Top Questions to Ask at a Condo Showing

When you’re buying a condo or townhome, there are a few important questions to consider at a showing that you may not have thought of. That’s why we’re here to help! Make sure to find out:

Is the building professionally managed?A professionally managed building will usually offer the fastest response to concerns. If the building is not professionally managed, find out the protocol for addressing problems and ask how long things usually take to be resolved.

How clean are the common areas? – Condo and townhome buildings that are well-managed will include cleaning as regularly scheduled maintenance. The most diligent management companies will schedule and budget even the most basic cleaning. If you look around and areas like hallways, lobbies, exercise facilities and other shared spaces show a lack of attention, that may indicate a less-than-ideal management company.

Who controls the heat? – In some larger building like high-rises and even large townhome complexes, the heat is generated by a central source that is jointly owned. In this situation, the person who controls the heat has the power to greatly affect your monthly assessment as a result. Alternatively, if there is a furnace in the unit, then you’re likely paying for your own heat. In that situation, be sure to see the seller’s last few months of utility bills or request a heating disclosure, which is an optional disclosure issued by the energy company that gives you an idea of the monthly/annual utility costs.

How thick are the windows? – In high-rise buildings, single-paned versus double-paned (or in some cases even triple-paned) windows can greatly affect the heating costs. Single-paned windows lose significantly more heat than double- or triple-paned windows. They also offer less noise protection, which can be a concern if you the building is located near a hospital, for example. However, on the upside, the cost to replace single-paned windows is significantly lower than the cost to replace double- and triple-paned windows. Find out from the listing brokers or the seller if the replacement of windows is the responsibility of owner or the condo association. If the association is covering expenses, find out whether they have money budgeted to replace broken windows.

Where are the plumbing walls located? – When evaluating a condo, the number one thing to look at is the size of the unit and the view. Those are the things you can’t change. You’re limited by the boundaries of the unit, but all interior space can be changed to meet your needs through the process of renovation. If you’re looking at a fixer-upper or envision doing any kind of renovation work on the unit you are viewing, find out where the plumbing walls are located. The plumbing walls – the walls behind the kitchen and the bathroom where the faucets and showerheads poke through – are the only walls in the unit that cannot be moved, as those walls affect the units above and below yours.

Where is the parking and how is it owned? – Some buildings only have rental or leased parking. As long as all the units in the building lease their parking, the parking situation will not affect the value of a unit. But if the parking is a mixture of leased and owned spots, then the difference in value is significant. The value of a unit is much greater if it includes ownership of a parking spot; in fact, in that situation, the value is higher even than the value of the individual unit plus the individual deeded spot. Together, they are worth much more. If the parking spot is owned, it’s important to determine if it is deeded separately. If so, the parking spot will have its own tax PIN number, which raises your taxes slightly, but also allows you to sell the spot separately. (Though given the added value an associated parking spot has to the value of the unit, we don’t recommend doing so.)

How much money is in the condo reserves? Have they budgeted for future upkeep? – You want to avoid any big surprise expenses down the line, so ask how the association budget is organized and whether or not they have funds set aside for unplanned expenses.

Photo courtesy of H. Michael Karshis