When you get ready to buy a home, there's so much to consider - location, price, mortgage rates and more. If you are buying an apartment or a townhome, chances are they will be part of a condominium or homeowners' association. Before you commit to a property, it is essential to know how your rights are defined in the condo or HOA documents before you buy. Remember, you'll be buying real estate that is subject to rules and regulations that may affect your full enjoyment of your dream home.
As part of the selling process, the seller is required to provide you a resale package from the condo or HOA. The package usually includes the financial statements and the governing documents of the condominium or HOA. Once you receive these documents, you have about three days to review the documents (the number of days may vary by state).
When you review a condominium's governing documents, there are a few key things to look for that will help make sure you know how the association's rules will impact your investment and your financial future.
The documents will specify whether the condominium has power over all the units in the association, or whether their power is limited to the common elements. Here's what to look for:
- What is considered a common element, and how is it defined?
- What extent of the common elements - and the condominiums responsibility over them - interface or directly touch your condo unit?
- What possible damage could occur to those common elements that could impact your home? Have there recently been major issues or repairs?
A common element can be an amenity or a feature external to your home, like a fitness center or lobby, or it can be something that touches your home directly, like a shared wall or pipe.
When you think about the possible damages that could occur, it's essential to know who is on the hook for those repairs - is it you, or the condominium association?
You might also want to review the architectural regulations and the parking policies. Several condominiums and HOA in the area will regulate the exterior look of your unit or regulate the type of cars that can park on the property.
Last, make sure to confirm that the apartment or home you are buying is not in violation of any of the bylaws or rules. The resale certificate should include disclosure of any violations. Many buyers erroneously think that the fines related to a violation apply only to the previous owner. That is not always the case; especially if the unit you are buying runs afoul of the architectural regulations.
Before buying a condo in Washington, DC or Virginia, make sure you're not taken by surprise. Review the governing documents carefully, and consider engaging an experienced real estate lawyer to help you understand the rights and responsibilities that come with your dream home purchase.