You’re ready to buy a condo, but you’re not quite sure where to start looking for the best unit.This apartment guide can help set you on the right track. A condominium is different from a single-family home, not only in its structure (it’s normally attached to other condo units in one building or complex), but also in how loans work and other factors like building fees and maintenance. You want to be sure to take the right steps when finding your home so that it will give you years of enjoyable, stress-free living.
If you haven’t decided yet on whether to buy a regular home or a condominium, here are some reasons that a condo may be a good choice for you.
- Condos can be more affordable because they appreciate more slowly than other types of homes.
- Condos allow you to take advantage of tax breaks that wouldn’t be available to you with an apartment.
- This kind of home can be attractive to those who want the benefits of ownership without the responsibilities of yardwork and snow removal.
- Condominiums can function as more affordable vacations homes, in popular destinations like Florida and Hawaii.
Agent or DIY?
You can either consult a real estate agent to help you find your new home, or you can search real estate websites like BuildNRate.com and set up your own viewing appointments. If you live in a big city like New York, it’s probably best to hire a broker to be your condo and apartment guide. These markets are highly competitive and you want to have someone you can trust helping you swoop in when a good deal comes available.
If you already have some apartment complexes in mind, find out if they have an onsite office where you can gather more information and possibly even see a sample unit. Either way you go, whether on your own or with an agent, you’ll want to ask lots of questions.
When it comes to those questions, the ones on the top of your list should be:
- How are the finances managed? There should be a reserve fund in case of emergency repairs and the like.
- How are complaints and requests handled? Talk to the neighbors and see what feel you get for how happy they are with the overall running of the complex.
- What are the rules? Are pets allowed? Are the decorating rules particularly rigid, and what modifications are you allowed to make?
You will also want to inquire into the fees. All condominium associations have fees so you’ll want to know exactly how much they’ll cost you, but equally as importantly you’ll want to know exactly where they go. Ask to see documentation on what association dues are spent on and how large the reserve fund is. You don’t want to get moved in and then find out that there’s no plan for emergencies like a leaky roof. You might also consider consulting online condo and apartment guides to see how the complex fares in the ratings.
Another smart move is to ask to see the board meeting minutes. Look specifically for how much time lapses between the registering of complaints and when those issues actually get resolved. Look for red flags, an inordinate amount of disputes, and other issues of contention.
Perhaps most importantly, visit the property and use your gut instinct. Are the grounds well-kept? Do the people seem friendly, and generally happy? Do you get a good, positive feeling when you’re there? Your gut reaction will seldom be wrong.
You can also consult home and apartment guides online and check out the local scene – food, culture, community activities – these things can give you an idea about the vibe of the neighborhood.
A Note on Loans
Obtaining a mortgage for a condo is different than getting one for a single-family home. The government has very specific requirements for condominium loans, so you’ll want to be sure you are looking at complexes that are on the FHA list of approved housing units. You can find more information about FHA requirements and guidelines here. You can certainly choose to get a loan that is not backed by the U.S. government but you will pay much more out of pocket – sometimes the down payment can be as high as 20%.
Whether buying for you and your family or as an investment property, you want to make sure you follow these common sense steps in order to find the condo that’s the best fit for your situation.