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5 pitfalls to avoid when buying a condo or townhouse

SHARE 5 pitfalls to avoid when buying a condo or townhouse


This story is sponsored by Utah Association of Realtors. Learn more about Utah Association of Realtors.

Buying a home is a complicated undertaking no matter what property you buy. However, if your purchase is within a planned community — perhaps as a condominium, duplex or townhome — there are special considerations to keep in mind.

This is particularly relevant in todays market where attached properties are in high demand — especially those under $300,000.

Below are some pitfalls to avoid as you navigate this market. Your Realtor will also help you identify other important items to research before you buy.

Pitfall 1: Forgetting about dues

Along with your mortgage payment, you will likely have monthly homeowners association (HOA) dues. Make sure you know how much these dues are before you buy.

Take a look at association records to determine how much dues have increased in prior years. Is there a pattern of large increases that would signal continued hikes? If its a brand-new community, examine whether the current dues will be sustainable in the long-run. Do you have enough room in your budget to absorb potential increases?

In addition to understanding your financial obligations, find out what your HOA dues cover. Determine whos responsible for landscaping, exterior maintenance, insurance (the HOA may cover some but not all), snow removal, cable, etc.

Pitfall 2: Inspecting only the home

Many homebuyers know they should inspect the residence theyre purchasing. However, HOA, condo and townhome buyers might forget to look at the condition of the entire community, including common areas.

Homeowners provide community upkeep through dues and assessments. Have prior owners and managers maintained the grounds, buildings and other facilities? If the association has not planned appropriately, it may need to levy sizeable assessments to pay for large repair projects.

One way to learn more about the community and its future needs is in its reserve study. This document details how long the infrastructure should last and costs for maintenance and eventual replacements. Use this information to help determine whether enough money is being set aside to pay for future needs.

Pitfall 3: Ignoring restrictions

Do you know what you are allowed to do with your property and your responsibilities in the community? Are you allowed to rent your unit? Are you allowed to park in your driveway?

Pets, parking, guest parking, exterior changes, window coverings, noise, etc. are all issues that might be restricted. Make sure you carefully examine the associations governing documents so you understand what is and is not permitted.

Pitfall 4: Overlooking financials

Make sure the association has adequate funds to cover short- and long-term maintenance as well as the replacement needs of the community. Ask to see budgets and financial statements.

Is the association good at collecting payments or are homeowners behind on their dues? How much debt does the association have? What level of reserves does the community have?

Use this information to help determine if the association is on solid financial footing.

Pitfall 5: Not looking at management

Youll want to determine whether a professional company manages the community. What experience do they have running HOAs? Are they responsive to repair requests? How do they handle complaints?

Ask management for copies of the board meeting minutes. These may provide clues about potential problems, possible dues increases or controversies.

Also, request information about current lawsuits, if any, and what percentage of the complex is owner-occupied. If the association is involved in litigation or if there are too many units rented, it might be difficult to get a mortgage or to sell the unit in the future.

These are just a few of the issues youll want to study prior to buying a home in an HOA community. Ask your Realtor for more information on successfully navigating this type of transaction.

Dont have a Realtor yet? A directory of Utah Realtors is available at UtahRealtors.com.