According to several reports, 2008 may be the year to buy into the sunshine state of Florida. Approximately 35,000 new condo units are either completed or about to be completed and so far the number of units sold is down 29% from last year.
If you have toyed with the idea of being a condo owner and moving into the relaxed yet stimulating areas in Florida, now is surely the time to make your move.
Understanding how the Home Owners Associations (HOA) works in each condo unit is an important, and often a previously unknown, part of the lifestyle when buyers first move in.
For many new condo owners, the thought of having someone to upkeep and repair most parts of your home is a dream come true. Husbands can relax and not have to keep checking their sweetie’s ‘to do’ list, and women living alone can rest assured that the maintenance needs of their home will be taken care of.
To a new condo owner, the fact that the grass will be magically cut and the pH balance in the pool will always be correct without them worrying is enough to stop any further questions.
However, while an efficient HOA can be blissful, one that is inefficiently or unfairly run can be a source of discontent.
Asking a few established condo owners in the unit about the HOA may help to eradicate some doubts. From experience they will be able to tell you whether or not rules are enforced or whether there is a weak board running the HOA.
It is only when things go wrong that we start asking how the rules are interpreted, etc. For instance, the term “unreasonable” is used often in the clause about noise.
Unreasonable noise will not be tolerated between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. Perhaps the interpretation is different between the man who has a new motorbike and leaves for work everyday at 5.30 and the retiree who wants to sleep past six o’clock.
It seems reasonable that you should be able to use your own vehicle to get to work. It also seems reasonable to expect to be able to sleep in a little when you are retired. Who decides? Is there a board that will deal with this, or is it something you have to work out for yourselves?
Another area for mediation is replacements. It is obvious when the pool pump stops working or the fencing falls over, but what happens when the common area carpet gets worn? Who decides, and how is it decided that this needs replacing?
There is such a thing as the field of Reserve Studies, and they split the maintenance and repair situations into five categories. These are:
Benign: This would include the clubhouse trash compactor – it can wait.
Catastrophic: Such as the elevators – these should be replaced before breakdown.
Obsolescence: Old fashioned decor in the entrance hall – low priority as still functional.
Regular: Paintwork and wood sealants – must be regularly attended to in order to keep costs down.
Watch and decide: fence posts that may last longer if the weather is mild – this type of thing must be an ongoing observation item.
Armed with this type of information about categorizing, HOA board members would have an easier task. Of course, one way to ensure that rules are strictly adhered to and fairness is meted out to all members is to become a new board member yourself.