People who want to make the switch from renting to owning often
choose a condominium as their first real home. Other buyers purchase
a condo as a part-time holiday retreat or are attracted by a
lifestyle that has fewer responsibilities.
What's a condo?
A condominium is not the same as an apartment, although condo
developments may include apartment-style complexes, townhouses or
converted multi-family dwellings. It is different from other
multi-tenant buildings in that the developer has legally declared it
to be a condominium and units in the building or complex are
purchased rather than rented. In most states, this means that the
development falls under specially designated laws and regulations
applied to condominiums.
A condo owner buys title to his or her individual unit, up to the
walls, but not including them. There are also common areas of the
development, such as hallways and stairwells, dividing and outer
walls, pools, fitness centers, rooftop gardens and barbecue areas.
These are under shared ownership and every unit owner holds an
interest in these spaces. Every condo development has a
unit-ownership association that manages the maintenance and repair
of these shared areas. The association is elected by the condo
owners and makes decisions in the interest of the community.
Fees and associations
The condo or homeowners association budgets and determines the
fees for all units, usually based on the size of each unit, the
number of units occupied and the projected expenses for maintenance
- Down payment, mortgage and property tax.
- Maintenance fees. Every condo owner pays fees to help maintain
the building, pay the salaries of concierges, handymen or
groundskeepers, and provide facilities such as a pool, gym or
gardens. The fees are paid monthly and are subject to change.
- Special assessments. These fees may be needed when an
unexpected repair or planned modification exceeds the cost of
the condo fees collected.
Questions to ask
- What do unit owners think of their condo association? Ask
owners for comments or complaints about the associaton,
activities and reputation.
- Does the condo association maintain a reserve fund to pay for
unexpected and possibly expensive repairs? This will help you
assess whether you can expect special assessment fees.
- Are there any pending legal actions between owners and
developers or the association? Legal disputes can be costly.
- Are there any plans to add to the facilities, such as a
swimming pool or gym? Such projects can mean a rise in fees. The
minutes of condo association meetings should reveal any such
- Is the development in good repair? Are repairs and maintenance
handled in a timely manner? Before buying any condo, have the
particular unit and the entire structure inspected to identify
Condominiums are governed by a set of rules called Covenants,
Conditions and Restrictions (CC&Rs), which are enforced by the
condo association. Anyone who is thinking of purchasing a condo
should carefully consider the rules, which vary from one development
to another. The CC&Rs may impose restrictions on noise levels,
renovation projects, pet ownership and renting.
A condominium can be a great purchase under the right
circumstances, but potential buyers should be comfortable living
within certain rules and restrictions and in close proximity to