Buying A Condo In Florida – What You Must Know

Purchasing a condo in Florida can be exciting, and perhaps a bit overwhelming. You may be looking to purchase a condo in Florida to escape the cold winters up north, or for your future retirement. Condos also can be a great option for first-time homebuyers and people looking to enjoy homeownership without extensive upkeep.

Before you begin the condo-buying process, there are a few things to understand.

A condo on the water in Florida.

What is a condo? 

A condo, also known as a condominium, is a housing or residential complex in which there are separate units, with each unit being owned by an individual. Condo owners are responsible for what goes on within their individual units, including maintenance and repairs. Beyond that, they’re required to pay regular fees to a condo association. Those fees contribute to the maintenance of the shared common areas, building amenities, and the exterior of the complex.

While condos and apartments share similarities, there are some key differences in who owns them, how they’re run and governed, and the costs involved. 

  • Typically, apartment buildings are owned by a property management company, while condos are individually owned units. 
  • In addition to a mortgage payment, condo owners must worry about costs like condo fees, HOA fees, and property taxes.
  • Rather than a property management company collecting dues and establishing rules for shared living, condo residents create a condo association to handle. 

What is a condo covenant agreement?

When you buy into a complex development, you also buy into the set rules set by the HOA. These rules can include rental limitations and pet restrictions. Additionally, you’ll pay the monthly HOA fee for the upkeep of the common areas and building. These fees can vary widely depending on the location and size of the condo. 

Some of the rules you may not like and some it will seem the association overlooks. Selective enforcement of condo rules is a big no-no and most condo boards will not allow it.  The state of Florida within the past few years has tightened the laws pertaining to condo boards and their actions regarding governance.

When you purchase a condo in Florida, the real estate sales contract addendum, specifically referred to as the Condo Rider, will allow you to receive and review the condo rules and budget. 

It is also a good idea to ask for a copy of the last set of minutes from the board meeting.  Reading the minutes will allow you a glimpse inside the board, how they function, and any impending improvements that may require an assessment.

Benefits of condo ownership

The benefits of purchasing a condo versus renting or owning a single-family home include property ownership with added amenities, less upkeep, and affordability. Condominiums are great choices for many people, from empty-nesters looking to downsize and seniors who prefer less maintenance to first-time homebuyers looking for a starter home in an urban area where real estate prices for stand-alone homes may be too high.

  • Amenities – Depending on the complex, you may have access to amenities like a pool, dog, or parking garages. These shared amenities are typically maintained by the homeowners association (HOA), so you enjoy them without keeping them up on your own.
  • Maintenance-free living – Condos are popular for people who want the freedom of owning their residence but don’t want the upkeep that comes with having a single-family home.
  • Affordability – Typically, condos are cheaper than traditional homes. While you do have to factor in condo association fees, a condo can be more affordable than a freestanding house.
A condo used as a rental.

Using a condo as a rental 

If you are looking into buying a condo in Florida to use and rent out while you are away, you need to look at demand, rental rates, and building rules. Some buildings have rental restrictions that allow you to rent your unit, but only after a period of ownership. Even if your condo complex allows for rentals, check the rules for the minimum length of stay.  Most condo buildings that allow rentals will not tolerate daily rentals. And some may even require your tenant to be approved by the association before they will allow occupancy. 

Purchasing a condo 

If you are considering purchasing a condo, you will need to know what a condo questionnaire entails. It is a two-page set of questions that evaluate – among other things – the financial stability of the building, look at the number of delinquent condo owners (who are not paying dues), foreclosures, the number of units owned by one person or corporation, the reserves of the building, and the number of units that are being rented. 

The condo questionnaire is used as part of the financing to help the mortgage lender determine risk. The greater the risk, the more money they will require as your down payment. Even if you are looking to purchase a condo and pay cash, paying for a questionnaire might be a good thing to help you determine if the building is solvent and managed properly.

Financing the purchase of a condo

The main loan requirement has to do with the down payment and the condo questionnaire. If the condo development fails any of the questions found in the questionnaire, you must put a minimum of 25% down (owner occupant) or 30% (vacation residence or investment). 

Most condo developments in Florida cannot pass the questionnaire. This is especially true in vacation/resort locations where there is a higher percentage of non-owner occupants or the units are rented. Failing the questionnaire isn’t always a bad thing, it just lets the lender know the potential risk.

A realtor selling a condo.

The importance of a realtor

Keep in mind that it is always essential to rely on the trusted advice of a realtor. Particularly when buying a condo in Florida, the guidance of a real estate professional is invaluable. 

The fact is that buying a home or condo in Florida is unique from anywhere else. A real estate professional can help you navigate the complexities of buying a condo in Florida, like the Florida homestead exemption, condo covenants, hurricane insurance, flood zones, and home inspections.Contact Venture Title Services today to help you prepare to close on the purchase of your condo in Florida.

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