Thursday, June 10, 2010

What To Know Before You Go Condo

In today’s market, the condominium is becoming more and more popular, especially in the downtown area of Seattle. If you are one of those people who love the sights, sounds and smells of the city, then a condominium might be right for you. In Downtown Seattle, all the way from the North edge at Midtown to the central district and from the waterfront east to the retail district it is safe to say that the primary residence is a condo, unless you are renting. Dependent on dozens of factors, condos can be priced in a range between $100,000 (on the low end) and upwards of $10,000,000(!), like the condo purchased at The Four Seasons Private Residences last year. It is also safe to say, that the majority of purchasers don’t have the budget to afford something like that. No matter what your budget is however, there are a number of things you should be considering before looking for/buying a condo.

First, buyers need to understand the basics of a condo association. Most importantly, you need to understand what you actually own when you purchase. When you purchase a home, you typically own the house itself and the lot it sits on. When you purchase a condo, you own the unit up to the walls and the air space up to the ceiling. The other space (aside from units) like hallways, rooftop decks, and amenities like gyms or lounge spaces are all common areas which means everything is shared and you only hold an interest in them. Every owner obtains their own financing, has their own property tax bill and pays a condominium fee or homeowner’s dues which cover the cost of building maintenance and other expenses like concierges and facilities. These fees are determined by the HOA (Homeowners Association) and are subject to monthly adjustments. Condo owners may also have to pay special assessment fees if there are unexpected repairs or modifications that need to be made. Condominium Associations are also governed by CC&Rs, Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions. These are a set of rules imposed on condo owners that set limitations on pet ownership, renovations, renting, etc. These are obviously rules that owners would most likely not face if they bought private property on its own lot. Make sure you understand the subject condo’s CC&Rs before you purchase to avoid any future problems.

The second consideration you should make is location. Location, location, location! The location is something you’re going to want to be convenient, but remember that it is most definitely going to influence the price. There are obvious positive correlations between location and cost, for example proximity to the water and proximity to downtown, etc. Remember, what’s ideal might not always be ideal for your budget. The third factor to consider is the building itself. You want to check out the building’s age, size, amenities and views. Is having an accessible fitness room important to you, or would you rather have a view of Puget Sound? Each of these characteristics will undoubtedly affect the price also. If a view is what you’re looking for, make sure you figure out whether or not you have a secure view, meaning, will other buildings be constructed that could possibly obstruct the view?

Finally, make sure you are aware of your “neighbors”. Are there young families and children in the building, or is it primarily adult residents? How many residents actually live in the building? The population and its density should be things you want to consider before making any decisions in purchasing a condo. Don’t underestimate the effect that your fellow condo owners can have on you.

After you have investigated each of these issues, then you can better make an informed decision. Make sure you compare your results to other condo associations also. This way, you can find your best possible options. Happy hunting!


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