One of the advantages of a condo or townhouse lifestyle is the low maintenance. Homeowners aren't generally responsible for maintaining the exterior of the structure, roof, landscaping, garage doors, etc. However, owning a condo or townhouse isn't "maintenance free".
Home repairs often come without warning – the hot water tank or an appliance fails, the plumbing leaks, etc. With a condominium, its important to know what elements of the home are the responsibility of the owner to maintain and which fall under the responsibility of the homeowner association. (This information is disclosed in the Covenants, Conditions & Restrictions – CC&RS – which are part of the resale certificate every buyer receives.) There are ways you can avoid maintenance surprises:
- Have a structural inspection. The inspector will provide information on whether a system or appliance is in good working order, is older and has a limited life span or is on its last legs. If an appliance, furnace, mechanical feature, etc. is not in working order, a buyer can request that the seller replace or repair the item prior to closing.
- Purchase a home warranty. The annual cost is $400+- and, like car insurance, there will be a deductible, but if a major appliance or system fails a warranty may cover a large percentage of the repair or replacement bill. Home warranties aren't just for new purchases. A warranty can be purchased at any time by an existing owner.
Purchasing a home is expensive. The costs for the down payment, closing costs, moving expenses, etc. add up quickly. The last thing a new owner needs is an unexpected repair bill. Be aware of the expected lifespan of all the elements in the home and, if purchasing a condominium, know what elements the homeowner and the homeowner association are responsible for maintaining/replacing. Its wise to set aside a budgeted amount monthly for emergency home repairs or purchase a home warranty. Emergency home repairs are never convenient and are always more expensive than expected. Be prepared.