There are many details to watch out for when you buy a home in the Iowa City area. This is true for every home big or small and even more true when you buy a condominium.
The reason why is quite simple. When you buy a condo you’re not buying the land or the common elements. You are buying an interest in the land, but you don’t own it outright. As the owner of a condominium you become member of a Home Owners Association. When you write an offer on a condo, part of the purchase agreement will include you reading and accepting the Condominium Rules and Regulations.
To help you figure out what you need to look out for before accepting the Condominium Rules and Regulations, below is a summary of the top questions to ask when you buy a condo in the Iowa City area.
Pet Policy and other Restrictions
There are certain restrictions when you buy a condo and this applies to the inside as well as the outside. There is very often a pet policy. In the Iowa City area there are many condominium complexes that allow dogs up to a certain weight. Others have a pet policy where the Association need to approve all pets. And there are a few that don’t allow pets at all. It differs from Association to Association and is something to ask about before writing an offer.
The question about pets is by far and away the most common question asked by buyer clients. Anther question that comes up very frequently is whether or not it is possible to rent out the condo or whether it needs to be owner-occupied. (This is not just an investor question, this also comes up with buyers relocating to the Iowa City area who know they will only be here for a few years and want options for later).
There are a couple of questions that come up routinely for the outside of the building too. The question about the use of a grill on the deck is good one. In my last condo transaction it was prohibited as a fire hazard. The answer to this question varies greatly from Association to Association too. If you’re into barbecuing that’s definitely something you need to know before moving forward with a real estate transaction.
A couple of other common questions about the outside of the building include asking about the placement of a satellite dish or putting up a trellis for more privacy on a deck.
This is not a comprehensive list, it’s just a few questions that come up routinely with buyer clients I’ve worked with. You may have other things that are important to you, now is the time to think about them and ask the question if needed.
Before accepting the HOA Documents there are a couple of questions your agent needs to get on top of. The first is to ask the Director of the Homeowners Association, (or their Management Company if they have one), whether there are any outstanding special assessments on the property or whether there will be anything coming up in the near future.
When you buy a condo you will pay a fee every month for normal maintenance and upkeep of the building and grounds. That will be listed on the MLS and you’ll know what that is before you make an offer.
Depending on the age of the building, there may be special assessments for work that needs doing. (Window replacement, roof repair, deck repair etc). Any special assessments that are put into force before you close the transaction are typically covered by the sellers. This is something your agent should be checking up on once you have an accepted offer. At the same time you want them to ask about future special assessments and if there’s anything in the pipeline expected in the near future. You don’t want any surprises after you move in!
Reserves & Finances
Still on the subject of finances. It’s your right as a buyer and future owner of a condo to see the finances of the Home Owners Association and to check that they have enough in reserves to pay bills and general maintenance and upkeep of the common areas. (This is anything outside the walls of your condo). Unlike checking on the special assessment that covers costs for your unit, this is a look at the bigger picture. Your agent should ask for these documents and pass them along to you for review.
As you can tell from this post, buying a condo requires even more attention to detail than buying a house. There’s an extra layer of due diligence to take care of on the way to closing. This is exactly why working with the right agent is important. Someone who has your back and will help and guide you through the condo buying process. I’ve helped lots of buyers with condo purchases in Iowa City, Coralville and North Liberty – I’d love the opportunity to help you too!