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What Really Matters When Buying a Condo

Jessica Evans

For Jessica Evans, real estate is more than a job — it’s a way of life...

For Jessica Evans, real estate is more than a job — it’s a way of life...

Jun 16 6 minutes read

I've had the privilege of helping many clients buy and sell condos over the years. My experience includes not only guiding buyers and sellers but also living in and managing condos myself. I owned two condos and served on both of their boards, giving me firsthand insight into the intricacies of condo living and management. While I currently reside in a house, I often find myself missing the low-maintenance lifestyle that condo living offers.

When you search for information about buying a condo, you'll come across a lot of advice that may not be relevant to the specific market in Washington, DC, or that can make the condo hunt seem daunting. To simplify things, I've compiled a list of what I believe truly matters when considering a condo purchase.

Will You Be Able to Use Your Condo the Way You Want?

One of the first things you should investigate is whether the condo's rules and regulations align with your lifestyle. Here are a few key considerations:

  • Pets: If you have a furry friend or plan to get one, make sure the building allows pets. Some buildings have strict pet policies, while others are more lenient.
  • Rentals: If you think you might want to rent out your condo in the future, check if there are any restrictions on rentals. Some buildings have a cap on the number of units that can be rented at any given time.
  • In-Unit Laundry: While many condos come with in-unit laundry, some older buildings might not. Ensure that your unit meets your laundry needs.
  • Carpeting or Rugs: Some condos have noise regulations that require a certain percentage of the floor to be covered with carpeting or rugs. If you prefer hardwood floors, this could be an important consideration.
  • Late-Night Laundry: Check if there are any noise restrictions that might affect your ability to do laundry or other household activities at odd hours.

You know what's most important to you. Obtain a copy of the building's rules and regulations and make sure there’s nothing that will prevent you from living your best life.

Are You Confident the Building Is Well Managed?

The management of a condo building can significantly impact your living experience. Buildings can be either self-managed or professionally managed, and both can be well-run or poorly managed. The critical factor is whether competent people are invested in the building's management.

  • Self-Managed vs. Professionally Managed: In self-managed buildings, the owners themselves handle the management tasks, which can be cost-saving but might lack professional expertise. Professionally managed buildings have a management company overseeing operations, which should ensure better maintenance and operation, but this isn't always the case.
  • Competence and Investment: Regardless of the management style, competence is crucial. I've seen self-managed buildings where owners prioritize saving money over proper maintenance, leading to long-term issues. Conversely, some professionally managed buildings suffer from neglect due to inattentive management companies.
  • Evaluating Management Quality: To assess the management quality, review the condo documents and request the condo board meeting minutes. These documents can provide insights into how well the building is run and whether the management is proactive in addressing issues.

Are There Likely to Be Upcoming Special Assessments?

Special assessments are additional fees charged to condo owners to cover unexpected expenses or significant projects not covered by the regular budget. If you own a condo for an extended period, encountering a special assessment at some point is likely. While not all special assessments are problematic, it's preferable to avoid them shortly after purchasing a condo for several reasons:

  • Financial Impact: A special assessment soon after your purchase can strain your budget, especially if it’s already tight from the purchase.
  • Paying for Past Mistakes: Early special assessments often mean you’re paying for issues or deferred maintenance neglected by previous condo boards.

Before making a purchase, inquire about any known issues that might lead to special assessments and review the building's financial health. Well-maintained reserve funds can indicate fewer surprises down the road.

Overall Vibe Check

The intangible feeling you get when visiting a condo building is also important. The overall vibe can significantly impact your comfort and happiness in your new home.

  • Welcoming Atmosphere: Spend some time in the building and its common areas to gauge whether it feels welcoming and comfortable to you.
  • Interaction with Neighbors: You'll likely encounter your neighbors in shared spaces, so it’s essential to feel at ease with the building's community.
  • Talk to Residents: If possible, talk to current residents to get a sense of the building's atmosphere and management quality. Sometimes a building's physical appearance can be deceiving, and speaking with residents can provide valuable insights.

In conclusion, buying a condo involves more than just finding a place that looks appealing. Understanding the rules, evaluating management quality, anticipating potential special assessments, and ensuring the building's vibe matches your preferences are all crucial factors. By considering these aspects, you can make a more informed decision and find a condo that truly feels like home.

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Your journey to becoming a more successful, income-generating homeowner in the DC area begins now.

 Let us guide you through every step, ensuring your property not only complies with local laws but also thrives in the market.

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