How can you tell if a condo complex is right for you?

Over the past 8 years my clients have put their trust in me to investigate whether a condo complex is a good fit for them, whether it will hold it's value over time or if it's a bad investment. I search my off market listings lists as well as all property currently active in MLS to find the best units at the lowest possible prices for my clients benefit. Part of the research that I do includes the tips below. Working with condos is a bit more involved than working on single family sales so you want to be sure the agent you are trusting to negotiate and navigate the process for you understands the steps of the process.

Here are 5 things I consider when recommending a development to my clients along with some of the best condo values on the market today featured below.

1. Are there any recent special assessments? If so what were they for? Excessive snow removal is a common one that I am seeing this year due to last years unusual snow fall. This shouldn't be held against an association as their budgets are based on average accumulation. Last year was far higher than average accumulation. Assessments for things like roofing, siding, decks concern me a bit and need to be investigated further. Was there an extraordinary circumstance that prevented the budget from covering these items? This is important because assessments can hurt your value or even prevent your unit from being resold during the repayment period. Often if there is a pending assessment I negotiate to have it paid for by seller on my buyers behalf.

2. What's the landscape like? You can absolutely judge a book by it's cover! Check out the grounds and signage and see whether they are neat and clean or overgrown and in need of attention. A well managed complex keeps up with landscaping year round and addresses issues like paint, wood rot and road maintenance as issues come up.

3. What is the condition of the common areas and amenities like? Are the halls cleaned regularly? Are the fitness center, clubhouse and pool area well kept and updated? These areas are important to retaining value. Often I have clients tell me that they don't plan to use the pool or fitness room so the condition isn't important to them. The truth is that it's crucial to see these spaces for yourself and decide whether they are in good condition in comparison to other local developments so that you can feel comfortable with your options for selling some day.

4. Does the association hold regular meetings? What types of business is discussed? Ask to see a copy of the meeting minutes for the latest meeting held. This will give you a good idea of the culture of the complex, letting you know if the leadership is responsive to tenant concerns. The meeting minutes can also bring you up to speed on the latest news in the complex. You need to be aware that most lenders will not finance condos when the association has an ongoing lawsuit making it very difficult to buy with a mortgage. If you are buying with cash you still need to know what the situation with the lawsuit is as it will impact values in the complex long term. The minutes are the easiest place to find this type of information however you should always ask the association to confirm whether or not there are any pending legal issues.

5. Location. Location. Location. I can't stress this enough. Is the development located in a high-demand area near major highways or public transit? Over the past few years walkability has become a big factor for condo buyers. Many are leaving the city and moving north to take advantage of our lower prices so be sure to take this into consideration when negotiating. When you find the right unit for you and it happens to have an attractive walkability score you are going to want to take into consideration that you most likely aren't the only one interested. Close proximity to shopping centers, restaurants & tourist attractions are always appealing and will help you to maintain your value. Always check out the surrounding area to ensure that you will be living somewhere local to your needs/interests, and also desirable to others come time to sell.

Bonus tip : Is it pet friendly? If so what types of pets, are there size restrictions or limits on the amount of pets you can have? Is there a fee for having a pet? Be sure to ask these things before writing an offer on a property that you are interested in otherwise you may be shocked to find out that the unit listed as pets allowed actually only allows fish. Did you know some associations don't even allow fish tanks?

Here is a sampling of available units in Reading, North Reading, Andover, North Andover, Haverhill & Methuen -- all value priced at less than $220,000. Please reach out if you see something you like as we are here to help in any way we can!