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Tips for Buying a Condo or Co-Op

Buying a condominium or co-op is much different than buying a single-family house, mostly due to the close proximity of neighbors and certain shared facilities. The neighborhood may share a swimming pool or laundry facilities, for instance, or may have restrictions on what each owner can do with his or her section of lawn. Additionally, condo owners often share at least one wall with a neighbor. Condos and co-ops are often referred to as "common interest" communities.

See What are Condominiums? and What are Co-Ops? for more details.

People interested in buying a condo or co-op ownership should pay close attention to the following factors throughout the process:

  • Ask about the financial condition of the association or corporation that manages the property. They may request a copy of the latest financial statements and budgets. They can find out about the ratio of owners to renters, the stability of the maintenance fees, and recent unit sales.
  • Find out whether there are any pending lawsuits against the development. Builders, neighbors, and even former owners might have filed suit. If anyone did, they can find out why and find out the outcome.
  • Ask about the bylaws and the restrictions. If they are particularly strict, such as not allowing pets, prospective buyers may not wish to purchase a home there. Even if they have no trouble with the restrictions, potential subsequent buyers might when it comes time to sell later on.
  • Check the structural condition of the building (including electrical, heat, and plumbing). They should find out the condition of the roof and the common areas. Also, they need to find out about how soundproof the building is.
  • Talk to current or former owners if possible. They may be able to find out from the owners what are the pros and cons of the development in question what they like and what they wish they could change.

Condominium and co-op ownership is not for everyone. If people think it will meet their needs, however, they will do themselves an enormous favor simply by making a checklist of the items above and being prepared when it comes time to discuss an actual purchase.

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