Are you in the market for a condo or townhome in the Dallas / Fort Worth metroplex area? While many construction elements of a condominium are regulated by a homeowners association (HOA), a condo inspection is still a necessary step in your home buying process.
Condominiums share many common elements that need to be inspected just like a single-family home, such as the roof, walls, ceilings, floors, appliances, and interior utilities.
One of the attractive benefits about choosing a condo as your new home is that it usually requires less maintenance, since the common areas are owned by the HOA, and it’s the HOA that has the responsibility of handling maintenance of all common areas. When it actually is necessary, the cost responsibility is usually divided up among individual owners or get handed off to owners via special assessments.
In a typical single-family house inspection, the certified inspector would check every building system for the following reasons:
- They’re the responsibility of the owner after the purchase;
- They’re accessible to the building inspector, and;
- They’re systems a home inspector is qualified to comment on.
In a condo or townhome home inspection, the inspector doesn’t spend as much time on the building systems. That’s because:
- Their maintenance is done by specialists in that field regularly;
- They’re not accessibly to the inspector, and;
- They’re sometimes too complex for residential home inspectors to assess.
Walls, Ceilings and Floors
Walls, ceilings, and floors are all shared elements between condominium homeowners. One of the most important things to check for in these shared spaces is water damage. A leak from a kitchen pipe, a toilet with too much condensation, or a water heater that is leaking can not only cause destruction to your home but also to your neighbor’s home.
While the HVAC unit for the entire condominium complex may be located in a separate utility room, there are still utilities within each individual condo unit that need to be addressed. Stand-alone air conditioning units, water tanks, water heaters, electrical components, and plumbing systems, all need to be evaluated and reported in the condo inspection.
Although an HOA is typically responsible for the exterior portion of a condominium, the roof still needs to be inspected by a professional. If there is access to the roof, our inspectors will perform a detailed evaluation of this area. If the roof is not accessible, they will use other methods such as drones, thermal imaging, or other creative methods.
Beyond the Inspection – Do Your Own Review
There are items that you will want to inspect for yourself which are not included as part of a condo inspection, and that is the Condo Association documents.
Review the HOA Minutes
When condominium meetings take place, minutes are recorded. Request the past year of these minutes and review every meeting. Exterior problems and maintenance issues are discussed during these gatherings, so you’ll be able to identify any major issues that arose prior to your arrival.
When you encounter discussions over community maintenance and repair problems in the minutes, ask for proof that they’ve been handled. You should look for the fees that were incurred during the repair. Finally, check common areas for signs of poor maintenance.
Also ask if there is any pending or ongoing litigation. This could be a sign of future liabilities or even problems with former owners.
A homeowners association typically has assets in the form of dues collected from owners, which is the money that funds maintenance and repairs of issues outside of your unit’s walls.
Low monthly dues may seem like an extra benefit of a particular HOA, but could also be a red flag since it’s possible the HOA may not be collecting enough money to fully fund maintenance.
Review Financial Reserves
If the HOA has a low amount of money saved in reserves, low monthly dues can be a big issue. How would they pay for major repairs? You’ll also want to check into deferred maintenance. If there is a combination of deferred maintenance and lack of reserves, you could be looking at major issues.
Ask for a recent reserve study. This will show a recommended reserve that your community should have. If they have at least 70% of these funds, the HOA is typically in good shape.
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