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Pondering a condo purchase?

Do Your Homework

Pondering a condo purchase? Consider these tips from the author of The Condo Bible.

When it comes to the convenience of a maintenance-free lifestyle, many home buyers—especially those who plan to go back and forth often between their new Florida home and their hometown, or spend the winter months here—look first at purchasing a condominium. In Sarasota and Manatee counties, the condominium options come in nearly every geographic location and price range.

We asked Dan S. Barnabic, an attorney, consumer advocate, former real estate agent and condominium developer who splits his time between Toronto and Miami Beach, to tell us the most important things to consider when purchasing a condo. Barnabic is author of the recent book The Condo Bible: Everything You Must Know Before and After Buying a Condo.

“The most important thing is to check the well-being of the condominium complex itself, that the building is well-funded and that it has sufficient reserve funds in case there are unexpected repairs. Some condominiums that are in trouble may represent themselves as more solvent than they really are. Don’t be shy. Go to the complex, stop the people coming in and out. Talk to them. Ask them, ‘Have you heard of any unexpected repairs coming up?’”

“While you’re scoping out the condominium, ask the residents you meet: ‘Are you happy with your board of directors; is the association doing its job properly, are the directors working in harmony or are there factions within the board?’ I’d be wary of condos where that is the case. This holds true even when the property is professionally managed; after all, the board chooses the property management company.”

“Consider the age of the complex. If you buy brand-new pre-construction, the chance is your maintenance fee will go up threefold in three or four years because, in order to attract potential purchasers, many developers absorb the initial costs.”

“Find out to what degree the complex is rented out. If more than 20 percent of the units are rented out, that means they’re probably heading in the wrong direction. This is supposed to be an owner-occupied arrangement. Too many rentals is slowly turning something private into something else altogether. Renters don’t take care of the common elements as well as owners do.”