Do I want to buy a condo?

Dh and I spent a couple of weeks visiting ds1 and DIL in their new home town. Dh retired last month, and the trip was a bit of a scouting mission to check out whether we could live there part time should grandkids enter the picture.

We did a few open houses and tours. We loved a condo on the top floor of a building with 36 units. We learned all about HOA fees and what they covered and underground parking (city gets lots of snow). We loved the walkability of the area where the kids live and proximity to trails and cafes and shopping.

This would be years in the future, but I like to gather info and data while we are still in the dreaming phase. So, what should we know about condo living and second homes?


Not to scare you, but there is a wonderful thread about the Surfside building collapse in Miami-Dade County here on CC. There is incredibly sage advice about what to look for in buying a condo by CC folks who are lawyers, engineers, etc.

If I EVER consider buying a condo again, I will absolutely revert back to that thread for the commonsense but very sophisticated thoughts.


Thanks! I was gone when that happened so I missed the thread.

I’m not very good at searching on CC, but I think this is the one: South Florida building collapse

RIP to all the victims of this horrific tragedy and sympathies to their families. Hopefully, folks will learn from this.

Do you know that your ds1 and DIL will remain in their new home town? You mentioned years in the future so that is good. But even if and when grandchildren do enter the picture, it doesn’t mean they will always live in that town.

Since you used ds “1” you must have other children. Where will they live?

I realize my post isn’t addressing what you are asking, but I see so much mobility and job changing with working adults now, so that factor is something I would personally consider.


One of the most important things when looking at a condo is digging deep into the building reserves, past repairs, projected repairs, and what is covered in the HOA fees.

There is a beautiful old condo building in our town, in an ideal location, that I wanted to look at when we first moved, but our realtor said that they had depleted their reserves. The building needed extensive work, including replacing the entire roof and repairing water damage. Common areas hadn’t been touched since the '70s and there were also wiring concerns. We didn’t bother going to even look at the unit. Three years later, no repairs have taken placed and people can’t give away the units if they want to sell.


Learning what is covered in the HOA fees is interesting. I had no idea until his trip that they often cover some level of utilities. That made the numbers more reasonable. But how do I find out about reserves and past repairs?

Yes, all that is going into the calculus. It’s why we are looking at a condo – something smaller and less expensive that would be a second home that doesn’t require a lot of upkeep on our part. We aren’t looking to up and relocate at this point.

We learned so much on the trip that I’m trying to figure out what I don’t know that I don’t know.

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Read the CCRs and meeting minutes. There should also be financials for the association available. (Story from when I purchased a condo: a copy of the CCRs were shared with me. I found that some pages were missing. Asked association, they said sure, but then had to go back to county as they didn’t have missing pages either. I was the first one, in years!, that had actually read them.)


Who is managing the building? Is there a handyman on call or will the homeowners need to scramble if there is a problem? Is there a rental cap (how many units can be rented out and to whom)? Are STR allowed?

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Having been on several HOA boards in my life, you’ll have 36 new partners in the OP’s example. Personally I’m not a condo/HOA person. Never again, if I can help it.

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Yes, that was something I learned to ask. In the property we liked best, we would have to get on the list to do STRs. I like the idea that the entire complex isn’t STR but does leave me wondering how long it might be until I can monetize it when we aren’t there.

I should’ve specified earlier that the unit is so we can be reverse snowbirds. We’d likely only live there in the summers.

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What is a CCR? And how would a nonmember access the minutes? Are they pubic record?

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There were several people who offered advice last year when D was looking to buy a condo. Given that the market was hot and that folks were offering over-asking, waiving inspection etc, we couldn’t really do a lot of the research that folks have recommended here. Something to keep in mind since the market has only gotten hotter ! D did end up buying a townhouse with low HOA and thus far, hasn’t had any issues.

What is STR? Is that something related to reserves?

We are also interested in buying a condo on the future and I am following this thread.

I used it as short-term rental – Airbnb and such.

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CCR - Convenants, Conditions and Restrictions - basically all the rules and all the stuff you aren’t allowed to do

Sorry, covenants, conditions and restrictions. Basically the document that creates the homeowners association. In California, at least they are on file at the county (recorder? Assessor?) office.

One thing I noticed where I was looking was how little condo prices rose since their last sale. It felt like the hot housing market didn’t translate.

HOA rules can also change. I knew someone whose Condo originally allowed pets. They later changed to no-pets. Original owners were grandfathered in, but the change to no-pets meant they could no longer sell to pet owners, which in turn, reduced the value of the condo by limiting buyers. At least they felt that way, by assuming there are more people who want pets than those who don’t.