What To Focus on During the Condo Document Review?

If you’re buying a property which is part of a condo, homeowners (HOA) or coop association, at some point before closing, you’ll be given an opportunity to review the resale packet for that association. Colloquially, the packet is often referred to as “condo docs”.

These can be quite substantial. I’ve seen packets weight in at more than 300 pages. A lot of it is boilerplate legal incorporation papers, etc. But some can be quite important.

What’s the Condo Document Review?

If there’s anything in the packet you can’t live with, you have the choice to get out of the contract without penalty.

That’s why most sellers try to deliver the resale packet very soon after contract ratification. Sometimes they even have it ready to go when the listing goes live. So don’t be surprised if you get a sizable volume with your fully signed contract.

The problem is that you only have a limited amount of time to review this real-estate Moby Dick before the right to void goes away.

These are the deadline for resale transactions (buying used from an individual rather than brand-new from a developer). The new construction deadlines are generally longer, contact me for details.

  • Virginia: 3 calendar days;
  • DC: 3 work days (based on the federal government’s schedule);
  • Maryland: 7 calendar days.

I always advise my clients to review the packet in its entirety, but if that’s just not possible, I’d personally focus on these areas.

Rules & Regulations

These will govern anything from guest parking to pets to renovation projects. Do you see anything overly restrictive? Most of the rules have come about for a good reason. They’re meant to help everyone enjoy their home in peace, but sometimes they go too far.

Some associations have limits on how many rental units there can be at any one time. If you plan on renting the property out in the future, this could be a problem.

Financials

The packet will contain several financial statements. Not everyone knows how to read these, so it may be a good idea to seek outside counsel. Essentially you want to make sure the association is in good financial health.

Reserve Study

Every community will have long-term maintenance and upgrade needs. Elevators have to be replaced, parking lots repaved, etc. The reserve study identifies these areas and provides an estimate of the necessary funds.

There should be a clear indication within the study whether the association is adequately capitalized to meet these future obligations or not. Obviously the latter is not a good thing. It probably means the association dues will be increasing or a special assessment may be on the way.

Board Minutes

These aren’t always provided, but if they are, I’d spend some time reviewing them. Are there any issues that keep coming up during the board meetings? Bad neighbors, maintenance, potential lawsuits, safety concerns?

Master Insurance

This will be checked by your lender anyway, but it’s not a bad idea to take a look yourself. Is the policy current? Does it seem to provide enough coverage given the size of the community?

Don’t Throw These Away!

One thing to keep in mind: the resale packet is the seller’s property until the transaction closes. If for some reason the contract falls through, the seller could ask you to return the condo docs. And they can be expensive to replace, usually several hundred dollars.

So resist the bonfire temptation until after settlement. Though I’d rather keep the packet for easy reference down the road.

Hopefully this post shed some light on the condo document review. Should you have more questions, don’t hesitate to contact me below:

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