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Sep 22, 2023 | Blog, Real Estate Law, Residential

The Talk: What you need to know when downsizing

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Is it time to downsize and move into a condo now that the kids are grown?

If so, it is time for ‘The Talk’ with WCN’s Real Estate Attorney Peter Covo.

I have ‘The Talk’ with clients who are selling their home and moving into a condo. For most of our clients, moving into a condo is a significant change in lifestyle and The Talk helps prepare the couple for these changes. Below are the 10 parts of The Talk.

  1. Pets. Condominiums may have strict rules when it comes to pets. If Fido or Kitty is non-negotiable in making the move, review the condo rules and regulations carefully when it comes to pets. Some condos may require use of different elevators and stairways or may prohibit pets from touching the ground on the property. It may be prohibitive for you to carry Fido everywhere. An additional change when moving into a condo from being a homeowner is disposing of pet waste. While environmentally friendly bags are common everyday use at home, disposal of pet waste may differ when you become a condo owner. Review the rules and requirements to help you assess if the condo association’s rules and requirements regarding pets and pet waste will work for you.
  2. Parking. Spaces versus spots. There is a difference. As clients consider downsizing to a condo, parking is not typically top of mind. As homeowners, they have grown accustomed to coming and going freely. For many condo associations, you will have access to parking, but read the fine print to determine if you have assigned spaces versus available parking spots. Urban condo associations may include parking spots but require valet parking. Accessibility to your vehicle may require a bit more advance planning to call the valet to have your vehicle ready when you need it. The shift from being a homeowner to being a condo owner is a shift in mindset and expectations.
  3. Financials of the condo association. As a homeowner, you are in control of the upkeep of your home and planning for improvements and maintenance, as well as having reserves for the unexpected. When you buy a condo, you now become reliant on the condo association and their financial management. Before you sign the purchase and sale agreement, I recommend you request and review the board minutes from the three most recent board meetings to get a sense of the issues and items being discussed. Before signing the P&S, also ask to review the financials, including the opportunity to ask questions. Items to look for: financial reserves, recent and frequency of assessments and monthly condo fees.

    If something seems too good to be true, it usually is. I caution our clients to be wary of low condominium fees, this may indicate the association is not spending enough on upkeep and maintenance and not reserving sufficient funds for expenses that may arise for long-term upkeep such as pool repairs or roof replacement.

    Ask if the property is managed or self-managed as this also may be indicative if the association is investing in the property or cutting corners to lower expenses.
  4. Visitors and guests. As a homeowner, you may have guests as frequently as you wish, including long-term guests. The rules and regulations change for condo owners, long-term guests are typically not allowed as the association wants to minimize the possible effect on other condo owners and maintain the value of the property. Review the rules and regulations regarding visitors and guests to understand how such rules may affect changes to your lifestyle from when you were a homeowner.
  5. Leasing. Is the condo going to be a part-time home while other months you winter in a warmer climate? Review the rules for leasing your condo as they may be prohibitive to support a snowbird lifestyle. Many condo associations prohibit leasing or require a minimum of a year lease or six-months. Know in advance what the condo association rules are before signing the P&S.
  6. Access. This may seem obvious, but accessibility to the property becomes more stringent when you are a condo owner. As a homeowner, you had unlimited access to your own home, including scheduling upkeep and maintenance and service repairs. The condo association may require you to book in advance the service elevator for a delivery or service repair by a tradesperson.
  7. Noise. Homeowners often find the change in their surroundings a significant adjustment to moving from their single-family home to a condominium. For many, there are now people living next door, below and above and the change in noise is significant. In addition to getting used to hearing other people, there are also typically noise restrictions and times of the day (e.g., 10 pm) where noise needs to be controlled. If you have grown accustomed to entertaining at your home and enjoying music and games outside well into the evening, the change in lifestyle may be undesirable or a factor that you carefully assess as you evaluate condo communities that will suit you.
  8. Talk to community members. As you assess condos, look to speak to people living in the community. If you do not know anyone living there, ask members of the board for condo owners to speak with as part of your due diligence. Reach out to friends and colleagues to identify others you could speak to about their experience.
  9. Other rules and regulations. From plants to curtains, condo associations may have detailed rules and regulations about colors and locations and what you can and cannot do. I recommend you familiarize yourself with these specifics, especially if you are an avid gardener or interior décor is a favorite hobby so you can select a condo association that will best mesh with your interests and passions.
  10. Get involved. I consistently recommend that once you have settled on a condo that you love, get involved. Perhaps choose a committee that appeals to your interests. Being involved will give you a better sense of the association’s inner workings, priorities and how the condo association is managed. Being in the know will help you make informed decisions and seek to influence future decisions to protect your financial interests in the community.

Downsizing from a home to a condo is a big step. As outlined above, there are practical considerations in making this change. At Wilchins Cosentino & Novins, we offer our clients thoughtful and practical legal advice. Should you be thinking about downsizing and moving to a condo, I am happy to have ‘The Talk’, and assist you in your related legal needs.

Peter Covo is a Partner at Wilchins Cosentino & Novins and co-leads the Real Estate Practice including residential and commercial real estate.

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