Buying any piece of real estate is a long process. You need to consider the amenities of the property and the upkeep it will require. For condominiums, you need to worry about the services that the condo or unit owners association will provide and how much you can expect to pay in monthly dues. In addition to that, you’ll also want to be sure that the basic features of the condo fit your lifestyle and needs. It tends to be more difficult to sell a condo than it is to sell a home, so you want to be sure that you’re buying a property that you really love and can see yourself in for years to come.

From knowing the amenities a condominium offers to understanding the rules of the condo owner’s association or home owner’s association, there are a lot of factors when it comes to buying a condo. Let’s take a look at the top tips for buying a condo to make your search a bit easier.

Prioritize the Location

For many people, one of the highest priorities when buying a condo is that it is in the right location. The location of your home has a major influence on many other aspects of your life, such as your commute to work, your proximity to restaurants and stores, and your access to good schools. If you prefer to live farther away from the hustle and bustle of a city, you need to find a condo in a quiet neighborhood. Many condo buyers are looking for a waterfront property, so if close proximity to a beach is important to you that should be at the top of your list. These differing preferences make prioritizing the location one of the key tips for buying a condo.

When you’re considering your location, think about how your area’s climate will influence your condo’s structural needs. If you live in an area prone to hurricanes or severe storms, you’ll want to look for a property with hurricane proof windows. Without these windows, your property could be at risk of taking on serious damage. If you live in an area that gets a lot of snow, you’ll want to ask about the plowing services the condo owners’ association provides. You’ll rely on these services to continue living your life during inclement weather and don’t want to be left in the dark.

Identify the Services and Amenities You Need

One of the great perks of owning a condo is that you don’t have to perform maintenance on the property like you do when you own a house. You also have access to common areas and other amenities that you wouldn’t see in a single-family home. One of the best tips for buying a condo is to know which of these amenities and services you’re looking for and want the most. You want to be sure you’re desired amenities and services are being fulfilled in the property you purchase, or else you won’t be reaping the rewards of owning a condo to the fullest extent.

As you’re searching for the right condo, be sure to take note of the exact maintenance services they offer and how much the fees are for the services. Association fees can vary greatly depending on the building’s size, age, and quality. This means that it will be difficult to guess what your fees will be, even if you have a friend or family member who owns a condo and pays fees. Be sure that all of the basic maintenance services are included in the regular fees you pay, such as AC service, landscaping and lawn care, fixing broken appliances, and more. These services are important for your quality of life and you want to be sure they won’t cost you more money on top of your regular fees.

It’s important to keep in mind, however, that large-scale jobs will often require additional funds. These jobs include projects like roof repair or replacement or an overhaul of the building’s security system. While having a stable roof and excellent security system are important, you won’t want to be surprised by the additional fees they require from condo owners. Remember to ask the association what large scale projects won’t be included in regular fees and how often you can expect those projects to occur.

A condo’s amenities are another major reason why someone would choose to purchase a condo over a house. Be sure to prioritize the amenities that you want in your condo and you’ll be following one of the most important tips for buying a condo. Common amenities include air conditioning, laundry services or in-unit appliances, and communal spaces like a gym and pool. Some condos offer more specialized amenities, such as delivery services and shuttle services. These amenities can be more difficult to find, but if they are important to you, you will want to be sure that the association offers them at a reasonable price.

Keep in mind that the more amenities that are in the building, the more your monthly dues will be. If your list of amenities is extensive, then you should expect to pay for that long list. For those on a tight budget, identifying the amenities you can live without can be one of the most helpful tips for buying a condo. There’s no point in paying for amenities that you aren’t going to use or appreciate.

Decide if You Want a New Build or an Old Build

Many of the differences between condos come down to whether the unit is a new condo construction or an existing condo. A pre-constructed or newly constructed condo will give you the chance to live in a home that has no previous occupants. These condos often have a more expensive cost upfront than existing condos, but they are typically less expensive in terms of future maintenance and utility costs.

