If you're searching through listings, trying to find the right home for you, but have only been looking at single family houses, you might to consider expanding your search to include condominiums. Condos are often the perfect fit for busy professionals, individuals who want to live in the middle of the action in a downtown setting, or retirees looking to downsize. The benefits of purchasing a condo include that you don't have to worry about the upkeep outside your residence, and these communities often have amenities like a gym or pool. But buying a condo is much different than buying a house. There are additional steps that you need to take, and all of that paperwork that can be confusing.
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If you're considering buying a condo, the first thing you need to remember is that you have the exclusive right to the interior space of the unit, but all of the exterior areas (land, outer walls, grounds, fences, and facilities) are owned in common with all of the other condo owners in the complex. And, because condos often share a wall with the unit next door, in most complexes, you can't remodel at free will. Instead, you have to abide by the complex's CC&Rs (Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions), so it's important to get a copy of this paperwork before agreeing to purchase a condo. You can acquire this from the complex's homeowner's association, so while you're at it, also ask for a copy of the minutes from the last 6 to 12 months of association board meetings. This will save you time, because the CC&R will let you know your rights as condo owner, and you can also be up to date on issues within the community. Maintenance, groundskeeping, and hazard insurance are covered by association fees that you have pay each month once you purchase a condo. Some complexes also include water, sewer, and garbage costs into their association fees, but others do not, so it's important to ask what's included and what's not. Finally, just as you would do with a house, hire a licensed inspector to do a thorough home inspection of the condo before you purchase it.
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Make sure they check for termites, too. If one unit has them, they all do since condos are often attached. Of course, almost all of your questions can be answered by reading the CC&R, but often times, prospective buyers find this document hard to understand. If there's something discussed in the CC&R, and you don't understand it, ask an association board member for clarification. If you still need help, consider hiring a real estate attorney to dissect the document, and explain it to you in layman's terms. If you want to change the exterior paint color of your unit, this document will tell you if it's allowed. What about interior remodeling? That's in there, too. And, if you have pets, the CC&R will tell you if they're welcome in this complex. In other words, every question you have about the complex and its rules are laid out in that document, and it will be what a mediator or judge uses if legal action is taken. So, it's very important you know what you're getting into before you sign on the dotted line! If you've crossed off every item on your checklist, and you've read the CC&R, you'll be better prepared to make a decision about home ownership, and whether buying a condo is the right decision for you.
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