What to look for in buying a condo
Q: How can one identify a well-managed condominium association when one is considering purchasing a unit?
A: First, sit down and compose a list of things and amenities you want in your new residence. Your list should contain about 20 to 30 items. Rate those that are the most important. This will be of help to make the final selection and give you an idea of what you need answered.
As for the things you need to know about the condominium, the first test is the way it looks. Examine the facilities and the common areas. Does the landscape have a positive curb appeal? Does the building need painting or other repairs? Are the halls clean and well-lit, with clean carpets or floors?
The second thing is to find out who are the residents. Do you want an adult (called a 55-plus) or a family community? Are the owners full-time residents or snowbirds, and how many units are rented? While I do not say that renters are negative, if you have a high ratio, it may indicate that you have too many investor-owners, and that means absent owners. A healthy ratio should be about 10 percent to 15 percent.
The third bit of information will require that you look at the board and management, including the budget and reserves. You will need to ask the seller to provide the current budget and a monthly financial statement. See whether the budget seems adequate and whether reserves are fully funded. The financial statement should show whether the expenses are near budget amounts. Find out how many units are behind in their payments and how many are in foreclosure. Check to see whether the board has an active collection policy and whether there are any active or pending lawsuits.
Most better-operated associations have a professional manager or management company, but I have seen a few self-managed associations that function properly. If they have management, ask to meet and talk for about five minutes.
Ask for the "Question and Answer" form that is required by FS 718.504. This leads us to the fourth question. You need to get a copy of the condominium documents and read them.
You need to check your list against the items you find. In the end, your selection will be based on eye appeal and a feeling for what gives you a warm and fuzzy feeling.
Richard White is a licensed community associations manager. Write to him at 6039 Cypress Gardens Blvd., No. 201, Winter Haven, FL 33884-4115. Please include your name and city.