If you’re buying a condominium, eventually you’ll be handed an agreement from the Homeowners Association, or HOA, to read and sign.
It will detail the association’s rules, fees, and may go into the HOA’s operating budget and if there are any liens, among other things.
Here are some things to check in the agreement and elsewhere before buying a condo:
Lots of rules
Your real estate agent should be able to at least get you a list of the basic rules of the HOA. You should also ask for a full copy of the HOA rules, also called covenants, and read them carefully. Some restrictions can be overbearing.
They can include limits on pets, age (only residents 55 and older, for example), political signs, and where you can park a boat, trailer or RV or if you can park one at all.
Planning on washing your car or planting a tree in the front yard? You’d better check with the HOA first. If you don’t pay your HOA dues, a lien could be put on your property.
Fees and special assessments
Monthly fees will be charged to cover a variety of expenses by the condo association: landscaping, painting the exterior of the units, insurance, maintenance and upkeep, among others.
It’s also worth checking if the HOA plans to add a special assessment in the next year or two. If so, what’s it for, what is the cost for a condo owner and how long will it last?
Reserve fund and budget
Ask how much money is in the HOA’s reserve fund. The fund is used for general maintenance and special assessments. A small reserve may lead to a special assessment or higher HOA dues somewhere down the road.
Low HOA fees can lead to low reserves and fees that are too high can lead to high reserves that are unnecessary.
Take a look at the HOA budget. See what it’s spending money on now and how that affects its reserve fund.
Hazard and liability insurance should be covered by the HOA. If not, the condo owner could be personally responsible for problems at the complex in some instances.
Make sure there are no liens on the property from the state or local government or by utilities.
There may also be non-occupancy liens or code violation liens by the state or local government that need to be removed, especially if the condo hasn’t been occupied for a long time. A title search or call to the government property office should answer these questions.
Hope you found these tips helpful! Contact me for more insights and info.
First impressions are lasting impressions when selling a home, and the first thing buyers see when they drive up is your driveway.
Driveways that are old, stained and cracked are not only unpleasant to look at, but they can have a negative impact on the sale of your home. Even if the rest of the home is beautiful, it can be hard to shake off the immediate negative impression of a driveway in disrepair.
Replacing a driveway can be costly, but many times a few repairs is all you need. If your driveway is showing any signs of damage, consult a home improvement retailer or driveway repair professional. There are varying methods for repairing concrete or blacktop driveways, and their costs are going to differ.
Cracks, for instance, are common, unsightly and stand out like a sore thumb. They can be caused by a variety of factors: tree roots, too much weight on a particular spot of the driveway, weather (from the intensity of the sun to the change of seasons), and damage from snow tires and shovels.
If your driveway has so many cracks that it resembles a road map, you may have to invest in a new driveway. If the cracks are minimal and can be repaired, it’s best to do so as quickly as possible so they don’t spread. A professional can be called upon to fix the cracks, or do-it-yourselfers may be able to use a driveway sealer (available at home improvement stores).
Potholes are another challenge you may come across. Such as on the road, potholes can develop on your driveway, particularly during the winter as a result of shoveling or plowing. Neglecting to fix a pothole can worsen the situation by causing damage to vehicles. Home improvement stores sell pothole replacement materials if hiring a professional isn’t in your budget.
Water in your driveway may not seem like a big deal, and it often isn’t. But a lot of water accumulating after rainfall can be a sign of a drainage problem, particularly if the water is gathering close to the house. This could point to a structural problem because the slope of the driveway leading away from the house isn’t steep enough. Contact a professional if this is happening as water can make its way into your home and cause damage. There’s no need to worry about smaller puddles if they are away from the house.
When it comes to stains, these are more cosmetic concerns but they can be a turnoff. The good news is they are relatively easy to clean. Even a household cleaner can take care of your smaller stains. For bigger stains, a degreaser will likely get the job done.
Odors are a huge turnoff for potential home buyers and can be difficult to remove. The truth is that most homes have some sort of smell to them. Most often, the people who live there don’t even notice.
