Here in the Lakes Region, a good part of our residential housing inventory is in the form of condominium ownership, or controlled by homeowners’ associations with various guidelines that are in place. If you are considering a condominium or association, take the time to research the community, talk to the residents, review the condominium documents, and ask lots of questions. Over the years, I have marketed hundreds of developments, and here’s a few suggestions to follow before taking the plunge:
- Work with a Lakes Region Realtor® who is well experienced with the local condominium and association environment: Find an agent with a strong track record in this field. Your agent should be familiar with the numerous developments throughout the region and will guide you to make the most informed decision. There are many community issues that need the proper research and professionalism to guide you along the process.
- Think about your lifestyle: Condominium and association living generally provides a more carefree maintenance lifestyle versus mowing extensive lawns, worrying about snow removal, painting, roof replacement, etc. However, you have to study carefully the condominium budget and weigh the differences between conventional ownership. If, on the other hand, privacy, a large yard, a garden, or sharing common walls with a neighbor are issues, conventional ownership might be a better course of action.
- Condo and association fees and regulations: How much are the monthly association fees? Obtain a copy of the budget and break down, what do they cover and what is not included. How often have the fees increased each year? What are the restrictions? Are pets allowed? Are motorcycles allowed? Storage for water toys, boats, and RVs? Rental restrictions for weekly, monthly, or annual rentals? Where are the common areas? Does the unit have a limited common area? How does the board handle issues or complaints? Get a clear understanding regarding the use of amenities.
- Always inquire about special assessments: Many of the condominiums in the Lakes Region were built in the late 70’s and throughout the 80’s and are in need of costly repairs and upgrades. Check with the president of the association to see if special assessments are in effect or anticipated to fund a significant project. Many of these developments may need new roofs, windows, siding, and private road/driveway repaving. Proper due diligence is critical.
- Reserves: Does the association have adequate reserves in their budget and can do fees to cover emergencies and renovations? If not, you could face a special assessment.
- Owner occupied: What percentage of the condominium units are owner-occupied? Some lenders may not lend on the association if the majority are rented.
- Rentals: Do the association rules limit your ability to rent the unit? We are seeing many changes regarding Airbnb and VRBO rentals in various associations, and major regulations have been implemented throughout the towns and cities throughout the Lakes Region that you must be aware of when purchasing a home.
- Lawsuits: Are there any pending lawsuits against the association or judgment she might be held responsible for?
- Parking: How many reserved parking spaces come with the unit, and is there adequate additional parking for guests?
- Storage: Will you have enough storage space for bikes, paddleboards, snowmobiles, trailers, etc? Are there areas where items can be stored or parked?
- Restrictions: Will restrictions prevent you from changing colors, window coverings, putting flower boxes out, parking bikes, types of pets, allowed, noise, restrictions, etc?
- Arrears: inquire as to what percentage of the units are in arrears on their dues.
- Amenities: Many associations throughout the Lakes Region offer fabulous amenities, such as beaches, docking, outdoor pools, tennis courts, gyms, clubhouses, indoor pools, hot tubs, playgrounds, boat storage, trailer storage, boat berths, deed, slips, and gated access. Decide which amenities you actually will need; costs can be considerable. Some associations have no amenities, which, for some, fit the bill perfectly because it keeps the condominium fees more reasonable.
- Insurance: Find out what the association coverage includes. You will likely need supplemental insurance. Insurance rates have been increasing. Inquire about future projected rates.
- How many units are for sale study? How many units are presently for sale in the association? Study the selling prices over the past three years and the price per square foot.
- Debt service: Does the association have any outstanding debt as a liability? What is the amount in payment terms? Also, inquire if there are entrance fees to join the association or a one-time charge at the closing for reserves, etc.
- Public offering statement: If it’s a new development in the Lakes Region, obtain a copy of the public offering statement, condo declaration, covenants, restrictions, and easements. Make sure the condominium sales agreement has been approved by the Consumer Protection and Antitrust Bureau of the New Hampshire Department of Justice.
- Review of condominium declarations: On all resale units, always make sure your purchase and sales agreement is contingent upon your review or your attorney’s review of condominium, declarations contracts, restrictions, easements, and site plans.
- Management company: Is the condominium self-managed by the Board of Directors or a property management company? Research the management company on Google and check the reviews.
- Docking: Does the condominium association own the docking? Are the docks leased, and at what cost? Are the boat slips deeded, and their cost? How many day docking slips for association members? Cost for boat racks? Does the condominium association lease the beach, etc., from another association or developer? Does the association actually own it? How many individuals have rights to it?
In summary, buying a condo or purchasing in a private homeowners association is a very popular form of homeownership in New Hampshire’s Lakes Region. There are lots of associations with diverse amenities to enjoy our area lakes. You can visit rocherealty.com and review all of our associations by clicking on Lakes Region developments. Be sure to work with an experienced condominium and association Realtor® in the Lakes Region to help guide you in making an informed decision.
This article was written by Frank Roche. Frank is president of Roche Realty Group with offices in Meredith and Laconia, NH, and can be reached at (603) 279-7046. Please feel free to visit www.rocherealty.com to learn more about the Lakes Region and its real estate market.