Are you considering purchasing a condominium in the Seattle area? I got my real estate career start working specifically with condominiums – new construction, resale, and converted (from apartments). I’ve seen it all! If you’re not used to living with a homeowner’s association, a condo purchase will have a few new things for you to learn about.
First, when you purchase a condominium, you’re going to receive one of two enormous files of documents. Usually, they come electronically these days, although we still see the occasional hard copy. If the condominium is brand new, you’ll receive a public offering statement. If it’s older, you’ll receive a resale certificate. For the most part, these are similar books – but its your job as a buyer to thoroughly read through it and make sure that you feel okay about all the information inside.
There will be a large chunk of it that might go over your head – and that’s ok. It’s also ok to have a real estate attorney review it for you, if you desire – although you want to be sure that you personally read it too. These books include things like the land survey and legal documents that were used when the condo was originally formed. However, there are a few things you definitely want to make sure you understand. Here are some of our standout items to read:
- The resale certificate itself. This is usually two or three pages, and outlines exactly what your monthly dues are, how many homes in the building are rented out versus primary occupancy, and whether or not the HOA is currently under any litigation.
- The budget and financial statements. Besides knowing what your HOA dues are going to be each month, you want to look at how much money the HOA currently has in its accounts, how many homes are late or overdue on paying dues, and if the HOA has any worrisome debt. These could come back to bite later if the HOA falls into financial trouble.
- The CCRS (covenants, conditions and restrictions). You might have fallen in love with a particular condo building, but you have a 50lb dog and they have a rule against dogs over 30lbs. They may not allow pets at all. A condo could enforce rules about parking, guests, storage, or even something as simple as a barbecue on the deck. You want to thoroughly read through the rules and regs to make sure you agree with all of them before committing to the purchase.
- The reserve study. This is a lengthy study done by an independent company who will assess how much life different components of the building have. They’ll estimate how many years it will be before the roof or siding need replaced, for example, and how much money the HOA will need to have in its accounts before they’re able to afford it. Why is this important? If something is estimated to need major repair soon after your home purchase, and they HOA doesn’t have enough funds or a plan to get enough funds when needed, it’s likely that they’ll need to have a special assessment – an extra charge – on each condo in the building to pay for that repair. These can be smaller (like a one-time charge of $500 per condo) or can go up in to the thousands and be tacked on monthly to your dues (like a $25,000 charge per condo, billed over ten years).
- The meeting minutes. This won’t apply to new construction, but established buildings will provide the last two years of meeting minutes, where the HOA board and homeowners have discussed issues with the building and what they plan to do in the future. For instance, if package theft or garage break-ins have been a major issue, you’ll likely read about that in the meeting minutes. If homeowners are complaining that a courtyard needs a facelift, you’ll read about that complaint and if there’s any plan to address it. It’s a great way to get an understanding of the building before committing to it.
With years of experience in condominium sales, from both a buyer and seller standpoint, we are here to help with your condominium purchase. Reach out if you're thinking about a purchase!