Tips for Smart First-Time Condo Buyers

A condominium can be a great alternative to a traditional house for both first-time and experienced home buyers. However, buying a condo involves a unique process that even a veteran home-owner won’t be aware of.

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The thought of buying your first condo is probably very exciting and fun – keep it that way by doing your research and being prepared. Here are a few tips that will help the first-time condo buyer avoid the common pitfalls that can turn the buying process into a giant headache.


Choose an Experienced Agent

Selecting your agent is a big deal. Don’t just pick the first person you find. Your agent will play an important part of your entire buying process; selecting an agent who is inexperienced with condos is a recipe for disaster. Save yourself future headaches and make very certain that the agent you select has verifiable experience with condominiums.

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Buying a condo is different from buying a standard house, so it is essential that your agent has experience in this area. If you don’t, you may find yourself running around signing last-minute documents without the time to properly read through them, or worse!


Pay Attention to Fees

While many first-time condo buyers may be put off by the notion of high monthly fees, this may be a mistake. Do your research and find out where these fees go to. Many times, you will find that they are there to pay for many different forms of maintenance.

Every purchase, whether a house or a condo, is an investment. If your building falls into disarray after only a few years due to poor maintenance, it may hurt you more in the long run. If you are only planning on staying at a condo for a few years, then pay attention to all factors which will affect future resale value.


Start Saving Today

Financing for condos can be vastly different from financing for traditional homes. Getting a preapproval letter is an excellent first step. Whether you go for a traditional loan or an FHA, you should make sure to speak with an expert as early as possible.

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There are many factors which will affect your ability to get a loan, such as the area you are in, the historical loan data for the area, and more. Depending on these factors, a condominium mortgage may be riskier for a bank, so you may see higher rates or larger down payment requirements.

Don’t wait until you are ready to move to start thinking about whether or not you can feasibly afford to buy a condominium.


Know the Rules

Before you buy that perfect condo, you should understand what the community rules are. You may find that simple lifestyle choices will play a role in your buying decision. Pay attention to rules around pets, smoking, parties and noise.

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If you love to host large parties, you may find yourself butting heads constantly with your neighbors. Seek out condos with community rules that align with your lifestyle.


Talk to the Association

This is another potential headache lying in wait. A poorly-run association will cause a lot of problems, particularly when emergencies occur. For instance, does the association save a percentage of fees into a vault in the case of a flood, fire or worse?

How often do they collect fees? Where do the fees go? These are all appropriate questions to ask. A competent association will be ready and willing to answer each of your questions with complete transparency.


Talk to The Neighbors

Condos will usually place you in much closer proximity to your neighbors than a house will. Not paying attention to who you will be sharing a space with can be a huge mistake. It doesn’t matter how great your new condo looks if you can’t stand your neighbors.

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Ask your neighbors what they think of one another. Is there someone who constantly plays loud music when everyone is trying to sleep? Don’t be afraid to ask what people like and don’t like about the community.

If you are shy, you can always visit after hours or on the weekends to observe the state of the area when everyone is home from work.


Diahann Young is the Director of Digital Platforms and Innovation at Pulte Homes Austin, one of the largest home builders in Texas and the United States. She specializes in discovering innovative ways of developing products for home building. Her role with Pulte has strengthened her passion for homes, design and all things real estate.