Once upon a time in a land far away…(well, not that far, Norwich actually), I had some condominium management experience so I decided to share some of my lessons learned.

Things to consider when in pursuit of a owner occupied condo are:

The Complex

Is it a conversion or was it built to be condos?  What kind of amenities does the property have, pool, tennis, gym, community room?  If it is new construction, how many units have already been sold?  How many are planned?  How many phases of construction?  Developer?

Tenant vs. Owner Occupied ratio

I would recommend leaning towards the complexes which have 51% or higher of owner occupied units.  There are many reasons for this but not the least of which is financing options change with owner occupied ratio.  Find out what the rental guidelines are, do they allow short term leases or is there a 1 year minimum requirement for tenancy.

Owner managed vs. Professionally managed

The self managed complexes tend to have lower association fees and many do self management very well but, have you tried to get people to a meeting lately?  Condo associations are suppose to be a democracy run for the good of the building for the personal investment of each unit.  If the meetings are poorly attended you can have the few making decisions for the many…and all processes can take that much longer.  Professional management of condominiums is highly regulated with various bonding required and paperwork intensive, it costs money which adds to the complex bottom line.  Of course, it can prove money well spent.

Weighing Special Assessment Risk

Take a good long look around and not just at the unit of your interest.  Look at the grounds, building exterior, common areas, windows the whole package.  Any glaring issues?  Granted not everything is visible, but does preventive maintenance seem to be in place?  Do things look well cared for, neat and tidy?  Common maintenance impacts every unit owner and has potential of resulting in additional association fees in the form of special assessments.

Association Docs and Rules and Regs

READ THEM!  Seriously, every page.  They are not light reading, but as a potential owner know what they say.  Review the insurance declaration page, minutes from recent meetings, check out the budget and reserves for the complex.  If there is anything you are unsure of (ex. pets, cars allowed per unit, parking, allowable uses) ask!  For the self managed complexes, check the quorum required to pass votes.  If you seek financing, your lender will likely ask for some of these documents as well.

The condo can be a most economical way to get a foot in the door of homeownership, downsize, live water side (and share the expense), leave some maintenance concerns behind…the condo comes in many shapes and sizes these days.  It can be a fantastic fit for many… choices, choices.

BUT, it is homeownership and it is encumbant on every owner to protect their investment.