Buying A Condo in Richmond VA? Things To Know!
As everyone knows, home prices have skyrocketed throughout the Richmond Virginia area - and for many buyers, especially first time homebuyers, a condo may be the perfect alternative to go from renting to owning! For others, downsizing from a single family home with a yard and maintenance to a condo may be the perfect transition! And for even more people, buying a second home here in Richmond means a condo is the perfect purchase!
But whatever the reason for deciding to buy a condo, there are some things to know and keep in mind! Buying a condo is NOT like buying a single family home, or even a townhome! And in the Richmond area, you can't just look at a development and decide that it is a townhome or a condo! What a neighborhood is depends on how the governing documents are written!
And in the Richmond area, there are lots of different looks for a "condo"! For instance, there could be detached condos such as you find in Wyndham, Grey Oaks and Wellesley! These look like single family homes, but are, in fact, condos! There may be restrictions on things like erecting fences, etc. Then you could have condos that have a look and feel of a townhome, such as in Weslyan in Henrico County! Condos can be in high rise buildings such as at 5100 Monument Ave. or Vistas on the James! Condos can be in small rise buildings such as at Laurel Lakes or Shannon Green! Condos can be in older buildings that you see throughout the Fan and Church Hill in the City of Richmond, where there are only 4 or 6 or 8 units in them. And condos can be found in former apartment buildngs that are some point were converted to condos, such as you find at The Links in Glen Allen or Bristol Village in Midlothian! And you can find condos that are above commercial spaces, such as you will find with a new space being built in Midlothian at the corner of Midlothian Turnpike and Winterfield Rd. So as you can see, there is no one style or look for a condo!
But what all condos have in common is what they are - with a condo you own everything within the walls of your unit but the exterior and the common areas are owned by the association. A townhome, on the other hand, is a "fee simple" ownership meaning that you own the unit as well as the land it sits on - a townhome may have one or two walls in common with their neighbor! Some townhomes may have a small private backyard, while others will have a yard but may have restrictions on what you can do with the yard (such as putting up a fence).
So if you are thinking of purchasing a condo, here are some things you should probably check out ---
WHAT ARE THE RULES & REGULATIONS?
This is definitely something to check out! I bought a condo once many years ago and they had a pet regulation that did not allow for dogs over 15# - I had to sell my place because I got a dog that was 65#! Make sure you can live with the rules & regulations of the community!
LOOK AT THE HOA MEETING MINUTES & FINANCIAL STATEMENTS!
Reviewing these can tell you a lot about the community! Are there issues that are being discussed at the meetings? Are there projects that are still in process, and, if so, how long will they continue? Are there any special assessments that you are going to have to pay? How strong are the reserves? What about the attorney fees - if they are high, there must be a reason!
WHAT IS THE MONTHLY FEE AND WHAT DOES IT INCLUDE!
Some communities will have amenities such as pools and tennis courts! Some will have no amenities! Some include utilities! Some will have security, such as a security guard or gates requiring a code to open! Make sure you know just what you are paying for each month!
WHO IS ON THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS?
This may not mean much to you before you buy, but talk to the neighbors if you can and ask them how they like how their community is being managed! But remember that the board of directors is representing the owners of the community!
IS THERE A PROFESSIONAL MANAGEMENT COMPANY?
Most communities have a professional management company handling the day to day running of the condo community! Feel free to check them out and see how good they are or aren't! You definitely don't want to be in a community where you pay your monthly fee but the property is not being properly maintained!
WHAT INSPECTIONS SHOULD YOU DO WHEN BUYING A CONDO?
The home inspection on a condo will not be as long as that of a single family home! The inspector won't need to look at things like the crawl space and the roof, as these are most likely taken care of by the association! Your inspector will, at a minimum, inspect things like plumbing, heating, electric - anything that you will have to take care of on your own! They may also look at some of the areas that the HOA would normally take care of and make you aware of these so that the seller can request the association to repair!
HOW IS PARKING?
You should check to see how parking is handled in the community. With some high rises, such as Vistas on the James, there may be assigned parking in a parking garage, but there may be only 1 assigned space. If you have 2 cars, this may be an issue! In some complexes there is no assigned parking! And in some of the condo communities in the city of Richmond, the building may have 8 units but only 6 parking spaces, none of which are assigned and are on a first come first serve basis!
CAN YOU MAKE CHANGES OR MODIFICATIONS TO YOUR UNIT?
If you are thinking of updating kitchens or baths, there may be rules and regulations about this - you may have limited hours in which you can do the construction, you may need to make sure your contractors will have access to the unit, what about garbage disposal, will you need to get permission from the HOA.
WHAT IS THE REMAINING LIFE OF THE COMMUNITY'S MAJOR COMPONENTS?
Things that are maintained by the association have a shelf life - will a building's roof need replacing in the near future? What about the amenities in the neighborhood (pool, fitness center, etc)? Will siding need to be replaced soon? If you are buying in a building where there is a boiler system that heats the entire building, when will that need to be replaced? Are these items being maintained & serviced on a regular basis? Your HOA documents will tell you that!
ARE THERE ANY LAWSUITS AGAINST THE COMMUNITY?
If there are pending lawsuits, this could mean that the association is incurring large legal fees to fight the lawsuit! In addition, it could impact your ability to get financing on the unit! This is something that a lender will definitely verify, but it will also be in your HOA documents!
WHAT IS THE RENTAL POLICY OF THE COMPLEX?
This will definitely have an impact on your ability to get financing. If you will be purchasing the unit with FHA financing, the complex needs to be FHA approved - you can check the list on the HUD website here! And even if you are going with conventional financing, you need to make sure that the lender can do the loan - if there are over 50% rental units in the complex or if there is commercial space below the condos (such as the one being built at Midlothian Turnpike and Winterfield) - that may impact your ability to get a loan.
As you can see, there are a number of questions you need to answer before buying a condo. But as a Realtor who has sold many condos in the Richmond area, and who has lived in a condo for many years, condo living is a great lifestyle!
If you are thinking of buying a condo, feel free to contact me and we can sit down and chat! I am happy to answer any questions you may have!