Don’t let your new condo cost you money, at least not in your first 5 years of ownership. Here are the 5 most costly mistakes you can make when buying a condo. Culled from the author’s 7 years of selling condos in the Boston area. Written by Jeff Persons, Accredited Buyers Agent, RE/MAX Destiny, Boston MA
Watch out for noise transference.
Some condos get a lot of noise transference, especially the old townhouses built from 1850 to 1900. The noise may come from side to side or from up and down. Once I had condo owners living above me who moved their furniture around in the middle of the night. I bought them some furniture pads, left them by their door and that fixed the problem. You will be living with other people in the same house. My own noise was bothering the nice lady downstairs so I agreed to use headphones after 8:30 PM so she could sleep.
As much as you can, try to visit the condo at different times of the day or night. Go with your Buyers Agent so you can get him to be quiet long enough to detect noise. Noise can also come from old windows. Visit during rush hour in the rain and you will know how bad the road noise can be. Visit the block at various times of the day and night so you can spot annoyance factors like teenagers hanging out on the same corner every night right outside your bedroom window.
Find out whatever you can about the other owners
It’s a bummer to buy into an association only to find out that there are long standing disputes about condo issues among the owners. It changes the whole feeling of your new home. Insist on a conversation with at least 2 trustees of the condo association.
Get a Home Inspection
Always, always, always!
Get a Lawyer
Especially with condos. You need someone to read the master deed and the 3 inch stack of addenda to make sure you are protected from anything in the fine print. Your real estate lawyer who is hopefully well versed with condos can also go over the budget and give you a heads up if she sees a shortfall coming.
Here is where you can enlist the help of your Buyers agent in establishing what fair market value for the property really is. It takes about 20 to 30 minutes and will tell you what the going rate is for the property. Much like a real estate appraiser and using basic math from a few different angles in order to get some metrics you can hang your hat on. Make sure your Buyers agent shows you all the sold units he used in his calculations, not just the sold units that justify the asking price.
“You don’t make money in real estate when you sell,
You make it when you buy”
Don’t forget the minutes to the condominium meetings!
Here is one thing that many condo buyers miss because no one has a vested interest in getting these documents to the buyer. Get the latest meeting minutes from the condo association meetings.
Once something is assessed the sellers must disclose, but sellers will try to hide the minutes from you.
Getting the minutes is mission critical because they reveal what the association is talking about repairing in the future. In the minutes you may discover that they are talking about a new roof, elevator, pilings replacement, heating systems, brick repointing, common area updates etc. etc.
I’ve been selling Boston condos since 2002 and I have yet to see an owner, property management company or listing agents who will volunteer the minutes to you or your buyers agent. If fact the opposite is true. I’ve run into smoke screens and flat out lies regarding the minutes. No we don’t have them, no we can’t find them, one excuse after another. I’ve had to make as many as 8 phone calls to several different people over a period of weeks before I grudgingly got handed the minutes.
The minutes can be a deal breaker because they may outline an expensive course of action for the building association down the road. Like spending money.
I learned this one up close and personal before I got into real estate. I bought a beautiful 1 bedroom condo on the 3rd floor overlooking the Commonwealth Avenue Mall. It was a dream come true but I bought it without the benefit of a Buyers agent or a look at the condominium meeting minutes. If I had I would have known that 6 months later I was going to get a bill for $8000 for the new roof and 1 year later another bill for $16,000 for the new elevator. The seller knew but he didn’t legally have to tell me because the repairs hadn’t been officially assessed. If I had known I still may have bought the property but I would have at least known what I was getting into.
Without the minutes you won’t know until after you buy and you get the bill. And the bill can be big!