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What you need to know before you buy a condo

By Staff | Jul 24, 2020

Dear Mr. Feichthaler:

I plan to purchase a condominium in the next few weeks in Cape Coral. Besides the price, is there anything else I should be concerned about?

-Deborah T.

Dear Deborah,

Purchases of condominiums have continued to be strong over the past several months, as we see more demand from northern purchasers. Condominiums have many benefits, most notably reduced time for maintenance chores and the ability to socialize with new friends. With that said, there are many issues to consider, including the following:

The condominium has rules! The response I receive when a rule is not acceptable to a client is “This is America! We are free to do as we wish if we do not harm others!” Well, when you agree to move into a condominium, you are voluntarily agreeing to give up some rights you would have in a single-family home outside of a development. One issue that comes up often is pet restrictions. If you are a dog or cat lover, you will want to confirm that the pets you have, or intend to have, will be welcome at the condominium. Another example is restrictions on guests. If you plan to have large portions of your family visit from out of town for long periods of time, there may be restrictions on that as well. You should carefully review all governing documents of the condominium to ensure they work for your needs. Unless you enjoy conflict, the last thing you will want to do is lock horns with a management company or board of the condo. The stress, the potential fines and other discomforts could make the condominium a very bad decision, if the rules do not meet your lifestyle.

Review the financial documents, particularly to see if proper reserves are in place for repainting, replacement of roofs and other major repairs. You will want to know the monthly or quarterly fees, as well as the history of “special assessments,” those that come up unexpectedly. Every unit owner is responsible for their share of costs, so getting an idea of what they may be is important.

Like with any purchase, hire a reputable inspector to check the condition of the inside of the unit and limited common elements that are exclusively for the unit owner’s benefit.

I also like to check to see if the association is involved in litigation, either with contractors or with the unit owners themselves. If they are in court all the time, not only does this indicate high legal expenses, but also may indicate a management problem with the association.

There are many more items to list, but keep this in mind: Your home should be your personal oasis where you can live as worry-free as possible. Choosing a condominium with rules that suit you that is financially well-managed is key to that carefree living all of us seek.

I wish you an excellent interest rate on any borrowing you may make, as mortgage rates are at their lowest levels in American history.

Eric P. Feichthaler has lived in Cape Coral for over 30 years and graduated from Mariner High School in Cape Coral. After completing law school at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., he returned to Southwest Florida to practice law and raise a family. He served as mayor of Cape Coral from 2005-2008, and continues his service to the community through the Cape Coral Caring Center, Cape Coral Historical Museum, and Cape Coral Kiwanis. He has been married to his wife, Mary, for over 18 years, and they have four children together. He earned his board certification in Real Estate Law from the Florida Bar. He is AV Preeminent rated by Martindale-Hubbell for professional ethics and legal ability, and is a Supreme Court Certified Circuit Civil Mediator.

Mr. Feichthaler can be reached at eric@capecoralattorney.com, or (239) 542-4733.

This article is general in nature and not intended as legal advice to anyone. Individuals should seek legal counsel before acting on any matter of legal rights and obligations.