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Smart Moves: Condos and condon'ts for urban buyers

Besides the lifestyle advantages of condo ownership, many young professionals, who typically have few tax advantages available to them, look forward to a mortgage interest deduction.
Published: February 8, 2014

You shouldn’t rule out a building solely because it has retail outlets on the ground level. But be cautious about accepting any place with one or more retail vacancies.

•Seek out a building where noise is unlikely to be a problem.

Did you grow up in a single-family house, where, for example, you could throw a party or play a saxophone without arousing neighbors’ complaints? If so, you may not realize how problematic the issue of noise in a condo building with poor soundproofing can be.

“If the walls are thin, this can really limit your life. It’s unpleasant to have someone next door pounding on your wall just because you’re watching a movie or have loud friends over to see a game. Likewise, you don’t want to suffer through your neighbors’ noisy parties,” Early said.

•Request documents that give you an in-depth look at a building.

Because they live in close quarters, condo dwellers have to abide by homeowner association rules, which can be very restrictive. That’s why Early recommends that potential condo buyers obtain a copy of these rules before they commit to a unit. Also, Meyer encourages you to obtain a copy of the minutes of recent condo association board meetings.

“You’re entitled to have these documents, which tell you about the association’s finances and whether an increase in fees is expected soon. You can also find out if you’d be likely to soon be hit with special assessments for such capital projects as a new roof or elevators,” Meyer said.

•Don’t skip a home inspection.

Many condo buyers have the impression that they don’t need a professional inspection before buying a unit. But Early said it’s important that all condo buyers hire a skilled home inspector before committing to a purchase. He recommends they find the name of a local inspector through the website of the American Society of Home Inspectors (

“Make sure your inspector checks more than just the interior of the condo you’d like to buy. He should look also over the entire building to make sure its plumbing, electrical and fire-suppression systems are all in good working condition,” Early said.

To contact Ellen James Martin, email her at



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