Purchasing a Condominium- BUYER BEWARE . . . not really, just do your homework

The real estate economy is slowly picking up encouraged by an abundance of condominium units on the market, Sellers motivated to move them,  historically low mortgage interest rates and the first time home buyer tax credit due to expire (unless extended) at the end of April, 2010.  I feel the need to revisit certain items of due diligence a prospective purchaser must look at when buying a condo.

As posted on this blog on September 17, 2007:  There are currently a great number of sponsor sold condominium units in the New York City market place. A sponsor is the person or entity who is developing a building as a condominium (or cooperative). Like everything else, there are condominium developments that have been built well and others that have been built poorly. Prior to entering into contract, the offering plan and all amendments should be reviewed. The offering plan is a full disclosure of a project to the public that is filed through the New York State Attorney General’s Office. The offering plan lists the name of the sponsor of a condominium building, its principals and other developments built by them. Research the names of the principals and their other developments on the internet. You may find references to any of the above and if the buildings and the units are built well or poorly. Even if the price is right, the carrying charges low and the location of the building prime, you do not want to invest in a building or unit that is poorly constructed. It is more likely that you will have problems in the future. Even if a warranty is given by the Sponsor, if a history of poorly constructed buildings exists, you may still need to go to court to enforce your warranty behind other disgruntled purchasers.

Another thing a potential purchaser of a condominium unit can do is speak with the current occupants of a condominium building. Unlike real estate brokers who have an underlying motivation to sell a condo unit, an existing owner of a condo unit in a building typically does not have an agenda to hide the truth from anyone who asks. People love to complain. If there are problems you will hear about it. I would ask more than one person just to make sure that the complaint spoken of, is not the exception and but the rule. One complaining unit owner may have a particular set of circumstances that do not necessarily apply to the entire condominium building and taint one’s decision to buy.

It may be beneficial for the prospective purchaser of a condominium unit (whether a resale or a Sponsor sold-newly constructed Unit) to engage the services of an engineer or home inspector before purchasing a condominium unit. It is not only good to know what the physical condition of the unit you are purchasing, but it is important to know the overall condition of the condominium building. The need for repairs to the common elements and infrastructure of a condominium building may result in unplanned assessments that may not fit into a prospective purchaser’s budget.

One of the things prospective purchasers need to look at is the number of the units in a particular condominium building that are sold or in contract. If the number of unsold units is too great, banks will refuse to give mortgages in that particular building and prevent a person from buying a unit in a building despite good credit. Some developments are able to get a building “pre-approved” by a particular lender and may even require a purchaser obtain a pre-approval letter from a particular lender who has already consented to providing mortgages in a particular building.

I came across a recent New York Times article written by Elizabeth Harris that highlighted certain things a prospective purchaser must look at prior to signing on the dotted line.  I thought it was informative and encourage you to read it.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/31/realestate/31cov.html

I do not do this very often but I will tell you that I have worked a number of times with Tom Le of the Corcoran Group who was quoted in the article. I have found him to be very knowledgeable in the field of condominiums. He is a very savvy customer orientated broker. All of my clients who have used him (developer and consumer alike) have been very happy with the services provided.

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