How to Evaluate a Condo and HOA

There are always more condos than single-family homes available at any given point in time. And condos are the most popular property type in San Francisco, especially for first-time home buyers who want to be in popular, central neighborhoods. But before you rush out and write an offer on one, it’s important to consider the complexity of owning this type of property.

Here’s a quick condo primer that will help you evaluate the fundamentals of a unit and its homeowners association (HOA):

HOA dues: How much are your monthly HOA dues, and what do they cover? Is the total amount in line with buildings of the same scope? Are there any unit owners who are behind on their HOA dues?

HOA reserves: How much does the HOA have on hand in the event a major component of the building needs to be replaced?

Rental capability: What is the restriction on renting your unit, should you decide to move and not want to sell? And how many units in the building are rented?

Affordable housing designations: Is unit resale restricted by any city ordinances, such as affordable housing laws?

Pending litigation: Is the HOA involved in any lawsuits?

Special Assessments: Will there be any future, per-unit charges in addition to the existing HOA dues?

Parking: Is the parking space deeded to the unit, or is it leased separately? Are you able to rent your parking space in the event you want to? Will your car fit in the space?

Pets: What are the number or pound restrictions for pets in each unit? What restrictions exist for pets off leash?

Insurance: Is the insurance policy current? Does it include earthquake insurance? (You’ll know if the HOA dues are substantially higher than usual.)

Renovations: What’s the process required for remodeling any part of your unit? Similarly, did the previous owner complete any renovations, and were they done with permits?

Available Services: Is there a lobby attendant? Fitness center? Common garden or roof deck? HOA lounge? Check out every aspect of the building—even the trash and recycling room.

Move-out Fees: Is there a fee for moving in, and what days/timeframes does the HOA permit moves to take place?

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