For those who are tired of renting but aren’t yet ready to buy a single-family home, buying a condo can be a perfect compromise to get the benefits of home ownership without the responsibility of more space than you can handle.
If you’re interested in going this route, you’re not alone! Condos are a popular option across the country, with more than five million Americans opting for one.
If you’re thinking about it, read these tips on buying a condo, what to expect—and when to get started.
What Should I Ask Before Buying a Condo?
When it comes to making the condo-buying process easier, getting prepared before you even find a place you love is key to getting the job done quickly.
Before you do any type of buying, understand your budget and financial goals, says condo specialist Brian Maser. “Decide what price point not just that you can afford, but what you want to stay under to meet all your financial goals, whether it’s traveling, sending a kid to college, or saving for retirement,” he said. “The pre-approval process can take a few weeks to a few months, so getting started with a lender early can save you time when you find a place you want to put an offer on.”
Annabelle Bostedt, a real estate expert with the Brock & Lori team, agrees that pre-approval can help streamline the process. “A lender will also be able to identify a buyer’s max purchase price,” she notes, “which will help guide the buyer on what price range to shop in.”
Of course, if you’re paying all cash you can skip the lender, but that’s likely not an option, especially if you’re a first-time buyer. Maser adds that when it comes to condos, lenders may have different criteria for loans (percentage of renters to buyers in the building, for example) that differ from a single-family home.
“Every home buyer’s experience is different,” says Bostedt. “I have had clients looking for a home for over a year and others who have found their dream home in one week! It all depends on the buyer’s search criteria, motivation, and timing in the market. Once a buyer finds a home they like and their offer is accepted, the escrow process usually takes about 30 days.”
Remember to budget for the monthly or quarterly fees that come with buying a condominium. The amount varies quite a bit, but usually covers building repairs, landscape maintenance and amenities.
For more information on homeowner associations (HOAs), check out our blog.
What Should I Think About When Buying a Condo?
Not all home-buying experiences are created equal, and that is especially true when it comes to buying a condo vs. a single-family home.
“When buying a single-family home, you’re looking at the structure, plumbing, electrical, roofing, etc.,” says Maser. “Once you buy, there are a lot more options of what you can do. In a condo or townhome, you’re looking at your unit, but you also have to look at the building.” Check out the paint, walkways, and the parking structure, and notice what parts of the building might need fixing, he advises. Make sure to do your research regarding what you’re allowed to do in terms of renovations or updates.
Of course, on the plus side, DIY repairs on condos are less likely. Check with the condo board or HOA for details on how they handle upkeep and repairs so you’re not caught off-guard. And get acquainted with the bylaws and other responsibilities and restrictions that come with an HOA.
Don’t forget to look into your insurance options, as condo insurance will likely be different from renters or homeowners insurance, and they may even include extra protection (such as earthquake insurance).
Finally, living in a condo most always means sharing walls with your neighbors, so take your time getting to know the building and who will be on the other side of those (sometimes thin) walls.
Be sure to check out our condo vs. house guide here.
How Do I Choose the Right Real Estate Team?
Whether you’re a first-time buyer or have been through the condo-buying process before, the right real estate agent (or team) can make a world of difference. “My advice for any first-time home buyer is to start working with a good agent," says Bostedt. “A good agent will be a local market expert who is able to guide their clients through the home-buying process.”
When you’re looking for help, make sure you find someone that specializes in condos in particular, so that you get the best advice on the unique ins and outs of condo buying.
According to Maser, an experienced condo agent can even look at HOA meeting minutes to see how past repairs have worked and judge whether the building has any major issues or roadblocks when it comes to getting things fixed, giving the buyer expert insight into their potential purchase.
Before you go anywhere, don’t forget to read up on our moving day tips!
Of course, if your condo purchase means downsizing, Public Storage always has options for keeping your stuff out of the way, while still being close to your new home.