S.A. from Kings County, Washington writes:
Dear Mister Condo,
We’re shopping for a condo, which would be our first. Any tips for how to ensure we don’t end up buying a unit that has noisy neighbors or similar problems that might not be obvious when we tour the unit? Is there a particular type of construction that will be best for having sound-proof walls/ceilings/floors?
Mister Condo replies:
S.A., congratulations on your first condo! Caveat Emptor (Buyer Beware) is always a good way to approach such a substantial purchase and your concerns about noise and other potential problems are valid. Here’s what I would suggest. If you know of any folks living in condo associations who are particularly happy with their homes, look in those associations first. Ask them what they like (and dislike) about their association. A solid condo association will have things like well-kept grounds, amenities, and good-looking building exteriors. These are the external trappings of a well-run and financially well-managed condo. As for the particulars of any single unit, your eyes and ears will be the best judge. Obviously look for things like water stains or other damage that might foretell problems. Check out how the unit smells, keeping in mind that old carpets or home that have housed smokers or pets will have a distinct aroma you may find unpleasant. Carpets can be changed, walls can be painted but make sure you understand that how a unit presents during a showing is what you will likely be purchasing. One tip I have found useful is to come back at different times of the day. While a unit may look serene and peaceful at 10:00 a.m., the neighbor next door really likes to listen to loud music or TV at 10:00 p.m.. You wouldn’t know that until after you moved in unless you came back at different hours. The same is true for weather conditions. A sunny day makes most units look great. How about a rainy or snowy day? How does the unit look then? Location of the unit can also have an effect on sound transfer. Many folks prefer end units where they only have neighbors on one side. Multistory units will have noise from above and below. Again, the best way to evaluate if that noise will bother you is to visit the unit at day and at night when neighbors are either present or absent. Finally, choose a unit that is right for you. Many unit owners are willing to trade off a little noise to be near an amenity like a pool or health club. Units further away from the action tend to be quieter. Parking may also be a consideration. Most condos offer lot parking but some offer garage or carport options. I hope these tips help. Good luck!