What to know before buying a condominium

Posted by Chris Scheall on Monday, March 18th, 2019 at 2:00pm.


When you decide to buy a condominium, remember it’s a different process from buying a single-family home. There are a few things to keep in mind before buying a condominium in Chicago.

Buyers are attracted to condo living because of the convenience to area shopping, dining, and amenities. If a repair is needed, the building maintenance team handles it, not the unit owner. Not everyone wants to mow a backyard lawn every weekend or tend to unruly shrubbery, so condo living appeals to people with fast-paced busy lifestyles who want to live in downtown Chicago where all the dining, shopping, and nightlife are a few steps away. 

Keep a proactive outlook when selecting a unit. Think about how your family or living situation may change in the future that would require more space. Is the possibility of relocation in your future? If so, select a unit with strong resale value.

Here are some points to keep in mind before buying a condominium in Chicago.

Keep emotion in check

It’s easy to give into your emotions when buying a condo. You could end up paying more if you don’t examine the property objectively as well as subjectively. An experienced realtor can keep you grounded.

Resale history and reserves

Look at the last five years of occupancy for the building you’re interested in. What is the resale history and why? Take note of the number of days it takes to sell a unit in this building. How many days on the market? If it takes more days to go from list to sell, then that shows the building is less liquid. Also, check the building’s reserves which is the amount of money the owners set aside for emergency or key repairs/renovations. For instance, if the condo building needs a new roof or HVAC system and the reserves are low, that means homeowners will be hit with a special assessment to pay for this. Plus, you don’t want to live in a poorly financed building because those are often the ones that appear run down, so checking the reserves is important.

The lowest condo fees aren’t always the best

Many buyers look for buildings according to the amount of monthly fees charged, but sometimes cheaper isn’t always better. Buildings with low fees decline in value because of poor maintenance. This could affect your resale value.

Avoid Rent-saturated buildings

Avoid buildings with a high percentage of renters. Owners feel a natural inclination to make sure the building is well maintained. Remember, a good building will have an adequate amount of money in the reserves for future repairs.

When shopping for a condo, make sure the building has at least fifty percent owner occupants. However, you also want a building that does allow owners the option of renting out their units if they would like to. The possibility of rental income is something else that attracts buyers to condominiums, and it also adds to resale value.

The most expensive condo in the building 

If relocation is a possibility in your future, try to resist buying the most expensive unit in the building. Your value will hold up better over time if you own one of the least expensive units. This will make it easier and quicker to sell your condo in the future.

Hire an agent who knows each building

Hiring an experienced real estate agent who has studied the most popular condo buildings in Chicago will help you streamline the buying process. If the realtor is already familiar with the reserves, assessments, and percentage of renters in each building, that’s less time you’ll have to spend researching this information before you buy.

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