OK so you have received lots of emails with available Condos in your area. You waded through loads of Real Estate papers and For Sale ads in the newspaper. You see one that “calls out” to you like a voice in the mist. You MUST see this Condo in the ad! So what do you do?
First: Double check that you are pre-qualified for a mortgage. You can get pre approved from most anywhere banks, credit unions, mortgage offices and even Quicken Online offers mortgage pre-approvals and services. Getting pre-approved should be done before you seriously look at any properties. You can, if your RE Agent is flexible take a look at 1 or 2 properties in your target price range to get a feel for what your dollars will buy. But after that, get the pre-approval before you drag your agent all over the place. The pre-approval also locks in the price range you can afford and will greatly speed up your search and make your search a lot less confusing. Yes, you can look at properties just out of your range if you want to try to make an offer to the seller that is within your range.
Second: Make a list of questions ahead of time. Things specific for a Condo might be: # of Units in the Association? How long has the Association existed? Can you see the actual ledger showing the Association is in good standing? Does the Seller currently reside in the Condo? Any major complaints or negative situations with the city? The Seller Agent may not know all of the answers or have all of the information on the Association but this will set the tone that you are a serious buyer and are prepared.
When you get to the showing, take a quick look around the exterior of the building before going in. Make mental notes of how the property looks and the surrounding area. Remember, you will be sharing anything outside of the Condo itself. Known as Common Areas. Once inside the Condo also keep in mind that someone needs to sell this like a product in a retail store. It will more than like be setup or “staged” to be presented in the best possible way. Don’t be shy to run the sink or flush the toilet. Look in the corners where the ceiling meets the walls for any cracks or signs that no upkeep was done. And importantly, take a seat, relax for a few moments. Get a measurement for how you feel in the Condo and how the building makes you feel. Ask your questions to the Seller Agent and look at the provided listing sheet. Make sure you clearly understand what the monthly Association Fee is and who is managing the Association.
Voice From the Grave! – When I first looked at the “Condo from Hell” it was an open house situation. The property was cleaned up just for this event so it was hard for me to gauge what it looked like from day-to-day. A red flag that should have made me cautious was the fact that the Seller had already moved out-of-state and was not occupying the Condo. The Seller Agent explained that the Seller had to move due to work obligations. I was presented with financial reports and graphs, but was not shown a copy from the ledger or print out from the online account. To be honest, anyone could have used MS Office to print out what I was shown. Also when I asked about how well the other owners got along or if the Association had any negative impact on the City in general the Seller Agent could not provide details and mostly said, “The property almost takes care of itself.” If you hear something similar, this should be taken as a major red flag. Later in this series I will get into detail about the true condition of the Association was, and still is currently even after my departure. Always remember, the final choice is yours. The Condo not only will be your home but will also be a major investment that will directly affect your credit score and finances. Be vigilant as possible.
Coming Soon in Part 3: Making an offer and the inspection……..