L.D. from Fairfield County writes:
My fiancé and I are looking at homes to purchase and we are seriously considering a condo. We both work crazy hours and the idea of having the property maintained for us is very appealing. However, my father has warned me not to buy an older condo because there can be hidden expenses and special assessments that could cost us thousands of dollars. Obviously, I don’t want to buy a money pit. Do you have any advice to help me avoid a mistake?
Mister Condo replies:
L.D., congratulations on your pending nuptials! I hope whatever home you decide to purchase makes both you and your new bride happy!
Your father’s concerns are valid and whatever type of property you decide to purchase brings with it inherent financial risk. All houses are subject to aging. Aging means required maintenance. That could be anything from a new roof to a new furnace to new windows. Depending on how expensive these items are a new homeowner could find himself paying for a lot more than just the new mortgage. It’s important to ask these questions BEFORE you make a decision to purchase. I always advise potential condo buyers to download the free copy of “What to Know Before You Buy” from the CAI website at http://www.caionline.org/info/readingroom/Publication%20Excerpt%20Library/community_matters.pdf. The guide is chock full of questions you should ask about the association before you decide to buy your condo unit. When you buy a condo, you are buying more than the four walls of your unit. You are entering into a community association which is not unlike investing in a business.
Once you’ve found the home of your dreams (or the one you can afford as a young couple), it is important to have a proper inspection. When buying a condo, that should include inspecting the association’s finances as well. If everything appears in order then it is likely safe to proceed. However, if there are unanswered questions about what maintenance projects are on the horizon and how will those projects be paid for, you’d be wise to heed your father’s advice. Happy house hunting!