There are certain Seattle and Eastside condo building features that will help ensure you’re investing in a well-run complex and a home that you’ll enjoy living in.
Here are some of the most important things to look for:
Seattle and Eastside Condo Buying Checklist
- Owner occupancy rate of at least 70%, preferably over 80%. This is in part because if the owner-occupancy rate is too low it can eliminate some financing options for buyers.
- Active homeowner association. Review minutes of recent homeowner association meetings.
- Sufficient financial reserves. You have the right to review the resale certificate, which tells you about the financial health of the complex.
- Reasonable homeowner dues. “Reasonable” depends to some extent on included amenities. For example, elevators, an exercise room, or utilities such as cable and hot water included in the homeowner dues can result in higher dues. A very general guideline is that monthly homeowner dues should be somewhere around .001 multiplied by the price. For example, a non-short-sale unit selling for $360,000 could reasonably have dues somewhere around $360 per month. (This is a very general guideline, but gives you some idea.)
- No pending litigation issues. It’s not uncommon for condo complexes to have a lawsuit against the builder regarding defective building materials.
- FHA-approved complex. There are some good complexes that are not FHA-approved, so unless you are purchasing with FHA financing this does not have to be a reason to cross a unit off of your list. However, being FHA-approved means you have a bigger target market when you sell.
- Washer and dryer in the unit, not in a shared laundry room. This is very important for the first-time condo-buyer market because that is one of the things this demographic is hoping to leave behind them when they leave apartment life.
- No upcoming special assessments that a buyer would have to pay. Frequently the seller pays off any special assessment at closing, but not always, and almost never during a short sale. A special assessment is levied by the homeowner association when the condo reserves are not adequate to pay a necessary repair or maintenance item. They can range from hundreds to tens of thousands of dollars.
- Reasonable pet restrictions. Do they make sense, or do they limit too much of your potential target market because so many people have dogs? On the other hand, it’s not necessarily a good idea to buy into an “anything goes” complex.
Find out if the CCRs (Covenants, Codes and Restrictions) limit the number of units that can be rented out. Having a rental cap of around 20 percent can be beneficial because it protects you from ending up with an undesirably low owner occupancy rate. On the other hand, if you would like the option to rent out your condo in the future a rental cap might prevent you from doing so.
You may want to see my “What to Look for When Buying a Seattle or Eastside Home” page as well – many of those tips apply to condominiums.
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