Buying a house means no more landlord hassles, no compromise, no uncertainty, and most importantly, emotional security. It also comes with some nice tax benefits. This makes buying your own house a milestone and lifelong dream for most people.
Like everything in the market, when you go out to buy, there are several alternatives available. There is a variety of housing types, including single-family homes, townhomes, multi-family homes and of course, condominiums.
Over the years, “condos” or condominiums have gained popularity. Around 74 million Americans which equates to about 27% of Americans live in condos as of now. Many people are buying condos as an investment or as a place to stay due to several benefits that come with it.
A few benefits for instance are:
- Lower prices
- HOA handling the maintenance of outdoor common areas
- Community amenities
- Convenience, as you get easy access to nearby entertainment and business districts
- Safety as condos offer great security systems with guards and cameras everywhere and key codes and cards to enter into the building.
- Investment potential
But is a condo a good first home for you?
If you are here, you are likely considering buying a condo too. However, even though condos are affordable as compared to other home alternatives, they are still a big investment. Before you buy your first condo, there are some things you should know.
So, let’s dive in and get a glimpse into a few things that matter when buying a condo for the first time.
What is a Condo?
First things first: what exactly is a condo? Condos are apartments or units within a multi-unit property. The individual units or apartments are privately owned, whereas surrounding common areas like recreational parks, and amenities like gyms and clubs are jointly owned. A monthly fee is collected from all the condo owners to maintain the common areas. Obviously, one of the key differences and benefits between a house and a condo is that condos are more affordable, and are likely to be smaller in size.
A Guide for First-Time Condo Buyers
Now that we are acquainted with what a condo is, we can proceed to understand how to buy a condo for the first time. First-time buying can be intimidating and perplexing without the right guidance. It can also end up being laborious and you might just not find the right condo (this is where partnering with the right real estate agent is crucial). However; if you follow a few steps, your purchase experience can be seamless. Here is a step-by-step guide to help with this!
1. Get Pre-Approved
In order to speed up the process and increase your chances of having your offer accepted, it is a good idea to get pre-approval. This will allow you to set a budget and limit your choices, thereby simplifying your searching. Additionally, sellers view pre-approval as a sign of your ability to pay for their home which will help you stand tall among the buyers competing for the same condo.
2. Partner With a Capable Real Estate Agent Who Can Spearhead Your Hunt
As you begin searching for the condo that best fits your needs and choices, this is the time where you need to partner with a quality realtor as your ally. A strong real estate agent who knows the ins and outs of the local market can help you find the best condo, that fits both your budget and requirements.
3. Submit an Offer
Making an offer is an exciting and critical step. The ability to negotiate and remained focused on what is important to you is a “must” here. Do your research about the average prices in the area, discuss with your realtor and make an offer. The seller may accept, flat-out reject the offer or make counteroffers and bargain back and forth with you until a deal that benefits both parties is achieved.
4. Get a Home Inspection
Lastly, get a home inspection done thoroughly. An official inspector will investigate the plumbing, wiring, and structure of the unit, and provide you with a detailed report of the condition of the house. Using this data, you can negotiate with the seller and also avoid future expenses.
5. Apply for a Condo Loan
Having loan pre-approval is just the starting point. The condo project should also be approved. If the project is on the FHA list (Federal Housing Association), the process should be easy. If not however, you will have to go for a conventional mortgage or other financing, which usually comes with a few more requirements. Here is where having a skilled and resourceful mortgage loan officer is priceless. They can help you choose the best loan, fulfill the requirements, and make sure your home purchase is financed on time.
6. Meet the Home Owners Association (HOA) or Condo Board
Connect with the HOA which looks after the maintenance and upkeep of shared areas. Get familiar with the rules and regulations laid down by the HOA, so you know the expenses that will be incurred monthly. Often there is a process where you will need to formerly apply and get approval from the HOA. If they have requirements for financial statements or other verification, make sure these are submitted in a timely manner so your application is accepted and you can be approved.
7 Tips on Buying a Condo
In addition to the above steps, there are some specific tips on buying a condo that can help the process to be smooth and effortless.
Below are 7 tips on buying a condo that can serve as a checklist for you:
- Determine if a condo is actually the right fit for you. If you are someone who values privacy and dreams of gardening in your backyard, condos are not for you.
- Shoot for FHA financing. Getting a mortgage loan can be a difficult task, but FHA loans can make things easier. If you are looking for an FHA loan, ensure the community is approved. The basic criteria for approval by FHA are that a minimum of 80% of units are occupied by owners. You can also go for a private mortgage in case FHA doesn’t work out. However, you will have to pay a higher cost.
- Get the full picture of the amenities and what the rules are around them. Some of the more common amenities you might find are: pools, clubhouses, business centers, private fishing ponds, tennis courts, entertainment areas, meeting rooms, basketball courts, laundry, bike sharing, package management or lockers, car charging stations, park areas or dog exercise and wash stations.
- Do not be allured by the amenities before you know the association fees. In condo communities, residents are expected to pay monthly or annual fees to maintain common areas. There can also be other fees depending on what agreements the condo board or HOA has in place. The central tenet of association fees is insurance and maintenance, but frequently things like lawn maintenance, maintenance of amenities like pool, indoor games, water and sewer services, road maintenance, and picking up trash are also covered. It’s therefore essential to know what is covered and what is excluded.
- Review association rules. To keep harmony and peace, every association has a set of rules and regulations that they follow. Know these before you make your choice.
- Do a little homework on the maintenance management company. A lot can depend on which company leads the maintenance, because if they are non-responsive, eventually the maintenance might degrade and bring down the price of your condo and make life frustrating.
- Ask about special assessments. If a significant project is undertaken in a condo community, a large fee is charged from the condo owners. This is termed a special assessment. It could be in the form of a structural repair, adding a roof and so on. Knowing special assessments is important to avoid financial surprises in the future and get full disclosure before buying the property.
1. Is buying a condo a good investment?
Condos are available at lower prices than single family homes, often allowing buyers to take advantage of an appreciating market sooner than if they were purchasing a single family home. If you find a condo which is affordable and in a developing area, it could end up being a very lucrative investment.
2. How much condo insurance do I need?
Condo insurance is meant to cover you financially in case of property loss, damage or theft of belongings. Usually, HOAs cover or offer insurance that includes bare walls coverage that protects the exterior of the condo, single entity coverage that covers fixtures outside the condo, and all-in coverage that covers the interior of condo units. Figure out what is covered by the HOA, and fill the gaps with your own condo insurance if needed.
3. How much of a down payment do I need for a condo?
The down payment for a condo depends on the loan that you are applying for. As a general rule however, you should plan on roughly a 3.5% down payment for an FHA loan, and up to 20% for a conventional. There are also VA programs available for qualifying current or prior service military members that don’t require any down payment. Talk with your mortgage broker or loan officer for the most accurate information about your specific condo.
Hopefully, this helps you understand what you need to consider when buying a condo. With everything mentioned above and the guidance of a proficient realtor, you are well-equipped to find the best fit for you.
So if being part of a community and enjoying amenities without having to maintain them is your thing, a condo makes a lot of sense. To start putting together a game plan to purchase your condo in Northern Virginia, call Jessica Bush today.