A simple way of understanding a condominium is you own an apartment in an apartment building. In many cases some condos started out as apartments and have been converted into individual condo units in the past few decades. A condominium has some differences to owning a single family home. The biggest thing to remember is as an individual you generally own from inside stud to inside stud of the outer perimeter of your condominium unit. Meaning you own the wallboard but not the inside of the wall.
Then there is what is known as common ownership. Common ownership, is usually areas that the individuals use in common. Some common areas are:
- Building Exteriors
- Parking lots and driveways
- Landscaping and grounds
- Amenities like pools, clubhouses and tennis courts
- Other areas that are used by all
It is important to know what your ownership is as all complexes can differ. Parking spots can either be deeded (owned by an individual) or assigned (owned by the association). Most condominium complexes require a unit owner to be responsible for all exterior doors and windows, while some don't. Other complexes have what are known exclusive common areas such as decks and patios. Exclusive common areas are enjoyed by one individual but the cost of maintenance is shared by all owners of the condominium complex. All of these questions can be determined by reading the master deed, unit deed.
Pros and cons of owning a condominium:
- You will have little to no exterior maintenance
- Cost of ownership is generally lower than owning a single family home
- Access to amenities like pools, gyms, tennis courts and more...
- Condominiums are generally less expensive than similarly appointed single family homes
- There is usually a monthly condominium fee
- Less privacy than owning a single family home
- Rules that need to be followed
- Decision regarding common ownership is shared
Home Owner Association or Condo fees can vary greatly from complex to complex. The variables can be the level of maintenance provided, whether utilities are part of the condo fee, the level of amenities, recent maintenance that was done and paid for by condo fees being raised and so on...... A low condo fee may not be necassarily a good thing if maintenance has been left undone or if the association is constantly having special assessments to cover costs on a regular basis.
Condominium Bylaws state the rules and regulations of the complex. Do not assume you can own a pet or rent out your condo or install a satellite dish without reviewing the bylaws. Many condominiums have restrictions on pets, they can limit the size, type and number of pets you can own as well as mandate that you cannot install a satellite dish. It is important to know what you can and cannot do before purchasing a condominium.
Lastly, it is important to look at the condominium as a whole and not as an individual condominium unit. You are buying a piece of the whole and you want to make sure the condominium in it's whole is a viable thriving entity.
Seek the help of an experienced real estate agent when buying a condo to avoid many pitfalls condo buyers run into.
Homeowners Association- A legal entity created to develop sell and manage a development of homes.
Master Deed- The basic condominium document spelling out the entity ownership and individual ownership.
Bylaws- The rules and regulations of ownership with-in the condominium association.
Master Insurance- The insurance policy covering the condominium in entirety.
HO6 Policy- An individual's additional policy covering the contents of an individual condominium owner.
Condex- Though there is no legal term for condex, it is considered a unit that is sold in a duplex as a condominium.