Are you thinking about buying a condo?
Already shopping for one?
You may want to change the way your are approaching it.
I really don’t hate the condo I own, that’s not what this is about.
But if I had it to do all over again with the knowledge I have now it may have been different.
I most likely would not have ended up in my current place of residence.
There isn’t anything inherently wrong with buying a condo.
There are many issues that are specific to this particular kind of property that you may not need to consider when looking at single family or town houses.
When shopping for a home, the most common qualities people seek out are generally location, price, age and condition.
Sometimes, depending on where you are looking, home owners association fees (and what they include) are also a consideration.
Those were the main factors I was looking for when I was shopping for my condo back in 2006.
I spent a year shopping, and even came back to my current home 3 times before making the decision to purchase.
So, what did I do wrong that I said I would probably not end up here if I had it to do all over again?
I looked at this purchase like it was a house, and not for what it really was–a totally separate animal within the housing environment with it’s own set of rules and characteristics.
What did I learn?
Well, I learned that the following things need to be considered and inspected when buying a condo:
Financial stability of development
Every condo building or community has an operating budget that is paid for by the HOA fees that it charges.
This usually consists of maintenance of the grounds, landscaping, security, recreational facilities, etc.
My particular community had changed management associations so frequently that the budget was a mess and turns out that one of the prior firms completely mismanaged the funds, and the community was operating at a deficit.
What ended up happening was an increase in the monthly HOA dues in the beginning, followed by the cancellation of community-paid cable and internet.
Essentially, I am now paying twice (in my mind) for my cable and internet since it was one of the costs covered by my dues when I signed up and I’m now paying for it a second time out of my own pocket.
The takeaway: ask question about the status of the budget and ask about any provisions for shortfalls & how often they have increased the HOA dues in the past.
Association rules enforcement
Where I live, there are certain guidelines that must be obeyed (or at least that what the documents and subsequent follow-ups claim):
- There is not supposed to be any reverse parking.
- No hibachis or grills are allowed on the balconies (fire department law).
- The use of amenities by minors is prohibited without adult supervision.
- No skateboarding is allowed in the parking lots or on sidewalks
- Pets are supposed to be limited to one per unit and a 40lb maximum weight.
There’s some other stuff too, but those are the biggies.
What do I see on an everyday basis?
- Cars pulled into parking spots backwards.
- Kids running in and out of the clubhouse on my way home from work.
- People grilling on their balconies (including the person below me).
- Huge dogs beings walked and shitting all over.
- And the worst one–kids smacking their boards on the ground while doing tricks right beneath my window on their skateboards.
I know that there are security people driving around in their little golf carts, but they seem to be more interested in being friends with everyone than enforcing the rules.
It may be nitpicking, but hearing skateboards slam the ground is quite annoying.
Seeing and smelling grills going when it’s not only against the rules but illegal is frustrating.
People taking forever to park because they have to take the extra time to position their car to back in just pisses me off.
And kids messing around and breaking the stuff in the clubhouse or damaging the pool would really set me off if I had to pay for it (which happens when the new annual budget is set).
The takeaway: find out what the rules are and take note of how vigorously they are enforced when doing your tour.
Ask the residents you may see if they are happy with how the place is run and policed.
It’s about more than being a stickler for the rules, it can also save you from having to pay an assessment or other repair bill.
Noise & annoyance control
This one really isn’t something you think about very often, or at least I didn’t.
In my complex, the doors are heavy and the type that close on their own.
The people here are such losers, that they don’t take the effort to hold the door as it closes, and they let the doors slam shut on their own (which is quite annoying).
In addition to that, the stairs are built in such a way that you can hear people walking on them even from the inside of the units.
Again, the people here don’t care and walk heavily up and down and don’t tell the kids not to run or jump on them.
I understand that it can’t be perfectly silent but there is such a thing as common courtesy when it comes to certain controllable issues.
The takeaway: Ask the people who live where you are looking about any annoying noise conditions that exist.
It will definitely save you some sleep especially on holidays and weekends when people are more likely to have parties.
Satellite service: probably not
Being that I live in South Florida, where the entire summer is the rainy season and tropical storms and hurricanes are the norm, I was never one to consider satellite television service.
That was, at least, until a few months back when I got frustrated with my current service and the satellite companies started offering tremendous deals.
I was specifically looking into DirecTV service whereby I would get 200+ channels with a DVR and HD included all for $29.99 for the first 12 months and only $44.99 thereafter.
In addition, if I used a friend’s referral code, we would both get $10 statement credits for 10 months.
The average cost of the service would have been an average of $33.32 for 2 years, which is more than 50% of what I would have to pay from the cable company that services my area.
I called them, and set everything up, only to find out that my unit was not positioned properly to receive the signal.
Not only that, but the type of material used to enclose the balcony was not conducive to receiving the HD signal.
So, instead, I got rid of television service all together since I wasn’t going to pay for something I wasn’t satisfied with to begin with.
The takeaway: Call any service providers you plan on using before making the final decision to purchase.
Find out beforehand if they service that particular area, and any specifics of the building (which direction you need to be facing, building materials that may degrade the signal).
All in all, owning a condo isn’t a bad thing.
The bad things simply come from a lack of preparation and not knowing the right questions to ask or the right qualities to look for.
I don’t regret my decision to buy one bit.
I just wish I had been more intelligent and knowledgeable about the process as it applies specifically to this type of property.