Thoughts on Condo Living.

Small Home: Tallinn, Estonia

If you’ve decided that condominium living is for you, here are some additional tasks to undertake before writing an offer.

 

A. Read and understand the by-laws, master deed and the rules & regulations. Pay particular attention to the rules and regulations that address any of the following topics.

1. Leasing options, if any.

2. Pet restrictions.

3. Satellite dishes.

4. Parking restrictions.

5. Outdoor cooking.

6. Exterior plantings

7. Garage door maintenance.

 

Leasing:  Some associations allow leasing and others do not. Please be sure you understand under what circumstances a unit may be leased and for what period of time. Associations that are approved for FHA-type mortgages will soon be required to allow owners to lease their units. The precise requirements are currently under discussion.

 

Pet restrictions: Make certain you understand the association’s rules regarding pets. The rules can vary widely and usually address the size and/or number of dogs/cats, leash requirements, and areas prohibited to pets (e.g., pool, clubhouse, etc.). Also, you will be responsible for cleaning up after your pet.

 

Satellite Dishes: Rules pertaining to satellite dishes vary widely. Sometimes they are simply prohibited. If they’re allowed they often must satisfy rules concerning their location and how they are installed (e.g., not in a “common area”).

 

Parking: These limitations often prohibit marked commercial vehicles from being parked anywhere but in a garage. However, some associations allow the temporary parking of such vehicles in driveways. Make sure you know the rules.

 

Outdoor cooking: Many cities, including Louisville, KY, have fire ordinances that prohibit the use of gas/wood grills on decks or within so many feet of any structure.

 

Exterior plantings: Any alterations or additions to outside plantings may be prohibited or require the preapproval of the Board of Directors.

 

Garage door maintenance: The maintenance of your garage door may be the owner’s responsibility or the association’s.

 

B. As part of the review of the by-laws pay attention to the section dealing with insurance. Make certain the association has adequate insurance on the buildings. Inadequate insurance is a big red flag.

 

 

C. Beware of condominiums that were originally constructed as apartments, as the units may be less sound proof than units initially built as condos. If the design involves one unit built above another, seek to determine if there was a slab of cement laid between the two levels. A cement barrier will greatly reduce any noise issues.

 

D. Be sure to examine the association’s financial statements and capital plans.

1. Review the balance sheet to ensure there are “reserve” funds and that a portion of the monthly condo fee is going towards growing the reserve fund(s). The purpose of a reserve fund is to have moneys available in the event of a large unbudgeted expense. For example, the in ground pool might spring a leak, or an underground pipe might break. The larger and older the complex the larger should be the reserve fund. This makes sense, since roofs don’t last forever and their replacement is expensive. Similarly, pipes and other building materials can cause problems as they age. The association should be thinking about how these future expenditures will be financed. Also, ask if the association’s financial statements were ever audited. Also ask about whether the association is protected again fraud or embezzlement by a board member.

 

2. The very best associations have long term capital plans, which lay out the timing of some of the aforementioned major expenditures (e.g., roofs, pool, tennis court refurbishment, etc.). Ask if such a long term plan exists.

 

Condominium living can be enjoyable, but be sure you complete your research before writing a contract.

Photo: Flickr Creative commons by Sara’s Photostream

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