Living in a condominium, or condo, is very much like living in an apartment: shared walls, low-to-no outside maintenance requirements, and management that can either be a dream to work with, or your worst nightmare. Whether you are downsizing when the nest empties, or you just enjoy the resort-style living that many condominiums offer; buying a condo requires a bit more research than buying a single-family dwelling.
1: Visit with a mortgage broker or lending institution to get pre-approved for a loan. A pre-approval letter not only gives your offer more credibility, but it will help you determine how much you can spend on a condo. Don’t forget to factor in the Home Owners Association fees when deciding whether or not you can afford a particular condo.
2: Hire a real-estate agent to represent your interests during the purchase process. Ask her for a market analysis of any condo that you are considering purchasing: This will give you an idea of how well the unit is priced.
3: Inspect the common areas of any condo that interests you. Check to see that they are clean and well-maintained. Chat with any residents you see, to get a feel for how well the complex is taken care of, and how responsive the Homeowners Association is.
4: Order a home inspection on the unit under consideration. Though this is not as vital a step were you buying a single-family dwelling, there may be issues with the condo that the Home Owners Association (HOA) doesn’t cover. Your agent can give you referrals to home inspectors that he/she may have worked with in the past.
5: Go over the HOA documents with your agent or attorney. Look especially for any ongoing litigation, as this can stop a sale from going through. Look at the association meeting minutes, for evidence of any ongoing issues. Make sure that your agent includes a contract clause, giving you at least 72 hours to review the documents.
Following these steps will help you get a clearer picture of just what you are buying into, and may help to avoid any unexpected surprises along the way.