When it comes time to buy a condo in Massachusetts you must keep in mind you are buying a piece of a whole.
You are deeded the actual condominium unit as well as percentage ownership in the entire condominium complex.
Your deed will tell you what percentage of the complex you own.
There is a difference between owning a condominium condo versus a single-family home. The biggest thing to remember is as an individual you fully own from inside stud to inside stud of the inner perimeter of your condominium unit. Meaning you own the wallboard but not the inside studs of the interior walls.
What Is A Condo?
The definition of a condo or condominium is an individually owned living unit in a complex or building of other living units. The entirety of the units with all its land and amenities is shared with the other units as common areas.
Not only is the common areas use shared, so it the expense of maintaining the common areas. Your share of the common areas is expressed in a percentage of ownership which is usually calculated by your units square footage compared to the entire square footage of the living areas.
Common Ownership of Condominium
Common ownership is usually areas that individuals use in common. It also means you have a financial stake in maintaining and repairing those common areas. Some common areas are:
- Hallways and Entrances
- Roofs and siding
- Parking lots, driveways and roads
- The lawn
- Garden beds
- Amenities like pool and tennis courts
- There is much more, but any area that can be used by all is typically considered a common area
Every condo complex is different it is important to know what your ownership includes when you buy a condo. Parking spots can either be owned individually (deeded with the unit) or assigned (owned by the association).
Most condominium complexes require a unit owner to be responsible for all exterior doors and windows, while some don’t.
There can also be exclusive common areas such as decks and patios and even sometimes small yards. Exclusive common areas are meant to be used and enjoyed by one individual but the cost of maintaining the area is shared by all the owners of the condominium complex. All of these questions can be determined by reading the master deed.
When it comes to maintaining or fixing common or exclusive common areas everyone shares in the cost.
Properly run management of a condominium will have a budget to maintain these areas and replace these areas without asking for the homeowners for a special assessment above and beyond the condo fees.
Pro’s and Con’s Of Buying A Massachusetts Condo
Buying a condominium can be a great option for some people and a not so great option for others. I have written two other articles on the topic but I won’t go into depth here.
Reasons to Buy A Condo
There are some great reasons to buy a condo. The two biggest reasons is the cost is less than a single family home.
You can get much more home with a condo with amenties you might never have in a single family. Buying a condo allows you to stretch your buying dollar.
The second reason is you dont have to worry about as much maintenance. It is taken care of for you by the HOA or management company. Roads are plowed, roofs are repaired, gorounds are kept…. all with out you lifting a finger.
Pro’s of Buying A Condo
- Little or no exterior maintenance
- Cost of maintenance is less as it is shared by many
- Amenities like pools, gyms, tennis courts and more
- Cost of the the unit is less as much of the structure and grounds are shared
- Living in a close knit community is a great way to soicalize
- Buying a condo in a complex provides security. Your neighbors will be close and have an eye on your property
Why Not To Buy A Condo
Buying a condo may not be right for you. The two biggest reasons are privacy and control.
Living in a condominium community usually brings neighbors close togehether and some home buyers may not want to feel like they are living in a fish bowl.
The other reason not to buy a condo is control. There are a set of rules to live by and the management of the complex is a community decision not just yours.
Con’s Of Buying A Condo
- Monthly condo or association fee’s
- Reduced privacy
- Rules and regulations to be adhered to
- Decision regarding issues are shared and voted on
- Outdoor living space is at a minimum
Whether you should purchase a condo or not is an individual decision. There is no right or wrong. But do you homework so if you do buy a condominium in Massachusetts you are making an informed decision
Home Owner Association or Condominium Fees
Home Owner Association or Condominium Fees can vary greatly from one condo complex to another. The variables can be the level of maintenance provided, whether utilities are part of the condo fee, the level of amenities, recent maintenance that was done and paid for etc…
A low condo fee may not necessarily be a good thing if maintenance has been left undone or if the association is constantly having special assessments to cover costs on a regular basis. Another thing to remember while you do have to write a check for that condo fee every month don’t fool yourself into thinking you will not have monthly maintenance in a single family home.
Review The Condo Docs
When purchasing a condo it is important you reserve the right to have a period of time to review the condominium documents. This is a big part of how to buy a condo for success. It is different than buying a single family home.
You will automatically become a member of the HOA the documents will cover how money is spent, how the condo was formed, the rules you must live by, how decisions are made and more.
Make sure you have an understanding of what you are buying into.
Declaration of Trust
The Declaration of Trust is the document that sets the complex as an entity and the governing of the condominium usually thru a board of trustees and a home owners association. It is the legal documention forming the condomium as set forth by Massachusetts General Law, Chapter 183.
It is a recorded document that automatically binds new owners tihe trust.
The master deed is the breakdown of ownership in a condominium complex. It will often refer to common areas, exclusive common areas and the individual units.
When you buy a condo it will give you an idea of your percentage of ownership in the common areas and what comes with the condo unit you purchase.
Bylaws control the day to day management of how the complex is run. It spells out the qualifications of the board members or trustees and how they are to manage and police the complex. It will discuss what decisions are voted on by the members and how the vote is decided.
Rules and Regulations
There are rules and regulations you must abide by when you buy a condo. The rules and regulations can vary from complex to complex. Most rules and regulations will discuss pets, parking, use of common areas and more.
Other rules could be quiet hours, use of grills, satellite dishes, etc….
The current years budget will cover where the HOA fees are going every month. You want to make sure that there is enough money to cover current expenses as well as future expenses in the form of reserves.
Buying a condo will expose you to a whole new world of language you may not understand here are other condominium terms you should know
Insuring Your Condominium
Some if not all of your insurance is covered by your Master Insurance policy paid for by your HOA fee. Pay attention to your condo docs and see if the coverage is bare walls or all in.
Bare wall coverage, covers all the common areas but not the interior of the unit, making owners responsible for sinks, cabinets, flooring etc… With bare walls coverage, a condo owner would purchase an HO6 policy that would cover the gap.
In a walls in policy, everything would be covered and a condo owner would only be responsible for personal property.
When you buy a condo in Massachusetts it is different than buying a single-family home. There is an extra layer of due diligence that is required on the home buyer’s part to ensure they are buying a great unit in a sound complex.
Buying a Massachusetts condominium can be a great choice for the right person. Just be aware of what you are getting into.
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Buy A Condo | A Guide to Buying A Condo In Massachusetts was written by Kevin Vitali of EXIT Realty. Kevin has the experience to help you successfully buy a Massachusetts Condo. Call Kevin at 978-360-0422.