Condominium ownership is a great option for first-time buyers, empty-nesters and anyone in between who is looking for financial flexibility without the responsibility of major property maintenance. What do you need to know if you’re in the market to buy a condo? Is the condo lifestyle right for you? Read on!
What, exactly, is a condo? A condominium is one of a group of attached housing units where homeowners buy their individual unit spaces. The key difference from a single-family home is that there is no individual ownership of a plot of land. All the land in the condominium footprint is technically owned in common.
About homeowners associations. Condominiums will usually have an association that is charge of keeping everything running smoothly within the community. This includes making sure that building exteriors are in good condition, and that grounds and landscaping are maintained. They will typically have a board or governing body that oversees and enforces community rules, such as pet policies, parking rules and use of common areas, to ensure that all owners have a pleasant environment. Many condominiums outsource board responsibilities to a professional property management company, which is paid by mandatory dues from individual unit owners.
Maintenance — who’s responsible? As a condominium owner, you will be responsible for maintaining everything inside your unit. Any repairs, updates and decorating decisions will be your responsibility — and typically made at your discretion unless they directly impact your neighbor. Usually, the exterior maintenance and lawn care are paid for out of homeowner dues collected and managed under strict rules.
Is insurance needed? Just like a single-family home, condominium owners should have homeowner’s insurance. However, insuring common areas is not the responsibility of the individual owner. The exterior walls and roof are insured by the condominium association, while all interior walls and all other interior items are insured by the homeowner.
Do your homework before purchasing a condo. You may understand the rules of the community and your individual responsibility, but you’ll want to know about the community itself. For example, condominiums that cater more to empty-nesters may not be the most family-friendly. You may also want to determine whether the condo is a quiet haven, or more lively and close to shopping, dining and entertainment. There are many condos with different amenities. With a little research, you can find the one that is right for you.