For many years, condominiums were viewed as a “last resort” home purchase, for those who couldn’t afford the traditional detached single-family home. Those days, along with those views, are long gone…
In fact, most people aren’t aware that condos can actually be attached, freestanding, 1-story, multiple stories, duplexes, etc. The only thing that differentiates them is that with condo ownership, you only actually own the interior of your home. The land, exterior, and common areas are shared and managed by either a Homeowner’s Association or Property Management company. Part of your payment will most likely include a fee for that organization which will cover a variety of things such as grounds maintenance, trash pickup, yearly assessments, etc. The actual monthly fee and what it covers varies for each condo community.
As more millennials move towards first-time home ownership and baby boomers look to downsize, condos are increasingly becoming a first choice for many prospective buyers- and for good reason! Condos provide a great number of benefits to homeowners, and could very well be the best option for you. Here is a list of reasons so many opt for condo living these days.
1. Costs of Utilities are Greatly Reduced
Many condo associations pay for certain utility costs with condo association fees. Some of these costs may include water, basic cable, trash removal etc. The fee you pay is most likely significantly less than what all of these things would add up to. Plus, fewer bills coming to your mailbox is always a good thing. The specifics are outlined in the condo documents you receive at your closing.
2. Less Maintenance Required
Often, the condo association will upkeep lawns and maintain common areas. This allows you to have great landscaping and enjoy the pool without having to worry about the costs or responsibility associated with it!
3. Location Advantage
If you are the type of person that likes to be “in the mix” where things are happening or in the heart of a big city, a condo is definitely the way to go. They are the most likely structure in densely populated areas and give you the most bang for your buck in an urban setting.
Packing up and leaving for vacation is often less stressful when living in a condo because you are surrounded by (if not attached to) neighbors. Additionally, in some condos, there are extra security features such as buzzers or a guard service. If this is your second home and you’re only there for part of the year, this extra security is particularly helpful.
Sometimes condo developments have extra amenities, unlike typical housing neighborhoods. Often times you’ll find that condos have a communal pool, tennis court, gym, private access to beaches and walking paths. Access to such amenities would most likely be included in your monthly condo fee.
6. Great Purchase Option for Your Kids
So maybe you aren’t a first-time home buying millennial…but perhaps you have one that you want out from under your roof yet they can’t afford to purchase a home of their own yet. A condo might be the perfect solution if you are able to purchase one and still qualify for owner-occupancy programs and rates; your child won’t even need to show income or assets!
Requirements For Condo Financing At Southern Trust
Condominiums are a specialty, which requires a more in-depth review than single-family homes. When you purchase a unit in a condominium, it’s not just you who must to qualify; the entire condominium must be reviewed in order to confirm it meets the constantly changing, and sometimes challenging, requirements of Fannie Mae, FHA, VA, or Freddie Mac.
The good news is, Southern Trust Mortgage specializes in condominium financing. As a designated lender on many new construction condominium projects, Southern Trust’s condo team works directly with developers, obtaining FHA and VA approvals, while ensuring their eligibility to Fannie Mae. On established condominiums, when an eligible borrower is present (including reverse mortgages), our condo team works with eligible HOA’s to obtain FHA and VA approval.
Southern Trust keeps up to date with the most recent condominium guidelines of FHA, VA, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac. These requirements not only protect us as a lender, they ensure our borrowers are purchasing a home in a well-managed condominium. This takes a great burden off of you. Some of these requirements are:
- Ensuring the project does not have a large amount of unit owners delinquent in their monthly assessments
- If new, ensuring the project (or phase) is complete, and any required presale has been met
- Ensuring the project’s budget is adequate, and contributing to their replacement reserve fund properly
- Ensuring the project is properly insured
- Ensuring the project has no active litigation, which the HOA is a named party in
Tips For First Time Condo Buyers:
- Get some expert help. A real estate agent and lawyer who have expertise and experience with condos can help you navigate the market — and minimize your risks.
- Get to know the legislation in your province. Every province has different regulations regarding condos. You can often find the Condo Act through your province’s website.
- Learn about different types of ownership. Just as there are different kinds of buildings, there are different kinds of legal ownership too — like leasehold interest, freehold, tenancy-in-common and joint tenancy. (HomeBuyer.ca has an overview of Different Types of Condo Legal Ownership.)
- Compare condo fees. The number doesn’t tell the whole story — you’ll want to know what is and isn’t covered when looking at your monthly budget.
- Learn the rules, bylaws, and regulations. As we mentioned before, you should know the rules and how they will be enforced. Remember, they can work in your favor — like sparing you a neighbor’s late-night party. But you also don’t want to be all moved in and then realize your precious pooch isn’t allowed to live there.
- Ask about occupancy. If you plan to rent out your condo, make sure it’s allowed under the rules. Likewise, you may want to know if you’ll be sharing space with temporary renters like students.
- Look beyond the unit. Some questions you may want to ask include: Is the building well managed? Does it have a healthy reserve fund? What special assessments have been done in the past? What work needs to be done in the future? Your home inspector should look beyond your unit too.
- Get the right insurance. The insurance included in your condo fees only covers common areas and the original building. It’s up to you to cover your belongings and what happens inside your unit — like water damage or accidents.
- Volunteer with your condo’s board of directors. If you want a say in what happens, consider participating in your condo association’s board of directors — but keep in mind you only get one vote. Regardless, it’s a good idea to keep up with what’s going on and bring any concerns you might have to the board’s attention.
Thinking a condominium might be a good purchase for you and your family? All of our Southern Trust Loan Officers are experienced condominium lenders and are happy to answer any questions or reservations you may have. Southern Trust is also one of the few area lenders with a non-warrantable condominium program through our affiliate, SONABank. Ask one of our Loan Officers about it today and they can help get you started on the home buying process!