Condominium Basics

The decision of whether or not to purchase a condominium is much easier when you have a more thorough understanding of what you would be purchasing.  At closing, the buyer receives title to the new living unit along with a percentage of ownership in the common areas of the remainder of the complex.  Shared space may include hallways, basements, green space, community rooms, recreation areas and anything outside the actual walls of your living space. This joint ownership is shared by all owners who automatically become members of the association.

An association typically has a governing body elected from the membership who is charged to carry out the bylaws of the organization. An individual can choose to be involved in the regular meetings or to just stay abreast of developments via newsletters or written notification if they prefer. This type of regular communication is customary with many of these living arrangements. Many associations will also contract with a management company who will take responsibility for the day to day affairs associated with maintaining the physical plant such as cutting the lawn, removing snow, cleaning the hallways, helping with transfer of title and maintaining the financial accounts. Outside audit of financial statements by a certified public accounting firm is also typical.

Every association charges a monthly fee that frequently is paid directly to the management entity. This covers the array of services needed to both maintain the property and provide amenities for the residents. A master insurance policy and the basic maintenance mentioned above are the norm. Additional amenities may also include a clubhouse, tennis courts and in ground pools. In some cases, water and sewer charges and cable television can be paid out of the group’s fees. It’s noteworthy to mention that a properly managed association will earmark an adequate portion of the monthly fee for reserves in the event roofs, driveways or other major improvements become necessary.

The first task at hand when you start thinking a condominium purchase might be for you is to locate all of those developments in the general geographic area where you want to live. The next step is to sort through the approximate pricing of communities you have identified and select those that fit your budget. Experienced realtors that are familiar with the towns under consideration can help you walk through these first two steps in under an hour.  From here, the next thing is to walk through some units to experience what they have to offer. It’s my opinion that a simple drive by isn’t enough to truly experience what is being offered. You’ll need to keep in mind if you are scaling down that everything is going to look smaller when you are coming out of a house. For many, it is a bit of shock at first to attempt to envision your furniture in a smaller living space. Identifying what you must have and what you can live without in your new living situation is critical in order to make a sound decision. Do I need a dining room? Is a large kitchen critical? Would I prefer an upper or a lower level unit? Is a laundry in the unit essential? When you are moving from a house to a condominium, concessions are needed to make the transition to the lower cost and maintenance life style. The key is identifying what will work for you.

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