While a newly constructed condo and pre-constructed condo both offer these advantages, there is a difference between the two. When you purchase a pre-construction unit, you’re buying a property that has yet to be built. This may give you the opportunity to customize and personalize certain elements of it. These elements can include the floor plan, the options for home lighting fixtures, various design elements, and technological features. If you’re interested in purchasing a pre-built unit, be sure to do plenty of research on the company that is building it to ensure that the construction is high-quality. You’re buying a property sight unseen, so you want to be sure that you get what you pay for.

The benefit of a new condo over a pre-constructed condo is that you will know what it looks like and will get to tour it before buying it. You can get a feel for the space and inspect the quality of work on interior elements like the kitchen as well as exterior features like the house siding. While you may not get to customize the unit as you would with a pre-constructed condo, you will still benefit from modern amenities and technology, energy-efficient appliances, and lower maintenance costs.

Buying an existing condo is a great alternative for those looking for a lower cost upfront. While you may not be able to customize your condo’s design and features, you will likely have the opportunity to make changes if you have the funds down the road. You will have to check with the condo owner’s association, of course, but you may be able to undergo smaller renovation projects like bathroom or kitchen remodeling if there are outdated features in the space you’re willing to replace. These remodeling projects can help you make the space feel more like your own without having to foot the large bill for a completely new condo.

Another major advantage of an existing condo is that you will have the ability to move in right away. Those who purchase pre-construction units often have to wait months, or even years, before they can move in. If you’re considering purchasing an existing condo, keep in mind that there will likely be higher maintenance costs and utility bills, as heating and electric systems are often more inefficient and the building will likely require more regular maintenance through roofing services, appliance repairs, and more. Other potential disadvantages include a lack of modern appliances and features and a higher possibility of incurring fees to pay for large jobs like roof replacement.

Check Out the Quality of Common Areas

As we’ve touched on before in these tips for buying a condo, common areas are one of the big draws for those interested in condo living. While you need to carefully inspect the interior of an individual unit to determine if you want to purchase it, you should also take a look at the state of the common areas. If these areas look run down, it could be a sign of a poorly-run association.

As you tour the common areas, do a quick visual inspection of the walls, floors, lighting fixtures, and any features in the rooms. If you plan on using the gym, check to see that the equipment works and that the space looks clean while you’re on the tour. If you’d want to use the pool, make sure the water looks clear. You may even want to ask about how regularly the pool is cleaned and the other details of its maintenance.

If you can, checking out the basement of the building is also a good idea. A building’s basement can hold signs of structural issues, such as water damage or cracks in the foundation. If you see examples of these issues, be sure to ask about their plans to contact foundation companies to remedy the issue. If they can’t give you a straight answer, that’s a good indication that the association does not keep up with building maintenance as they should.

Understand the Association Rules

When you live in a condo, you need to live by the rules of the association. This can be a major change for people who have lived in single-family homes all of their lives. Not only are you living closer to your neighbors and sharing common areas, but you may have to make group financial decisions as well. Before you purchase a condo, it’s important to understand that you may have to negotiate or work out issues in association meetings with other residents in order to get tasks accomplished.

Beyond rules of living and working harmoniously together, you’ll be subject to rules similar to those that people who live in apartments need to follow. One of the most essential tips for buying a condo is to have a clear understanding of these rules before you move in. For instance, pet owners need to check if the condo association allows pets. Some condos may ban pets all together while others impose weight and breed restrictions or charge additional fees for having a pet in the condo. If you’re interested in renting out your condo when you aren’t there, you’ll need to check on the rules for short-term rentals. Some associations may be rather relaxed in their rules while others may impose restrictions.

Another important set of rules to know is those regarding parking. Some condo associations will charge fees for spaces and some will offer them for free. The structure for parking may differ as well, as some will have covered parking spaces and others may have garages. Be sure that you know whether you will receive residential garage door openers to access your parking spaces or if you will need some other form of access. Understanding all of these rules before you purchase the property is key to living an enjoyable life in your condo.

All in all, the central theme to these tips for buying a condo is ensuring that the condo you buy has the features, amenities, and rules you are looking for. At the end of the buying process, you’ll be living in your chosen condo and you need to be satisfied with your choice. If not, following all of these tips for buying a condo will have been for nothing. Put effort into adhering to these tips for buying a condo and you will come out the other side with a property that you love.