Written by attorney Aaron Rene Resnick

Things to Consider When Buying A Condominium in Florida

Whether you're considering the purchase of a condo for a permanent residence, part time/vacation home, or for a real estate investment, there are some important things to consider when making comparisons and before making that final decision. Here are just a few:

  • Compare Amenities

Community amenities are important for enhancement and enjoyment of your chosen lifestyle. When purchasing your condo be sure to compare what different communities are offering in the way of amenities like: golf courses, clubhouse, country club / restaurants, pool / spa, tennis. Community amenities will go a long way in enhancing your family's satisfaction and long term happiness. In addition, factor in the amenities when comparing the association fees.

  • Don't Bypass Reading the Condo Docs

Condominiums are usually governed by a homeowner's association. An association will, in most cases, require that residents and homeowners be bound to obey with legal, recorded documents that convey to residents how the property, as well as the common areas in the community, can be used, and what the residents' legal responsibilities are to the association. It is critical that you exercise your right to scrutinize these documents before being bound by contract to purchase your condominium. Don't take shortcuts here! Take the necessary time to read through them. This step is even more important to part time residents or investors. Important issues like: pets, guests, vehicle restrictions, rental restrictions, and more must be understood in order to make a good decision about 'buying the community' that you will be living or investing in. By Florida law, you have 15 days to review these documents if you are buying a new construction condominium, and 3 days if you are purchasing an existing or resale condominium before deciding whether you want to proceed with a sale. You may elect to have your attorney review the documents on your behalf to assure that you will be happy to comply with the association rules and restrictions.

  • Ask About the Owner / vs Renter Percentage

This statistic holds special importance, especially when it comes to getting a mortgage and to future resale. A mortgage lender may decline to provide financing for condos with a high ratio of owners vs renters, or they may elect to do the financing but charge the buyer a higher than average interest rate. In reverse, when selling your condominium, the pool of interested buyers might be reduced by a higher 'rental ratio' and could possibly even affect the sales price.

  • Find Out About Past, Present, and Proposed Special Assessments

Will there be any major issues with maintenance or community development that are projected for the coming year? Ask to see the association's current and projected budget and find out if those expenses will be covered or if a special assessment will be levied. The way that an association plans for its financial future is a sign of how well it is being managed. Look to the past to predict how things might be managed in the future.

  • Scrutinize the Condo Association's Legal Health

Find out if the condominium association is currently involved in any legal battles with developers, homeowners, or vendors. These issues probably won't present any complications for an individual homeowner, but it is always a good practice to have as much information as possible about the neighborhood that you're buying into. You might want to consider serving on the association board, if you have the inclination and the time, so that you will have first hand knowledge as well as more influence over all important issues affecting the community that you live in.

  • Compare Association Fees

If you're comparing two properties for purchase, compare the fees for each communities' association. Don't limit yourself to looking at just the monthly cost. Instead, compare the fees by looking at what they will be used for and by what they cover: maintenance, utilities like cable and water, and condominium management. The way that the fees stack up against the competition will also factor into desirability when it comes to resale in the future.

  • Understand Who Pays for What

It's important to be aware of what your financial obligations, going forth after purchasing your condo, will be on an ongoing basis. Ask about both the interior and exterior cost for maintenance of your condominium. If interior maintenance, or pest control for example, is included in your fees, make sure you understand the details and limitations of that coverage. On the exterior, find out who will be responsible for 'big ticket' items like the roof. Lawn and landscaping maintenance is another considerably large exterior expense that needs to be clarified.

  • Inquire About Management

Find out if the complex is professionally or 'self- managed.' Ask for the contact information for the President of the Condo Association, if the association is self managed, or the management company if professionally managed. Professional management is usually a positive sign that the association responsibilities like: maintenance of the property, financial accountability, assistance with condo sales, and responses to questions and concerns will be addressed in a consistent, professional, non-biased, timely manner. Self management relies on volunteers to perform these duties for the association. Ask to read the most recent record of the association's meeting minutes to find out about any ongoing complaints or problems by the homeowners living there. If there are an abundance of negative issues, it could be a sign of poor management.

Final tip: If you've narrowed down your buying choice to a couple of condos and are having trouble making your final decision, try to find a resident who would be willing to give you their opinion of the community. Find out what they love and what they're not fond of with respect to their home and to living in the community and ask if they have ever regretted their decision. If you can, get more than one opinion. This is also a great way to find out how friendly the neighbors might be.

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