Condo search checklist

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Searching for the perfect condo is part art and part science, with a little luck thrown in for good measure. Preparation is key, however, with hard work and research at the start of the process always paying off in the end. Before you start hunting for a condo, it's a good idea to research the market and look into specific cities and neighborhoods.  

When you're ready to settle on a specific city or town, it's important to create a short list and compare multiple condos based on criteria that's important to you. From the size and condition of the unit through to the amenities, condo fees, and building location, there are lots of issues to address before you sign a contract.

Let's create the ultimate condo search checklist to help you narrow down your options and find the home of your dreams.

  • It's important to get pre-approval from a lender before you start house hunting, that way you have a working budget and interest rate.

  • Research the market. Wider economic trends have a huge influence on property prices. Is it a good time to buy?

  • Research the city. Are property prices going up or down? Is oversupply an issue? Have you looked at multiple locations?

  • Research the neighborhood. Does the area have what you need in terms of transportation, entertainment, and employment.

  • Research the building. What kind of amenities does it have? What age group and demographic does it cater for?

  • Have you created a short list? By comparing similar condos in the same area, you can accurately assess true value.

  • How much is the condo? You need to verify the purchase price so you're not wasting time shopping beyond your means.

  • Is the condo FHA approved? If you fulfill the requirements for an FHA loan, you also need to check that the building does.

  • Check the builder and condo owner for current or historical legal or financial problems.

  • If you're buying a pre-construction condo, research the builder and whether or not the completion date is realistic.

  • Check the monthly condo fees, including historical fee increases and forecast fee hikes.

  • Analyze the details of condo fees to see exactly what they cover. For example, some condo fees cover utilities and parking.

  • Analyze the contingency fund and fund policy to see if it's big enough to cover major expenses.

  • Look into any hidden fees or additional costs, including parking, shared utilities, and long-term leases on building fixtures.

  • Verify the floor space of the unit, the boundaries, and the number of bedrooms to see if they're big enough for your needs.

  • Find out if there are any restrictions in terms of interior renovations, including inside-outside areas such as windows, doors, and balconies.

  • Check to see if there is a new home warranty, the extent of the warranty, and any exclusions.

  • Research all relevant rules and regulations to see if they're likely to cause problems. For example, pet ownership and outdoor clothes drying.

Use the services of a professional property inspector to check building condition and construction standards.