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Red Flags When Buying a Condo

Reviewed by: David Naimey

Approved by: Chad Turner

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Purchasing a condo is a great way to own a new property. Condo estates are usually located in central areas with lots of amenities and opportunities. City centers, schools, shopping markets, entertainment areas, and amenities are often available just around the corner. 

If you are interested in buying a home and you are not crazy about mowing the lawn or taking care of communal spaces, then condo communities are the best choice for you. Condo home buyers have peace of mind that the HOA is keeping up with the maintenance of the condominium unit and you have a beautiful space to call your own.  

Potential buyers, though, should be aware of red flags in condos. Once you start checking potential condos for sale, you should keep your eyes open and watch out for potential issues to avoid future regrets. Life in a condo is practical and enjoyable as long as you have made sure that the condo unit is up to your standards and that special assessments, maintenance, and other services are provided. 

Understand What Life in a Condominium Is Like

You should keep in mind that living in a condo you can call home comes with many benefits but also includes some complexities. You will be living with other households in the same building, so condominium living may not be the right choice for you if you are an individual who is looking for seclusion and privacy. No matter how good the insulation is, you will have to consider that other people are having their properties close to you.

What Do You See When You Enter the Building?

The best way to assess the worth and quality of living in a building is to observe what it feels like when you enter. 

Ask yourself what you expect from a potential condo association. Most buyers will say they want clean common areas, painted walls that are not peeling, faded, or poorly constructed, and well-lit stairs and parking areas to maximize safety and security. If you notice dirty and dusty floors and badly maintained areas and are too scared to walk to the parking lot, you already have quite a few red flags and potential issues. 

Likewise, check the building is not falling apart. That includes the roof, the HVAC system, doors and windows, and other structural components that testify poor construction quality. Leaky roofs and drafty windows mean that construction has poorly maintained common areas. Do you really want to live in such a building? 

Assess Homeowners’ Association (HOA) Dynamics

The HOA makes sure that living in the condo complex goes smoothly. The HOA management company takes care of maintenance and various necessary services, including maintained common areas, cleaning services, and monthly fees. As a condominium owner, you pay HOA fees to participate in the costs. 

A poorly managed HOA will be immediately obvious in terms of its real estate quality. Neglected common areas, peeling walls, and lack of maintenance are flags to watch that the HOA is either not doing its job or that residents are not paying the HOA fees. 

The HOA plays a vital role in the upkeep and governance of the condo community in terms of rules and regulations. If you see signs of poor and overlooked building looks, ask whether it’s due to a lack of finances or frail rule enforcement. Before you commit to purchasing a condo you should know what you are getting into.

HOA Fees

All residents must pay HOA fees to benefit from maintenance and all the services like cleaning and upkeep. 

You should ask about the level of the HOA fees. Firstly, because you need to know to include them in your monthly closing costs expenses. Secondly, you want to know whether there are unexpected HOA fee increases without much notice, which will affect your monthly condo feed budget. 

If some residents are not paying their HOA condo fees, you should ask yourself whether it’s because they can’t or because they don’t like the quality of work the current HOA is delivering. 

If you find that the fees are high or subject to frequent changes, this could signal financial instability within the HOA, which is a major red flag. You don’t want the drama of not knowing how much you are expected to pay and whether the HOA is doing its work properly.

The Menace of Special Assessment Fees

Special assessment fees are levied by the HOA in emergencies such as a roof repair or weather-related damages that require significant expenses. 

Special assessment fees are charged for unexpected repairs or emergencies. If they happen too frequently, it could suggest a lack of transparency. Is the HOA not maintaining the building properly? Is the HOA mismanaging its funds and it needs special assessment fees for running expenses? 

You should enquire about the HOA’s financial management, decisions, and effectiveness before you commit to purchasing a condominium in a building.

Construction Quality, Installation, and Insulation

Interested in purchasing a condo unit? Take time to check how well the building is constructed. When you visit the condo, check if you can hear the neighbors. If you can, this could be an important issue. People have very different schedules. Some people work from home, others have noisy children, and some come back home from night shifts. Do you want to have noise surround you 24/7?

Some people are oblivious to noises but many are not. If the insulation is poor, it could make it difficult for you to live in a condominium.

Parking Availability

If you have a car, make sure the building gives you access to a parking space. 

You want the parking space to be well-lit and easy to park in. If your condo doesn’t come with a parking space, where will you park your car? If parking spaces are limited, existing residents will probably have taken them. In this case, you will have to park on the street. How safe is street parking? Do you want to walk from your car to your condo? How easy will it be to carry groceries? 

Limited Space and Flexibility

The living area for a condo is given. You can’t build an extension so you have to make do with the space you have. If you plan on growing your family, for example, you should make sure the condo covers your needs or you may need to sell and move to a bigger home. 

If you will be working from home some days of the week, you may want a quiet room. If the condo can’t offer you that, that should be a red flag because you won’t have the necessary living space you require. The inability to expand your living area is a potential issue for those who value space and flexibility.

You Don’t Have Any Outdoor Space

The lack of a private yard is often a problem when buying a condo. If you like gardening and spending time pottering around in a yard, living in a condo might not be the best choice for you. Many people love having an outdoor area for personal use or gardening and the common spaces provided by a condo may not be enough to satisfy their preferences.

You Can’t Change the Exterior Appearance of Your Home

Living in a condo means you have to follow common rules that bind people to some agreed regulations. This usually means you can’t paint the exterior of your condo in a color of your choice and you can’t customize it to your exact liking. The whole building must look coherent and consistent, which means that personal adaptation is often impossible. 

If you like to remodel and add creative touches to your home, this would be an issue. If you’re someone who enjoys making a space your own through renovations, the strict guidelines and approval processes required by most HOAs could be a significant deterrent. If you know beforehand that you will want to remodel the condominium, that’s a red flag that shouldn’t be ignored. 

Buying a Condo and Red Flags

Looking to purchase a condo? They can be a great purchase and have benefits that make condo living fun and practical. 

At the same time, buying a condo comes with various potential issues to look out for that warrant careful attention. For example, you have less independence or autonomy compared to a single-unit home. Potential issues, from fluctuating HOA fees to restrictions on personalizing your space, should guide your due diligence process. 

Once you have accepted their potential drawbacks, make sure the condo and the building fulfill your needs. Take a step back and evaluate the quality and standards of living. Check with the HOA to make sure their decision-making process, fees, and previous experience provide better living conditions. 

Most importantly, get in touch with our experienced real estate agent at Society Mortgage and get all the necessary information before proceeding to a new purchase!

Once you have found the perfect condo for you, contact a mortgage loan officer, your trusted housing lender, to ensure you have the necessary funds to purchase it and make your new condo a place to call home!

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