7 Important Questions to Ask a Property Manager About Condo Living Before You Buy

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Don’t wait for surprises. Here are 7 questions to ask a property manager before you dive into buying a condo.

When you are looking at condos, and thinking about where you’re going to be living for the next 5, 10, or 20 years, what do you think about? Maybe you envision a quiet morning sipping coffee on your deck or you think about a convivial chat with your neighbor. Visiting your potential condo community will give you a feel for the neighborhood, but you don’t want to be surprised.

One way to reduce those surprises is to have a list of questions to ask a property manager before you commit to such a big investment. These are questions that will help you make a smart decision and prepare for life in your new condo.

There are a few things to consider before you get to the property manager, of course. Does the location suit you? Is it close to the amenities you want, such as nature, public transportation, or shopping? Is the mortgage one you are comfortable with and do other condos in the area have a good resale value?

But there are some questions to ask a property manager specifically because it is unlikely you can find the answers on your own without spending a lot of time looking.

7 important questions to ask a property manager

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1. What does the association budget look like?

Why is this important? You aren’t just buying a condo; you are buying into a community with shared financial responsibilities. That’s a great perk when you can share the cost of a new roof or new siding. It’s not a great perk when the condo association is deep in debt, and condo owners are not paying dues.

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2. What are the HOA dues, and how regularly do they change?

This is part one of a two-part question. Usually, the HOA dues are listed along with the sales sheet for the condo, but one of the questions to ask a property manager is how often those dues change. Remember, the association dues aren’t likely to go down, so if they get adjusted by large amounts on a yearly basis, that could add a substantial cost to your monthly bills over the course of just a few years.

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3. What do the HOA dues pay for?

This is part two of the dues question. In most condo associations, dues cover common area expenses like pool maintenance, landscaping, and general upkeep. The details might make a difference, though, in your monthly expenses. Do you pay for your own water usage or is that a shared expense covered by association dues? What about garbage collection, recycling, or even internet? Knowing what is and is not covered will help you determine what your actual living expenses will look like.

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4. How often does the condo board levy special assessments?

As a condo owner, you will occasionally receive an assessment – a one-time fee to supplement your association dues. In a well-managed community, this should be rare, and usually due to an unexpected expense that depletes the reserve fund. You do, however, want to be sure this isn’t happening on a regular basis, and you also want to know why and how those charges are being determined.

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5. What does insurance cover?

Your condo community will have insurance to cover general liability. But you need to check the policy carefully. You don’t want to be on the hook for a break in the water pipe or a leak into your neighbors living room.

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6. Why should I hire you?

Ok. You may want to be more diplomatic than that, but when you buy a condo, you are, in part, also hiring the property manager. The questions to ask a property manager might not be exactly the same as the questions to ask at a job interview, but you do need to know what to expect from the property manager. Hopefully, the condo board has done a good job of hiring an excellent property manager, but you still need to know if this is someone you can have a good working relationship with.

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7. What restrictions apply to remodeling or exterior decorations?

This is both a quality of life issue and an investment issue. You may find that you want to remodel parts of your condo to increase the resale value, so you need to know if there are association bylaws prohibiting interior (or exterior) construction. Additionally, some condo associations prohibit exterior decorations to maintain a particular aesthetic.

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8. Is there any pending litigation?

Buying a property that is involved in litigation could be trouble for you in the near future. The results of litigation for condo owners could be higher dues, lower resale value, and less resident satisfaction.

What do the answers mean to you?

There is no absolute in what you get from these questions. A red flag in one area doesn’t mean you should walk away. You do want to be an informed buyer, though. These questions will help you avoid unpleasant surprises, and will also give you an idea of how open and amicable your future property manager and condo association board is.

Are you buying a new condo? Do you want to communicate with your property manager more easily? Then you should know that Evercondo facilitates quick and useful communication between condominium property managers, the condo association board, and condo residents. We also enhance the condo experience for residents and managers alike. Contact us for a demonstration, and we’ll show you how we can facilitate communication throughout your condo association, from owners to property managers.

Have you purchased a condo recently? What questions should a potential buyer ask the condo property manager?

  • TheRagingScotsman

    These are all fair questions, and yet I feel that something is missing. Is it that anyone can check public records for civil actions? You don’t even need to visit the courthouse for that! Or is it that social media sites can be revealing of behaviors and problems which might otherwise remain hidden? Either way, there is a lot to be said for checking out the PM’s office, their personal grooming, manner of speech, whether and how they handle interruptions, and much more. Be like a spy, since you are preparing to spend not just your life savings, but most of your relaxing down time- not to mention fully one third of your life- sleeping- in a place with so many other people, who are at best, unpredictable. Personally, I would go to the city clerk’s office to examine the building plans, then, I would find out if there were any legal actions or fines levied against the builder. There are so many ways to hide things, it seems like it would be simpler to just buy en entire building and convert it rather than walk into the unknown, blind as a bat!