There are some fundamental differences between condominiums and houses that a potential buyer should keep in mind when considering what type of residence to purchase for residential purposes:

  • Ownership: Owning a house comes with the right to exclusive ownership of all the property you have purchased both inside and outside of the house. Essentially, this means that anyone who sets foot on any part of your property without your permission is considered trespassing. With condominiums, the owner only has exclusive right to all property within the walls of his own condominium unit. The owner only has shared ownership of "common area" outside of the condominium unit, such as the halls and courtyard, and he must share this space along with every other condominium unit owner in the complex.
  • Defects and Repairs: Homeowners are solely responsible for all upkeep and protection of their property, including purchasing insurance. Condominium owners are generally not solely responsible for the repairs and upkeep of the property. Instead, condo owners generally pay dues to the homeowners’ association that they are required to belong to, which is in charge of buying property hazard insurance for the entire condo complex and takes care of property maintenance in the common areas.
  • Modification of the Property: Except for some local zoning ordinances, homeowners typically have the freedom to modify the exterior or interior or their property however they want to. In contrast, condo owners are generally restricted in the ways they can modify the exterior, and occasionally the interior, appearance of their residence by covenants, conditions, and restrictions (CC&Rs) that are usually set forth by the homeowners’ association they belong to.

Whether buying a house or a condo, you want to closely inspect all aspects of the property. When setting out the purchase agreement for a condominium, it is important that you make sure a provision is included in the agreement that says you must be provided with the CC&Rs, the articles of incorporation, and the by-laws for the condo homeowners’ association before you purchase.

You should also make sure that you get a copy of the budget and a notice of the current dues assessment from the homeowners’ association. You will need to examine and understand these documents thoroughly before you purchase the condo to make sure it is everything that you want and you will not be surprised by anything related to condo ownership.

Should I Contact an Attorney?

The information you are given about the condo and the rules and by-laws of the homeowners’ association can often be confusing and overwhelming. You can ask the homeowners’ association to help explain these terms to you, but you should contact a real estate attorney if you would like more in-depth advisement. Your attorney will help you understand all the provisions of each agreement and make sure your interests are represented in the documents.