Avoiding the Woes of Condominium Ownership

Purchasing a condominium is a bit like entering into a business partnership. The success or failure of that partnership will depend on numerous details. Trouble free condominium complexes tend to have the following characteristics:

  • The siding material is not Stucco, EIFS, wood composite and even vinyl siding. I used to be less strident with my comments about condominiums with such siding products. No more, my experience tells me that buildings with such siding products are very likely to experience major problems in wet climates.

Mushroom Growth Here is an example from a 5 year old condo with vinyl siding and sloppy trim and flashing work. The mushrooms in the red circle (no, I don't think they are edible) appear to be the result of leaks from the vinyl siding and sub-standard trim and caulking work. The blue arrow shows fungal wood-rot as a result of water wicking from a sub-standard flashing installation.

  • The structures were well designed, built according to top quality standards and constructed with quality materials that were installed by top notch professionals. (A professional inspection of the unit and the common areas and the exterior envelope can provide the evaluation needed to determine the quality of the building. See Topics: The Sound Inspection.)
  • The condominium association's by-laws are understood and agreed upon by all of the members. The by-laws should be reviewed and understood by any prospective buyer, preferably with the assistance of the buyer's attorney.
  • The condominium owners' association has contracted for periodic physical inspections of the complex and incorporates those findings into regularly updated reserve studies. These inspections and reserve studies help the association develop realistic budgets, fees and financial reserve requirements.
  • The common areas have been well maintained. The owners understand the need for, and cost of, good quality maintenance. Information about the condominium's maintenance history might be discovered by an examination of the association's records. Many states require that these records be made available to prospective homeowners for review.
  • The value of the property has appreciated, thus giving the owners reason to continue investing in good maintenance.
  • The owners get along with one another. This may be a little harder to find out, but there is no harm in talking to some of the folks in the building.
  • The owners have a common long term vision for the maintenance and upgrade of the complex.
  • If a management company is employed (usually a good idea, but not always possible in smaller complexes), the contract with the company must include the maintenance plan. Selecting a management company is similar to selecting a contractor, see Topics: A Field Guide to Bad Home Repair and Remodeling Contracts.