask the right questions before you sign for your condo. 

Do I have to pay for Special Assessment Fees?

In addition to regular HOA monthly fees, condo owners may face special assessment fees. These fees are levied for unexpected, major repairs or community projects that exceed the budget or reserve funds. 

For instance, if a severe storm damages a roof, a special assessment fee might be imposed to fund immediate repairs. These unforeseen expenses can strain your budget, so it’s wise to be prepared for the possibility of special assessments ranging from a modest amount to a substantial monthly expense. Whenever possible, set enough money aside for an emergency fund that will cover such costs. 

The difference between living in a condo as opposed to a single-family home is that you have to pay immediately when the HOA decides on a necessary repair in the case of the condo. If you owned a single-family home, you could delay certain repairs to fit your budget.

How close am I to shops and services?

The most significant benefit of condos is that they are usually close to shops, businesses, entertainment, and services, as well as jobs and job opportunities. 

If you opt for a condo in an urban setting, you can reduce your reliance on a car for daily errands, which can save you significant amounts of money. Many urban condo dwellers use a bicycle, public transportation, or other cost-effective alternatives. This not only saves money but also has environmental benefits by reducing emissions. Living close to grocery stores and essential services translates to shorter commutes, allowing you to reclaim precious time for yourself and your loved ones.

If you choose a condo in a suburban area, check how close you are to amenities and whether you are able to cover the cost of owning and parking a car. 

What’s the sort of community around my condo?

Condo living often fosters a sense of community. Most condo complexes offer a range of amenities, including sports facilities, pools, gyms, and communal areas for social gatherings. 

Whether you’re a social butterfly or looking to expand your social circle, condos provide ample opportunities to connect with neighbors. These connections can lead to meaningful friendships and shared experiences, enriching your condo living experience.

Likewise, living in densely populated areas gives you plenty of time and opportunities to meet people and share living in an active urban environment. 

Before closing on a condo, check the rest of the building and assess for yourself whether you fit and feel comfortable within this community. Take a walk around the block to experience the larger community feel and how it makes you feel. Remember that you will also be part of this community and you will see these people on a daily basis: you want it to fit your lifestyle and personality. 

How much maintenance will I have to do for my condo?

If you’re not a fan of yard work and home maintenance, condos may be your ideal choice. If gardening is not your thing but a nice view from a high point is, then a condo is the perfect match for your living preferences. 

Condo ownership typically means that the HOA takes care of exterior maintenance, including landscaping and building upkeep. You’ll be responsible for maintaining the interior of your unit, while shared areas, hallways, and different common spaces are maintained by the condo association.

Plus, you’ll never have to shovel snow or worry about power outages, as many condo complexes have backup generators (though availability may vary).

Will I hear the neighbors?

Condo living means living in close quarters with neighbors. While this can lead to social opportunities, sometimes it can also have downsides. 

Condominium complexes can get noisy. Noise from neighboring units may disrupt your peace and quiet, potentially affecting your sleep or daily routines. If you have noisy neighbors it can take a while until the board has taken care of the issue; until then, you will have to live with the racket next door.  

Additionally, the condition of neighboring units can impact your living environment, so consider your tolerance for shared spaces and potential disturbances.

If you like quietness and hearing the rustling of the leaves in the fall, urban condo living might not be the best arrangement for you. It may be better for you to find a condo in a more secluded and quiet suburban area. Balance in your mind what sort of priorities matter to you before closing on a condo instead of buying a house. 

How easy will it be to sell my condo in the future?

Condo units within the same complex often share similar layouts and features. Every condo is more or less the same as other units and very few things differentiate them. This uniformity can pose challenges when selling your condo, especially if multiple units in your complex are on the real estate market simultaneously. 

Home buyers may have more choices, potentially affecting your unit’s resale value. Unless you’ve made condo board-approved renovations, your unit is likely to resemble other condos for sale in the complex. This is one of the reasons why condos are typically cheaper than single-family homes. 

How many people can live in my condo?

Condos may have occupancy limits set by building codes. These limits dictate how many people can reside in your unit simultaneously for a specified duration. Exceeding these limits can result in code violations, so these are important questions to ask if you plan to use the condo as a family home.

While condos may offer less space than single-family homes, they often come with a lower price tag due to the absence of land ownership costs. However, keep in mind that the financial advantage may diminish over time due to fluctuating HOA and special assessment fees.

Before deciding on a condo, you want to get the necessary information, and assess your family size and whether the property will fit you now and in the near future.

Are pets allowed in my condo?

Condo Associations often forbid or set a strict limitation on the number of pets you can have in your condo. Specific pet restrictions may also apply to the property. For example, cats may not be allowed, or you can have up to two dogs in your condo, or maybe some dog breeds are not allowed in the building.

If you have one or more pets or plan on having one living with your family, you should ask before purchasing a condo if the HOA allows pets on the property and if there are other terms and conditions applying to the animals you can have in your condo.  

The same applies if you don’t want animals in the estate. Check the HOA rules and regulations to see if your new property is pet-free.

A Blend of Convenience and Community

Condo living offers a real blend of convenience and community. The decision to buy a condo should match your lifestyle preferences, financial considerations, and tolerance for shared living. 

Our buyer guide is here to help understand what living in a condo means and whether you fit in with such a living arrangement. 

Condos have many advantages. Weigh them against the potential challenges to ensure they match your vision of a perfect home. Before buying a condominium, think of the pros and cons, consider the things that are important to you and your family, and make sure to ask these questions that may help you decide if a particular condo is a good match for your needs.

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