Buying a condo offers a prime style of living, regardless of whether you are looking at a luxury high rise in downtown Atlanta or a smaller development in Bartow County. Advantages include on-site property management and amenities such as community pools or fitness centers. Unlike with many single homes, condo owners join an association and agree to follow community rules. Below are five important aspects of condo living you should look into before you buy.

Understand what you own

According to the Georgia Real Estate Closing Attorneys Association, the main difference between a condo community and any other type of housing is that condo owners’ individual property is limited to “air space,” which is generally framed by the interior walls and ceiling of the unit. Exterior areas and common grounds are owned jointly by the community and maintained by the association.

Monthly association fees

Condo associations charge fees to cover shared expenses, such as landscaping, insurance and exterior upgrades. Monthly fees vary widely between communities, which makes direct comparisons difficult. Be sure to find out which expenses are covered. Before buying a condo, request a copy of the association’s annual budget to determine how much money was collected from owners and how it was utilized during the year. You want to ensure that the association has enough money to fix problems that occur.

Uniform property management

Rather than allowing individual owners to arrange their own exterior maintenance, condo associations often contract out community-wide jobs to ensure better pricing. Landscaping, roof replacements and exterior painting are examples of property management functions that the condo association may control. Some associations enforce strict rules about appearance of the residences. If you grow tired of your blue door and want to paint it black, that won’t always be an option.

Pet limitations

Pet restrictions are another fact of condo living. Some associations limit the number of pets, some limit the weight to under 30 pounds, for example, and some place restrictions on the breed or species of pet. If you plan on moving your pet into a new condo, ask about pet restrictions prior to signing a purchase contract.

Parking and vehicle storage limitations

Parking rules should also be investigated prior to buying a condo. If off-street parking is limited, the association may use numbered spots corresponding to unit numbers. Also, certain vehicles such as campers, motorcycles or lettered vehicles may not be allowed to be kept on the premises.

Before buying a condo, request a copy of the association’s rules and regulations. Read all disclosures thoroughly and pay particular attention to enforcement methods and fines levied. You don’t want to be surprised by a hefty bill for breaking a rule you were unaware of. The number of regulations and limitations may seem overwhelming, but association rules are one of many reasons people buy into a condo development. The fees spent on upkeep and maintenance guarantee the ongoing beauty of the community, which benefits current owners and keeps property values high.

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