Buying a Condo or Townhouse

Condos and Townhomes are a good option for buyers who are attracted to:

  • Living in a community
  • Governing rules and regulations that protect the values of the residents
  • Sharing Resources
  • Access to amenities (pool, gym, park areas, club house, golf, etc…)
  • Want to spend less time on maintenance and repairs of the exterior

Things to Consider When Buying a Condo or Townhome

Typical Defects

A newer well-maintained condo/townhouse can be an ‘easy’ inspection with fewer defects compared to a single family home (most tend to be easier).  A dwelling in an older community that has experienced neglect or mismanagement can take just as long to inspect as a neglected single family home (these are common enough).  See Neglected Homes for more information.  Like any home, we never know what we could find but below are some typical observations:

Typical Exterior Observations:

  • Siding/trim decay at areas
  • Deck defects (decay, missing hardware, loose railings, etc…)
  • Gutter system defects

Typical Interior Observations:

  • Aging appliances (heating/cooling, water heater, kitchen/laundry, fireplace)
  • Plumbing issues at bathroom/kitchen
  • Windows/door issues (failing energy seals, opening/closing/hardware defects, etc…)
  • Cosmetic observations
  • Crawl space issues (high humidity, decay, damaged insulation, water damage, etc…)

Mortgage considerations

Additional fees, higher interest rates and other loan requirements often apply to mortgages for condos/townhomes.  Ask your lender for more information.

HOA Community Considerations

Age

Many aging communities have delayed repairs/renovations or have not adequately prepared or saved for necessary repairs and renovations.  All components of a home have a service life expectancy and many of the original components should have been replaced after 25 years– see Buying an Older Home for more information.  Also Buying a 15-25 Year Home.

Design & Materials

Some architectural designs lend themselves to more maintenance and repair issues than others.  A building with deep overhangs, un-complicated roof lines, concrete patios and brick veneer siding will likely require less maintenance and repairs than a building with wood siding and complicated roof lines with large areas of exposed siding, decks, windows, doors and trim.  In our area over time crawl spaces become wet areas prone to decay and wood destroying fungus and insects (unless they have been upgraded with mechanical dehumidification).  Buildings over slabs or basements may have fared better than buildings over crawl spaces.  If plumbing materials, like ‘Q-pex’ and ‘polybutylene’ or siding materials like ‘Masonite’ or ‘hardboard’ were used, the community may be in store for extensive repairs.

Region and Macro-economics

HOA communities located in some regions may have suffered more during economic downturns than in other regions.  Management and maintenance of the community is vulnerable to regional and macro-economic trends.

Leadership/management

Home maintenance is not easy, maintaining a community is even more difficult.  Many people that are attracted to HOA communities would rather spend their time doing other things.  The HOA governing board is typically made up of volunteers who live in the community.  Communities are managed better or worse depending on the quality and experience of the HOA board of directors.

HOA Fees and Assessments and the Reserve

Aside from regular monthly HOA fees owners of condos and townhomes may also be subjected to Annual Assessment (additional fees), Special Assessments (additional fees) and Capital Improvement Assessments (additional fees).  The Reserve Funds are the funds that the community has set aside for future repairs and contingencies.  As part of the due diligence a buyer should contact the HOA about:

  • The history of Assessments and planned Assessments
  • The history of regular monthly fee increases and planned fee increases
  • HOA Reserve Study (future expenses and current savings)

HOA Restrictions

Keep in mind that HOA rules can change.  HOA CC&R’s, Bylaws, and Articles of Incorporation and other rules and regulations can be found in the ‘Governing Documents’.
The follow are some examples of HOA restrictions:

  • Short term rentals
  • Sub-letting
  • Parking
  • Decorations
  • Noise
  • Pets
  • Number of guests
  • Exterior paint colors
  • Additions, Renovations and detached buildings

HOA Maintenance and Repair Responsibility

Examples of HOA Responsibility

For many HOA communities, generally anything outside is the HOA responsibility (this should be verified.)  See the Governing Documents for information about repair and maintenance responsibilities.  Below are some possible examples of HOA maintenance/repair responsibilities (these should always be verified):

  • Roof, Downspouts and Gutters
  • Attached structures: Balconies, porches, decks, awnings, etc…
  • Exterior Paint, Siding and Trim
  • Landscaping
  • Shared Amenities (pool, park areas, gym, club house, etc…)
  • Sidewalks, Driveways and Parking Areas
  • Windows, Doors, Skylights (verify)
Examples of Homeowner Responsibility

Generally anything inside the unit is the homeowner responsibility.  See the Governing Documents for information about repair and maintenance responsibilities.  Below are some possible examples of Homeowner maintenance/repair responsibilities (these should always be verified):

  • Cabinets/Countertops
  • Finishes
  • Appliances
  • Heating and Cooling Equipment
  • Water Heaters
  • Electrical/Plumbing fixtures
  • Doors/trim
Grey Areas of Responsibility

Confusion or debate of responsibility can occur when one party’s responsibility affects the other (when the outside affects the inside or vice versa).  Some examples of possible grey areas are:

  • HOA neglect
  • Mold and Air Quality Issues
  • Owner/Neighbor neglect
  • Owner/Neighbor/Guest Accidental damages
  • Crawl Space environment (water damage)
  • Leaks from the outside causing damage to the interior

Inspecting Condos & Townhouses (Or how inspect them)

With condos/townhouses and other dwellings in HOA communities the buyer is not just buying the dwelling, but they are making an investment in the community.  The overall health of the community will affect the buyer’s investment over time.  Most HOA communities are well-managed and in good condition.  Other communities are struggling with maintenance and repairs during fairly good economic times- what could happen during an economic downturn?  Evaluating the financial health of a community is beyond the scope of a home inspection however the condition of the grounds and the exterior of the buildings can sometimes communicate a lot about its management and financial health.

Exterior

Maintenance of many of the Exterior components is typically the responsibility of the community– see below for more information.  Although Home Inspectors are only responsible for inspecting the dwelling and its immediate surroundings our company takes time to evaluate the general health of the entire building.  We walk the entire building and document the major components.  We try to access the attic and crawl space if possible.  We do not attempt to document every issue of the building, as this would be cost prohibitive for the buyer, but we do document failing components that could paint a picture of its overall condition which we believe will be helpful to the homeowner.

Interior

Maintenance of the interior is the responsibility of the homeowner– see below for more information.  We inspect the inside of the unit just as we would a single family home.  The condition of the interior of the dwellings can vary widely, even in the same community, as it reflects more the habits of the previous occupants and sellers.

Asheville Condo and Townhome Home Inspectors

Builder Buddy is your resource for Condominium Home Inspections, Townhome Inspections and HOA Home Inspections in the Asheville area.  We also provide Condo and Townhome Radon testing, Condo and Townhome Mold testing.  Schedule online or call with questions.

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