6 Red Flags to Watch for When Buying a Condo

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Don't regret your condo purchase. Watch out for these six red flags.

A condo can be an affordable alternative to a single family home. It can also allow you to live in a building with access to amenities such as gyms and pools. And it lets you to avoid having to maintain any exterior space.

But while there are benefits to living in a condo, there could be major problems if you don't choose the right one. To make sure you don't end up regretting the purchase of your condominium, watch out for these six red flags.

1. Deferred maintenance

In a condo, you depend on the board to make sure the common areas are maintained properly. If they aren't, you could find yourself with amenities that are more problems than features. You could also have to cope with a leaky roof, a rodent problem, or a host of other issues that come from improperly maintained spaces.

Deferred maintenance can also lead to major problems with the building's infrastructure, which could be expensive to fix. That could mean you end up getting a special assessment, which is an added fee you're required to pay so the board can afford to make fixes.

2. Shoddy construction

Condos, like any other building, could be poorly constructed. Unfortunately, sometimes developers rush to put up buildings and cut corners in a way that could lead to expensive future problems or even be dangerous.

Ask about any building code violations that may have occurred, and be sure to check for signs of poor construction when you visit the property. You should have your own unit inspected carefully by a professional inspector as a condition of your purchase so you can make sure the quality is sound.

3. High association fees

Condos come with fees, and you need to make sure the cost you'll be assessed is affordable to you. You should be able to get a full accounting of the annual dues you'll owe. In fact, your mortgage lender will probably require this before agreeing to give you a loan for the home. Generally, the more amenities the condo offers, the higher the association fee.

4. Neighbors who don't pay HOA fees

If neighbors aren't paying homeowners association (HOA) fees, this is a big problem. It could mean that people aren't satisfied with the service they're getting or that they aren't invested in keeping the building nice. It could also mean the board doesn't have the money to maintain the building properly.

Ask to see the HOA's financials to find out if it is collecting dues and how much money is held in reserve.

5. Poor insulation

Condos can be noisy if they aren't insulated properly. When you visit during your showing, check the thickness of walls and doors and see if you can hear your neighbors. If you can hear a lot of noise in your unit, chances are that could become a problem over time.

Try to schedule at least some showings for evenings and weekends when people are likely to be home so you'll get a better idea of whether you can hear routine noises in your unit.

6. Inadequate parking

If you can't find a place to park when you visit the condo, your friends and family probably won't be able to after you move in. This could become a major annoyance over the long run, so check out the visitor parking that's available -- unless you live in an urban area where no one drives.

By watching out for these six red flags, you can make sure you find a condo unit you'll be happy with for the long haul.

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