This is especially true of pet odors. Owners become accustomed to their pet’s smell, such as from litter boxes for cats or from shedding. Visitors, however, are going to notice these odors, especially if the home is not properly cleaned.
Pet owners should use a carpet deodorizer when vacuuming—one that is designed to remove animal smells. Check your furniture for odors as well. If you smell your pet, wash the cushion covers or use a deodorizing product if they aren’t machine washable. If the pet smell is very prominent, consider having the carpets and furniture professionally cleaned. Cat owners should clean out the litter box daily and should wash it with water and liquid soap regularly.
Non-pet owners aren’t off the hook odor-wise. Many things can make a home smell, but there are four easy steps to take to cut down on strong odors.
- Think about what you cook. Even with an exhaust fan, things like fish and bacon can produce odors that linger. Baking cookies before showings or open houses is a classic trick to give a house a pleasant smell.
- Light a candle. Scented candles can add a pleasing smell to the home and set a relaxing mood. Pick candles with more neutral smells or think seasonal (pumpkin in the fall, pine during the holidays, etc.).
- Take out the trash. Empty all trash containers around the house before showings or open houses. Focus on the kitchen as it’s likely to contain food scraps. Also consider washing the trash container if you haven’t in a while. Empty trash baskets are more visually appealing anyway.
- Maintain a clean fridge. Cleaning a refrigerator is a must when selling a house. Empty it out regularly so that food odors don’t build up. Don’t forget to add a box of baking soda to absorb odors.
And if the weather permits, open up the windows. Even if it’s just for a short amount of time, it’s the simplest way to clear out odors!
This is a tough decision, but the answer will depend on your personal situation, as well as the condition of the local housing market.
If you put your home on the market first, you may have to scramble to find another one before settlement, which could cause you to buy a home that does not meet all your requirements. If you cannot find another home, you may need to move twice, temporarily staying with relatives or in a hotel.
On the other hand, if you make an offer to buy first, you may be tempted to sell your existing home quickly, even at a lower price.
The advantage of buying first is you can shop carefully for the right home and feel comfortable with your decision before putting your existing home on the market.
On the flip side, the advantage of selling your existing home first is that it maximizes your negotiating position because you are under no pressure to sell quickly. It also eliminates the need to carry two mortgages at once.
Talk with your agent for advice. Discuss the pros and cons of each and whether certain contingencies written into the contract can ease some of the pressures.
The following examples include details that would qualify as material facts that must be revealed by sellers about their homes:
- Damage from wood-boring insects
- Mold or mildew in the home
- Leaks in the roof or foundation walls
- Amount of property taxes paid annually
- Problems with sewer or septic systems
- Age of shingles and other roof components
- A buried oil tank
- Details about any individual who claims to have an interest in the property
- Information about a structure on the property that overlaps an adjacent property
Some things are not material facts and do not have to be disclosed. They include personal information about the seller and the seller’s reason for moving.
Among those things that may or may not be material facts: whether a death took place in the home or whether a home is considered haunted.
According to the Millennial Housing Commission, few lenders are willing to administer home improvement loans. Most prefer to make home equity loans or unsecured consumer loans because they are easier to manage. Home improvement loans usually require inspections and irregular draws on the loan amount as work is completed, which requires regional or national lenders to find local partners to provide oversight.
Financing repairs and improvements with home equity is okay for most homeowners, but it is difficult for many first-time buyers. They have lower-incomes, smaller savings, and have made lower down payments on their homes than first-time buyers a decade ago. So they have little equity to borrow against. Unfortunately, it is often lower cost older homes purchased by first-time buyers that need the most work.
Unless you have a cash reserve, you will have to shop around for the best borrowing terms. In addition to the options listed above, you can ask relatives for a loan. Borrow against your whole life insurance policy. Refinance your existing mortgage and take out cash. Get a second mortgage. Contact the government about home improvement programs. And—as a last resort—borrow from a finance agency, which generally charge high rates.