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7 Questions You Need to Ask Before Buying a Condo

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There are perfectly valid reasons to choose to buy a condominium over a house. If you’re a single household, i.e. you live alone, a condo is likely to give you a sense of security with the neighbours close by. Plus the smaller footprint is sure to impress when it comes to housekeeping. Who really wants to spend hours cleaning inside and out.

So the next step is picking a condo complex. With condos aka apartments there are common spaces i.e. shared walkways, gardens entrances etc and with them the cost of upkeep is also shared between the condo owners.

There will also be the condo complex rules and regulations. While most body corporates will use a similar template there will be nuances so the more you research and evaluate each complex, the better informed you are to know your obligations and where you can or can not accept the terms. Here are some of the questions you need to ask before choosing your condo.

What Rules Does the Condo Association Have?

One of the major variances between buying a condo or house is what you need to do beforehand. When you buy a home, you are responsible for getting the home inspection done, and a valuation. Now you know what it’s worth it’s time to source funds to pay for it i.e. a mortgage and the lender will want the home insured.

With a condo, not only do you need to carry out these tasks you also need legal representation to inform you of what’s within and outside your boundaries of ownership. For example, with a condo, you don’t own anything outside of your four walls, i.e. the condo building. The area beyond and the gardens are owned by the community of condo owners. The ‘body corporate’ or condo complex group maybe fully outsourced to a third party business or it may be all the condo owners. The condo complex is essentially joint ownership with all condo owners so any changes to the exterior of the gardens need to be approved by all owners.

What are the Condo Fees?

Another question you should ask, what is the annual condo complex maintenance fee and what does it entail, i.e what work is it covering the cost of and what is not included? Northern Virginia Home Pro, the realtors who work on the condos at Halstead at the Metro, explains, the fees are usually worked out by how many condos are on the block, plus what it costs to run the community area. Within the area all costs associated with grounds maintenance e.g. lawn mowing and gardening, as well as the complex water and sewerage system and private road maintenance and trash pick-up.

The annual fee will also cover any additional facilities like a pool or a gym. Therefore, if you’re a gym rat or have always dreamt of having your pool without the costs of installing one, this can be an ideal outcome for you.

How is the Complex Managed?

There are typically two ways that a condo complex will be managed, by a professional management company, or by a home owner’s association (HOA). If a management company is running it, try to obtain the details for them and give them a call. They will often be able to tell you about the complex and give you the heads up on any problems. If an HOA runs the site, then speak to the chairman, as they will be able to tell you about the area and any issues that have arisen. It will be a good way to see if you think the complex is being run effectively, and it will give you a good indication as to the people running the complex.

Does the Association Have a Reserve Fund?

One of the most important questions you need to ask is if there is a reserve fund and how much is in it. The reserve fund is a pot of money that is there to cover any emergencies that might occur. The amount is usually worked out by the age of the condos. For those less than ten years old, it should have about 10 per cent of the annual revenue budget. For condos over ten years old, it should be 25 per cent or more. It is an important question to get answered when buying a condo, as you need to know that the complex will be properly maintained. If there isn’t enough money in the reserve fund, then it could cost you a lot to repair any damage. It will also give you an indication as to the health of the complex and how it governed.

Will There be Any Special Assessments?

A special assessment is when the complex needs to have some major work completed, such as replacing the roofs. Instead of taking this out of the reserve fund, the association may consider using a special assessment. It will mean that your condo fees will rise by a certain amount for a set time. The amount raised will then cover the cost of the repairs and will leave the reserve fund intact. If there are any of these special assessments coming up, then you need to know before you decide to buy a condo with that complex.

Are There Any Lawsuits Against the Condo Complex?

One of the important things that may pose a risk in the future is if there are any lawsuits outstanding against anyone. These are usually levelled at the developers for not completing something in the complex, or for shoddy work. In most cases, these lawsuits are not a major problem, but it is good to know in advance just in case. The HOA chairman of the management company should be able to tell you this information.

What is the Parking Situation?

Parking at a condo complex can vary from place to place; typically, there should be at least one space for you as the condo owner. Some complexes have deeded parking spaces that are reserved for each condo owner. It means that only you can park in your reserved space. However, other complexes run a first come first served arrangement which doesn’t guarantee you will get a space anywhere near your condo. If you like to have friends over, then you also need to check that there is guest parking available. Like with any house buying, you need to consider all these facts before moving but don’t let it put you off. Remember if having a condo has always been a dream of yours, you will find the right one for you.

These are some of the questions that you need to get answers to before you think about buying a condo. Although in many cases, all of these questions won’t be an issue, there are some exceptions, so it can save you a lot of time and money to get them answered before you move in.

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