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The following question was recently asked by a long-time client of mine who is considering a condo to broaden her options in the midst of our current market of record-high prices for real estate:

Q: After getting the Homeowners Association documents you sent me, I realize I’ve never purchased a home that’s part of an HOA. That’s a lot of reading material! Anything I should be aware of that’s out of the ordinary?

A: Living in an HOA-run complex could be characterized as becoming part of a small village of nosy neighbors who have shared authority over how the outside of your place gets painted and when. That said, there is some advantage to having someone else handle details like the hazard insurance and exterior maintenance of your home and the common areas, even though it does come at a price of HOA fees, which are not tax deductible.

The complex you are looking at is generally known to have a particularly well-run Homeowners Association from what I’ve heard, and their management team has a good reputation for handling their maintenance issues proactively.

The last time I handled a sale in there, the HOA dues did not cover replacement of roofs (which is not common) or windows (which is common)but that may have changed and could be looked up in the Homeowners Association docs you were sent.

The Rules and Regulations are set by the Board of Directors and are subject to change from time to time as needed to best serve the needs of the residents. If you don’t like how things are getting run you can always join the board—just when you thought you didn’t have enough on your plate!

As far as special things to be aware of, probably the main risk in buying a condo is the potential to get tied up in construction defect litigation, which can make financing difficult to get until settled and temporarily drive prices down.

Something like 7 out of 10 complexes nationwide end up in litigation during the first 10 years after construction but that association had their lawsuit settled a long time ago.

Another risk is the potential for getting hit with large lump sum assessments for major repairs to the complex for matters which may or may not directly impact the unit you are looking at, so you will want to carefully review the operating budget and recent meeting minutes to see if anything is coming up that wouldn’t be covered by the reserves.

Choosing to purchase a condo or townhouse can indeed provide a reasonable option in these times where housing prices are becoming less accessible, but it is all that more important to do the additional research to help make sure that your affordable alternative stays affordable, taking into account the extra moving parts that are involved as a member of a Homeowners Association and everything that comes with it.

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