Is Condo ownership right for you?

OK guys and girls, listen up: Whether it’s in Trump’s luxury buildings, a renovated downtown building or a suburban gated community, buying a condominium is different from buying a house. To make sure you love your new home – and your new neighbors – pay attention to these special factors when considering condo life.

Good walls make good neighbors.

Condo living can mean shared walls (and floors and ceilings). Spend some time in the unit when your future neighbors are home. Do they have a piano? Wear platform shoes on floors without rugs? Listen to their television at high volume? Have kids who sound like they’re playing indoor basketball? Does the complex allow those things?

If you’re considering a freestanding house in a condo development, take a careful look outside. How close are the buildings? Do you have yard space? How much distance from your neighbors do you need? How do the other yards look? Are there rules about plantings, outdoor seating, barbecuing or garden parties? Whether you’re looking at an apartment or a house, make sure to talk to people who live in the building or the complex. Check out what they’re complaining about. And most important: find out whether they think the board responds to complaints in a timely and fair fashion.

Meet the manager.

Most condos have property managers; ask to meet the person who will be your point of contact for questions, problems or repairs. Is this someone you could work with? Does he have pride in his work? Ask your future neighbors about their experiences with the manager and the maintenance team.

Get clear on the costs.

There’s what you pay to buy a condo … and there’s what you pay to live there. If you hate mowing the lawn, trimming shrubs and making home repairs, you will value the ease of living in a place that you own – and that someone else maintains. But that convenience comes at a cost, so don’t be shy about going over the association fees.

  • In addition to your personal homeowner’s policy, make sure you understand the association’s insurance, especially when it comes to common walls, common areas, etc.
  • Ask for a breakdown of the association’s financials. Pay close attention to the annual expenditures and the repair fund.
  • Find out if there has been any litigation over things like construction defects. Believe me, you don’t want to be paying increased fees because you’re covering the hours a lawyer is billing the association.

Know what you are buying.

You may think you’re the owner of that adorable, shady patio. You’re already picturing yourself lounging in your hammock while the grill heats up. Make sure your daydream can become your reality. Believe it or not, the outside of the property may not be included in the purchase price of the unit. It’s not unreasonable to ask about all outside features: porches, terraces, gardens. You may have use of them, but you may not be the owner. If having full control over your home environment matters, you could be in for an unpleasant surprise.