“Ask Your Attorney” Column

Questions to Ask Before Buying a Condo.

Dear Counselor: My husband and I are thinking about downsizing to a condo. What are some things we should keep in mind before signing the purchase contract?

Dear Client: If you are a homeowner, keep in mind that it might not necessarily be easy for you to live in a community where former homeowners have to get used to living under rules, and are required to pay monthly fees (which are how condo associations maintain all of the common areas and amenities used by everyone). Before you decide to sign the contract, do some sleuthing on your own, to see whether you are indeed going to be living your dream, or experiencing a nightmare! Besides getting all the condo documents (that show you who owns what, who is responsible for which repairs, and what rules there are), ask for copies of the meeting minutes from the last year, and see who has been complaining about what, and what types of problems the board is dealing with. If you buy, these will become your problems. Secondly, check the financial statements to make sure expenses aren’t exceeding revenues. Ask if there is a “reserve study” you can look at. A reserve study takes a look at all of the long term anticipated repairs and replacements that take place over time (such as roof replacement), adds up the costs, and specifies how much money needs to be put away yearly to pay for the roof when it needs replacing in the future. If no reserves are being saved, when the new roof is put on every owner will be slapped with a big assessment to cover the cost – and you don’t want that surprise to happen to you a month or two after you close! Find out who manages the condo — the owners, or a professional management company – talk with them, and get a sense of how well things are being run. Take a look at the common areas to see how well they are being cared for. Find out if the rules permit you to rent your unit, or not, if that is important to you, because if the rules say “NO: you won’t be able to rent the unit if you can’t occupy it yourself. If you get through that and still want to proceed, call me and we can go through the next set of questions on my condo checklist.

John Maier Jr.

Sweet & Maier, S.C., Attorneys
114 Church St.
Elkhorn, Wisconsin