Article updated 12/19/18
What is a Condominium?
The term condominium, as defined by Dictionary.com: “An apartment house, office building, or other multiple-unit complex, the units of which are individually owned, each owner receiving a recordable deed to the individual unit purchased, including the right to sell, mortgage, etc., that unit and sharing in joint ownership of any common grounds or passageways.”
The primary difference between a condominium and an apartment is that a condominium is independently sellable and therefore regarded as real estate. Whether constructed similar to apartment buildings or as detached condominiums that look like single-family homes, the common areas, such as yards, building exteriors, and streets are jointly owned and maintained by a community association.
Why buy a condominium?
For many first-time buyers, a condominium is a good entry into homeownership. Condo lifestyles can be exciting, especially as many are locating in fast-growing urban areas that are seeing a renewal. They’re popular with Millennials just starting out, and retirees, who want to downsize and no longer pay the costs of maintaining a single-family home.
Many amenities, such as pools, gyms, concierge, dog parks, and even spas are now included in developments that are looking to attract both demographics. Moreover, condominiums usually include some utilities in their monthly fees (such as water and sewage), eliminating one monthly bill you’ll need to pay. They can also be excellent investment properties, particularly if they are close to a business center where many young professionals work, a downtown, or a college campus.
Still, condominium financing with mortgage lenders is a very different process than that of buying a single family home. If you’re interested in finding out more about your home-purchase options, speak with a loanDepot Licensed Lending Consultant today.
Here’s what you need to know about condominium financing:
Condo fees are a crucial element in the decision to buy
Even though condominiums tend to be less costly than single family homes, one big difference with individually sold units are typically higher association costs. These monthly fees vary, but condo owners can even incur other quarterly or yearly fees as well. Nevertheless, they have to be paid, and your lender calculates the fees into your out-of-pocket estimates and your debt-to-income ratio. So when you’re shopping for a condo, look carefully at the homeowner association (HOA) obligations and know what it actually covers. Find out about any other fees you might encounter, such as parking, pool passes, gym privileges, etc.
All of these expenses need to be factored into your monthly budget estimate, and you need to let your lender know exactly what they are in order to calculate your monthly expense burden. Also remember that, while your home insurance payment is usually escrowed with your mortgage payment, your HOA payments typically are not.
Not every loan program works for condo financing
Depending on the development, some may not take all loan programs, such as FHA or VA financing. Communities with a high level of renters compared to owners often don’t qualify for eligibility by HUD, though the requirements have eased some in the past year. Your lender as well as your real estate agent can look up which condo developments are eligible for which government loan programs in your area. Or go here to find out if a particular community is eligible for FHA financing.
Typically, if you are able to qualify for a conventional loan, you’ll be able to buy in most condo developments, but there are exceptions. For example, in Florida, where the condo market often goes through boom-and-bust cycles, some lenders won’t finance if the ratio of owners-to-renters in the development is too low or the development lacks sufficient disaster insurance.
The reason for that is if there are too few owners, an increase in an assessment of condo fees spread over too few owners could literally bankrupt the HOA or send owners into foreclosure because they can’t pay the increased fees.
Do your homework and check the financial condition of your condo association
To that end, as a prospective borrower, you’re entitled to know the financial condition of the HOA. Call the management company and ask them a few necessary questions. Does it have enough paying condo owners to properly keep up with the maintenance? Are there any special assessments coming (for example weather-related damage especially for resort condos) that could dramatically increase your monthly fees? Your lender of course will want to know this as well, and will often require a copy of the condo financial statement before funding the loan.
As a result, condo buyers often have extended protections, especially those in resort communities where you can cancel your contract, for any reason, as well as given at least seven days to examine condo financial documents.
Defaulting on HOA fees can result in a foreclosure
During the real estate downturn of the last decade, many condo buyers who were cash-strapped stopped paying their condo fees, even though they continued to pay their mortgage. This left many condo associations in a bind, as they had difficulty collecting from delinquent owners.
Recently however, courts have ruled that HOAs can indeed foreclose on an owner even if the mortgage is current. In turn, if a condo association started foreclosure proceedings against a delinquent owner, then the mortgage lender had little choice but to follow suit, in order to protect its financial position.
Bottom line, if you purchase a condominium, make sure to keep current on your fees as if it were part of your mortgage. Still, because the foreclosure process for condo associations and banks can often be expensive and time-consuming, if you run into financial difficulty, you’re likely to be able to work out an arrangement with your HOA, as well as your lender, but you need to communicate with both as soon as possible.
Pros and Cons of Buying a Condo
- Flexible living
- More affordable than single family home
- Cheaper homeowners insurance
- Top-notch amenities
- Low upkeep
- Great sense of community
- Good security
- Association fees
- Limited outdoor space
- Lack of privacy
- Limited parking
- Pet restrictions
- Association rules and regulations
- Slower value appreciation
- Lack of storage space
If you’re ready to explore the condo market, speak with a loanDepot Licensed Lending Consultant about a purchase loan.
Originally published April 13, 2018
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