When it comes to buying or selling a condo, many of the top items on our checklists—location, number of bedrooms/baths, layout, safety, parking, overall appeal—don’t vary that much from those used when searching for a traditional home. But while there are plenty of similarities, there are a few key differences. We spoke with realtors who specialize in marketing condominiums, as well as a home staging firm, to determine what buyers and sellers should consider.
IF YOU ARE SELLING…
Enthusiastic condo dwellers might say it’s all about the “lock and go” aspect, while others might cite the view as their top reason for loving their condo. But let’s consider some design strategies to help present the condo interior in the best light.
SET THE STAGE
Neutrality in both the coloring and the style of the interior finishes, the paint colors, and the furniture is a strong selling strategy. If the condo needs painting, Jo Potvin and Lisa Mellott with Design to Market select on-trend colors while still considering the style and finishes. White for the walls and trim is trending now and this works well as a backdrop for featuring artwork and signature pieces of furniture.
Finding a way to present an extra bedroom as versatile is another strong selling strategy. Featuring one as an office with a couch bed gives prospective buyers the idea that the room could double its function. Other dual-functional ideas for an extra bedroom include a TV room, a workout center, a crafting area, or a library/reading room. Plus, since storage is often at a premium in a condo, adding a closet organizational system would be another attractive benefit for a prospective buyer.
KITCHENS ARE ALWAYS IMPORTANT
Similar to single-family homes, spending money on the kitchen is one of the biggest ways to improve the condo for resale, says Mike Meyer, realtor at Irongate, Inc. in the Dayton area. Often in condos, the kitchens are open to the living area. Because of its visibility, this room should be furnished with higher-end cabinetry, countertop materials, backsplashes, and perhaps even paneled appliances. Efficient and creative storage options are always a plus.
Should the condo be on the small side, according to Design To Market, there may not be space for a table and chairs for dining. If there is an island, with an overhang, be sure to have stools to show seating for dining.
IF YOU ARE BUYING…
“I always recommend a prospective buyer ask for and read the past 12 months of the condo association’s meeting minutes,” says Maria Walley, realtor with Comey and Shepherd. “Any issues that are important will be in the minutes.”
Capital improvement projects, cyclical assessments triggering additional investments are all critical issues that the new buyer should understand before purchasing. For the seller, becoming involved with the condo association is a great way to understand and to help mitigate these extra investments as they come to the surface.
If you have a pet, make sure animals are allowed in the building. Walley says that this may limit options when purchasing. She also suggests, that if pets are not allowed, sellers work with their building’s board to try and amend this clause. This change would greatly widen sales opportunities.
OPTIONS FOR UPGRADING
Should you be considering purchasing a condo that you feel needs to be remodeled, realize that expansive renovations could be challenging. As soon as there are more than three condos connected to each other, the entire overall structure becomes a commercial building in light of local building codes. Renovating a condo building is therefore subject to a commercial building permit rather than a much simpler residential permit.
Permeating the demising walls, (the partition walls that separate one tenant’s space from another tenant’s space or from the building’s common areas) ceilings, and floors must be carefully regulated because the safety and integrity of the sum of all condos together in the one structure needs to be preserved. Moving walls, updating the HVAC, rearranging plumbing fixtures, and even updating the electrical systems are examples of renovations that all require a building permit.
Plus, permits aside, there are physical limitations when it comes to remodeling. For example, should you want to reconfigure a bathroom, Walley says, moving a toilet might not really be possible if the floors are made of concrete. Also, all renovations need to be handled within the parameters set by the building’s board—timing, elevator access, noise regulations and more will need to be addressed.
The variety among condos is wide—from high-rises downtown to smaller communities on the fringes of a city. Regardless of the location, common desired features include dedicated parking spaces, extra storage options, community rooms, pools, workout rooms, additional guest quarters, and even community herb gardens. Sound attenuation and safety features may vary. Quieter buildings tend to be constructed of concrete and door attendants may add an extra level of security.
ON THE FINANCIAL END
HOA or association fees can vary widely, and as Walley suggested earlier, you want to have an understanding of what the association will cover and its funding history.
“Yes, there are association fees,” Meyer says, “But it is worthwhile to afford the convenience to have additional down time to relax. You also empower the community board to make sure that standards of continuity and upkeep are met.”
Walley adds that many of the newer condo buildings provide tax abatements as extra perks. Depending on the specific abatement, this could reduce costs for more than a decade. Also, she says, should you fall in love with a particular location, but can’t afford a specific unit, keep in mind that even within a single building, prices could vary greatly depending on the particular floor plan and its location within the building.
THE DEMAND CONTINUES
As housing shortages continue, we can expect to continue to see more and more condominium buildings on the rise. There has also been a shift to living closer to downtown areas, making condo living an appealing option. Regardless of whether the location is city or suburb, finding ways to feature any particular condo in its best light is key to a quick sale.
Article by Stephanie Aurora Lewis
Article originally appeared in November 2022