First Visit: How to Check Out the Condo Building

Classic staircaseWhen looking for a condo for the first time, there’s a lot to consider. You may not know where to start. In fact, you need to check things out before you even set a foot inside the unit for sale.

Learn about the neighborhood. Walk around the block and see if you would be happy living in the area. How is access to the type transportation that you’ll need daily? Are there stores and services you’d use nearby? Does it look safe? Do the other buildings on the block look well-kept or run-down?

When you do arrive, the exterior is important. And not just for aesthetic and curb-appeal reasons. Remember that when you buy a condo, you’ll be part of an Association that owns and is responsible for the upkeep of the exterior of the building, as well as all common areas.

Look at the lawn (if there is one). Is it well maintained? Inviting? What about the façade of the building? Does it look fresh and updated? Or do you notice peeling paint? Is the brickwork crumbling? These aren’t just cosmetic considerations. If the Association neglects to take care of a roof with missing shingles, or a façade that needs pointing (repairing damaged brick and mortar), these can lead to serious structural problems. Eventually these types of issues will damage your unit and  drag down your resale price, or will result in everyone in the building paying a special assessment for much larger repairs.

Are there any business units in the building? A few nice stores downstairs not only add to the building’s convenience, but are also paying rent. If the building is in a prime retail location, this income can significantly lower your maintenance payments. Caveat: a food service business, be it a restaurant or a grocery store, brings noise and can attract mice and other vermin.

Pay attention to the entry and the hallways. Is the door securely locked if there is no doorman? Are the entry and hallway areas clean and well lit? What about the elevator? Does it work? Do you feel comfortable riding it? If the building is a walk-up, are the stairs and guardrails in good condition?

How is the building’s staff treating you? If there is a doorman, is he acting in a professional, courteous manner or is he on his cell phone while sneaking a cigarette around the corner? If you need to see the super, is he helpful and knowledgeable? These people will be an important part of your everyday experience in the building, and will be the first impression your guests get.

Keep your eye on the future. Since this is your first condo, you’re likely to move again in a few years. Therefore, appearances are important, and you need to think how the neighborhood and building would impress a future buyer, since you’ll eventually want to sell.

The next step in your first visit is checking out the actual unit for sale.

Author My First Apartment
Alex Starace

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Alex Starace and his wife own a condo in Chicago. Alex enjoys basketball, biking and jazz. His writing also appears regularly in My First Apartment, South Florida Opulence and TriQuarterly.

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