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The Ultimate Guide to Condo Ownership: Essential Terms and Tips for Buyers and Owners

Updated: Jul 10, 2023

Buying a condo can be an exciting and rewarding investment. Still, it comes with unique terminology and concepts that can be confusing for those new to the world of condo ownership. In this article, we'll look at some necessary terms that condo owners and buyers should know to help navigate the process confidently.


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Condominium

Other terms: Condo, Apartment

A condominium is a type of real estate ownership where individuals own a unit in a multi-unit building, along with a share of the common areas and amenities. Understanding the concept of condominiums is essential for anyone considering purchasing a condo or living in one.



Unit Owner

A unit owner is an individual who owns a specific condo unit within a condominium building. Knowing the responsibilities of a unit owner is essential for anyone considering purchasing a condo.


Homeowners Association (HOA)

Other terms: Condo Association, The Association


A homeowners association, HOA, or Condo Association is a group of condo owners who act as the board of directors made up of volunteer members who the condo owners elect. The board is responsible for making decisions about the management and maintenance of the building, including setting the budget, hiring property managers and contractors, and enforcing the rules and regulations.



Board of Directors

Other terms: The Board


The board members serve as fiduciaries for the condo owners, meaning they have a legal duty to act in the association's and its members' best interests. Understanding the role of the board of directors is essential for condo owners and buyers to have a voice in the decision-making process and ensure that their interests are represented.

Additionally, becoming a board of directors member is an opportunity for condo owners to take an active role in managing their buildings and positively impact their community.



Common Areas

Other terms: Amenities


Common areas in a condominium building refer to shared spaces, such as hallways, elevators, and amenities like a pool, gym, or rooftop terrace. Understanding what constitutes common areas and who is responsible for maintaining them is essential for any condo owner or a potential buyer.


It's important to note that the responsibility for maintaining the common areas typically falls on the HOA or Condo Association. The condo owners pay monthly condo fees that are used to cover the cost of maintenance and repairs for the common areas.



Condo Fees

Other terms: Association fees


Condo fees are the monthly fees paid by condo owners to cover the cost of maintenance, repairs, and other expenses associated with the building. Understanding condo fees is essential for any condo owner or potential buyer to manage their finances.


The amount of condo fees a condo owner pays is typically determined by the size of their unit and the amenities and services the building provides. The condo fees cover a range of expenses, including maintenance and repairs of the common areas, utilities, insurance, property management fees, and the building's reserve fund.


Condo owners and potential buyers need to review the breakdown of condo fees to understand how their money is being allocated and ensure they are getting good value for their investment. It's also important to note that the cost of condo fees can vary widely between different buildings, and condo owners should factor these fees into their overall budget when considering purchasing a condo.


Reserve Fund

Other terms: Reserves


The reserve fund is a portion of the HOA's budget for major repairs and unexpected expenses, such as replacing a roof, repairing a structural issue, or addressing a natural disaster. The reserve fund is an essential financial tool for condo associations to ensure they have the resources to address significant expenses when they arise.


Condo owners should be aware of the reserve fund and its use, as it can impact the financial stability of the building and the potential for special assessments. Special assessments are one-time fees charged to condo owners to cover unexpected expenses or significant repairs the reserve fund does not cover.



Special Assessment

A special assessment is a one-time fee for condo owners to cover unexpected expenses or significant repairs that the reserve fund does not cover. This fee may be required by each condo owner upfront or in installment payments added to their condo fees.

Special assessments can be a significant financial burden for condo owners, as they may be required to pay a large sum on short notice. Various issues, including natural disasters, unexpected repairs, or legal disputes, can cause special assessments.

Understanding the potential for special assessments is essential for condo owners to plan for unexpected expenses and ensure they have the financial resources to meet their obligations. Condo owners must review the HOA's financial records and reserve funds to assess the likelihood of special assessments and plan accordingly.



Condo Financials

Condo financials refer to the financial records and statements of the HOA, which detail the building's income, expenses, and reserves. These records can include the HOA's annual budget, balance sheets, income statements, and cash flow statements. Reviewing condo financials can provide valuable insight into the financial health of the building and whether the HOA is managing its resources effectively.



Board Meeting Minutes

Board meeting minutes are records of the meetings held by the HOA's board of directors. These records can provide important information about decisions made by the board, such as changes to the rules and regulations, planned maintenance or repair work, and other issues that may affect condo owners.


Access to board meeting minutes may vary depending on the HOA's policies and state laws. Still, they can be a valuable resource for condo owners who want to stay informed about the management of their buildings.




Bylaws

Other terms: Rules and regulations


The bylaws are the rules and regulations established by the HOA that govern the use and management of the building. The bylaws cover a range of topics, including the use of common areas, pet policies, parking regulations, noise restrictions, and more. Condo owners and potential buyers must review the bylaws carefully to understand their rights and responsibilities as condo owner and ensure that they comply with the rules and regulations.


Failure to comply with the bylaws can result in fines or other penalties, so it's essential to clearly understand the rules before purchasing a condo or moving in. Additionally, condo owners with questions or concerns about the bylaws should contact the HOA board or property manager for clarification to avoid conflicts or misunderstandings.



Covenants, Conditions & Restrictions (CC&Rs)

CC&Rs (Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions) are a set of legal documents that outline the rights and responsibilities of condo owners. The CC&Rs typically cover various topics, including maintenance and repair responsibilities, pet policies, parking regulations, and the use of common areas. Understanding the CC&Rs is essential for condo owners and potential buyers to avoid legal issues and comply with the rules and regulations. Violating the CC&Rs can result in fines, legal action, or other penalties, so it's essential to clearly understand the rules before purchasing a condo or moving in.


Additionally, the CC&Rs may be amended or updated occasionally, so condo owners must stay informed about any changes or updates to the documents.



Property Manager

The property manager is responsible for overseeing the day-to-day operations of the building, including maintenance, repairs, and financial management. The property manager works closely with the board of directors and is responsible for implementing the policies and decisions made by the board.


The property manager may also act as a liaison between the board and the condo owners, providing updates on building operations and addressing concerns or complaints from residents. Understanding the role of the property manager is essential for condo owners and potential buyers to ensure that the building is being managed effectively and efficiently.



Right of Refusal

The right of refusal is a provision in some condo associations that allows the association or existing condo owners to have the first opportunity to purchase a condo unit before it is sold to an outside buyer.


Condo buyers should be aware of any right of refusal provisions in the association's bylaws before making an offer on a unit. Suppose the right of refusal is in place. In that case, the buyer may need to factor in the possibility that the association or existing owners may purchase the unit, which could impact the price or timeline of the sale.



Condo Building Master Insurance

Condo building master insurance is a type of insurance policy that covers the physical structure of the building, including the common areas and shared spaces. The policy may also cover liability issues related to accidents or injuries on the property. Lenders typically require condo buildings to have a certain amount of insurance coverage before they offer a loan to a potential buyer. This requirement protects the lender's investment in case of damage to the building or other issues that may affect the property's value.



Conclusion

Understanding these key terms can help condo owners and buyers make informed decisions about their investments and confidently navigate the complexities of condo ownership. Whether you're considering buying your first condo or are a seasoned condo owner, staying informed and up-to-date on these important concepts is essential for a successful and rewarding ownership experience.

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