Many people buy condominiums because they are easier to maintain than houses. A condominium (condo, for short) development includes a building or group of buildings where the individual apartments or houses are owned by individuals but the common-area ownership is shared.
Condo owners pay homeowners association fees to cover routine upkeep of lawns, sidewalks, driveways, pools and roofs. These associations have rules that legally restrict condo owners from certain actions. Before buying a condo, you should research your rights and understand the rules and maintenance fees that go along with condo ownership.
Read Condo Bylaws Before You Buy
Bylaws are a set of rules that explain the rights and responsibilities of condo owners as well as those of the condominium owners' association. Not all bylaws are the same. Before you buy a condo, you should get a copy of its bylaws from the seller and read them closely.
Any sales agreement you sign should give you time to cancel if you decide that you don't like what you find in the bylaws. If you don't fully understand the bylaws, consider having a real estate professional interpret them for you. Bylaws can contain complicated wording that may affect your legal rights as a condo owner.
Know What Fees Are Charged
Before you buy a condo, you should contact its association to confirm the cost of the maintenance fees. These fees are often billed monthly and can be expensive. Be sure you are comfortable with this cost in addition to your mortgage. If you do not pay your fees, you can be sued or a lien may be filed against your condo. You may also have to pay late penalties, court costs, and the condo association's legal fees.
Consider Your Lifestyle
Be sure a condo fits your lifestyle. For example, some condos do not allow pet ownership. You might not be allowed to park motorcycles, boats, campers or trailers in the complex's parking lots or driveways. Other rules could limit your ability to plant certain bushes, trees or flowers outside your unit and might forbid or limit holiday displays.
Associations often require condo owners to maintain certain noise levels out of consideration for the neighbors. Before you buy a condo, consider your living habits and whether they fit with condo living.
An Inspection Is Important
Usually, the condo association will purchase insurance coverage on the exterior of your condo unit. You will be responsible for insuring the interior of your condo. Before you buy any condo, consider having a private inspection done to ensure that the inside of the unit is in good condition. Your sales agreement should give you the right to cancel the deal if an inspector finds serious problems. It's prudent to hire a reputable, licensed inspector.
A Real Estate Lawyer Can Help
The laws on buying a condominium and addressing condo disputes can be complicated. Plus, the facts of each case are unique. This article provides a brief, general introduction to the topic. For more detailed, specific information, please contact a real estate lawyer.