How to Shop for Condos

How to Shop for Condos

2020-02-26

They say that real estate is all about Location, Location, Location, and that certainly applies to condominiums as well. However, it’s far from the only consideration one makes when shopping for condos. Here are some common things to not overlook.

Location

Yes, location matters. Being close to work, within the boundaries of great schools, near recreational opportunities, somewhere energetic, or somewhere quiet are some examples of what people look for when considering the location.

Parking

Unlike single-family homes that tend to have garages, driveways, or some street frontage that makes parking relatively simple, condo parking is something worth understanding. Some buildings may have no on-site parking, while others have parking lots, parking ramps, underground parking, heated (or cooled) indoor parking, or private parking garages. They may have car chargers for electric vehicles (or support the installation of chargers) and may even have a car wash.

Some condos include parking for residents while others break it out as a separate item to buy or rent. Either way, there is normally some limit on how many vehicles you can park. For example, a building may have an underground parking garage with assigned parking spots for tenants with one included for each unit and the option to rent additional stalls.

Pets

If you’re a pet owner, it’s worth understanding that this may limit your condo options. However, you may find that some condos embrace pet ownership and have amenities designed to make life awesome for your furry friend.

Common considerations include whether dogs are allowed, limits on dog sizes, policies for dealing with constantly barking dogs, and whether cats or fish are allowed.

Pet embracing condos include features such as an outdoor pet area, a dog run, pet washing stations, dog treadmills, or pet spas.

And, of course, if living near pet lovers isn’t your thing, be sure to understand the pet policies of buildings you’re considering.

Association Fees

One convenience of living in a condo is you generally aren’t responsible for maintaining the building, including things like lawn mowing or snow shoveling (if applicable) and maintenance of the building’s exterior. It may also include trash pickup, water, and sewer costs, and maybe heating and electricity. However, there’s no such thing as a free lunch. Instead, the maintenance is funded through association fees paid by residents.

Association fees can vary tremendously from one building to the next (often due to the number of amenities in the building) and also by unit since association fees may be calculated on a cost per square foot of each condo, so a person with a full-story penthouse unit may pay proportionately more than someone living on a lower floor that has 12 units.

Keep in mind that association fees are paid separately from your mortgage, so you need to budget appropriately for both.

It’s worth understanding how much your potential association fees would be and what they cover. For example, does the building include Direct TV or internet in their association fees, or does each resident figure that out on their own?

Understand the Association Rules

We talked about pets, but they’re not the only issue to understand. For example, what if you’d like to Airbnb your property while traveling the world? Can you? Noise ordinances are another issue. Make sure that your lifestyle is aligned with the building you’re considering.

Work with a Condo-Experienced Real Estate Agent

Any real estate agent can help you buy a condo. But, real estate agents with lots of experience with condos. Bonus: inexperienced and experienced agents tend to cost the same to work with, so find someone who knows what they’re doing.

An experienced agent may know about different builders, whether association fees are reasonable, whether the building is due for a special assessment for maintenance, whether the building was built by a quality developer, and whether the building is FHA approved for FHA backed mortgages.

An agent may also have some insights into condo appreciation potential. For example, if the condo you’re considering is in an area that has a new building breaking ground every month, the increased supply may impact how fast your condo appreciates.

They’ll be able to explain the condo-specific contracts you’ll be signing, such as association rules and regulation contracts.

Game Plan

  1. Determine prospective locations

  2. Write down your must haves or must not have amenities

  3. Find condos matching your location and amenity interests.

  4. Work with an agent to identify appropriate units and understand the true costs of condo ownership.


Good luck!