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Vol. 17 No. 40 - July 19, 2017


So, you want to buy a condo?


It's 85 degrees and 85 percent humidity, it's July in Florida. If you own a single-family home, no matter what the temperature is, you will still have to mow the lawn, clean the pool and paint the peeling trim, unless you live in a condo.

Condo living in Florida has become such an accepted part of the overall residential picture in the Sunshine State that you're just as likely to meet someone who lives in a single-family home as one who lives in a condo association. Never-the-less condo living is not for everyone, and if you're thinking about becoming a condo homeowner, you need to figure out which one you are.

Condominium associations are run by HOA's (homeowner associations), which are initially formed by the real estate developer and then turned over to a volunteer board of homeowners once the development is completed.

There are several important things to be aware of if you're considering a new condo association. When speaking to sales people in the model's sales office, you will be quoted a number representing the monthly HOA fees. No matter what they tell you, assume this number is only an estimate of what the actual fees will be once the community is turned over to the homeowners. Part of the reason for this is most homeowner associations will want to establish a nest egg to address future maintenance issues, called reserves, in addition to a general fund. Assuming the developer did establish a reserve system, which I believe is required by the state of Florida, he/she may not have funded it adequately and the homeowners may want to fully fund, requiring either a lump sum or an increase in monthly fees.

The world turns on economies, as do homeowner's association fees, and herein lies probably the biggest battles that surface in condo associations. Everyone wants everything, and no one wants to pay for it. The decision-making process is up to the condo board of directors, and it's up to the homeowners to elect good board members or better yet volunteer to be on the board.

Keep in mind, being a member of a condo board is not for the faint of heart. You will be asked to make complicated financial decisions, review contracts and have some uncomfortable conversations with your neighbors. I once compared serving on a condo board of directors as qualifying for sainthood, and by the time your term is over you will feel like Mother Teresa.

Finally, all condo associations have a set of rules and regulations that can cover anything from leaving your plants outside in hurricane season to keeping your poodle out of the pool. Chances are there will be some rules that you will hate, some that you can tolerate and some that will make no difference to your everyday life. The decision you will need to make before buying into a condo association is are the rules generally acceptable to you as they stand since you don't have much of a chance of getting anything changed once you're living there.

Twenty-one percent of all housing units in the country are condos representing 68 million people at last count. This is a large percentage of our population that chooses condo living. Just like there are dog people and cat people, there are condo people and single-family people. Figure out which breed you are before jumping in with all four paws.

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