As I work with Buyers everyday, one question often comes up when looking at condominiums….Is Condo Living Maintenance Free? Well yes….sort of.
What Do You Have to Maintain in a Condominium?
Living in a condominium gives you freedom from most outside work associated with a single family home. In other words, no lawn mowing, trimming the shrubs, pressure washing the driveway and such. You also don’t have to worry about the roof since it is on the of the building, and most likely NOT on top of your particular condo (unless you DO live on the top floor) but it still is a responsibility of the home owner’s association. (HOA)
But most of the systems that service your condominium are your responsibility. What are these key systems?
Heating and Air Conditioning System
Newer buildings will have self-contained systems located in your utility closet INSIDE your condo. But most buildings you will have a separate heat-pump or condensing unit. And there is a good chance it is on the roof of the building. You are responsible for the maintenance and operation of this system. Yes, even with your unit on the roof, you have to maintain that. I often find (mainly during a home inspection when working with a Buyer) that the unit on the roof has seen very little attention. While they should not get very dirty with little exposure to dirt, the insulation that wraps the lines is most often found in the condition you see in the photo on the left. And it’s almost always an issue I ask to have addressed by the Seller. (If they have not paid attention to THIS, they have most likely NOT had the HVAC system serviced anytime recently.
And I’ve had the extreme the other way on the INSIDE of a condo. I took over a unit that had been rented and helped an out-of-town seller get the place ready to sell. It was dirty beyond dirty could BE dirty. The photo on the right is the fan from inside the air handler in the condo. It’s amazing the unit could even operate!
Hot Water Heater
Again, when working with Buyer’s, we keep an eye on the age of systems. ( I might note the new Seller’s Disclosure Statement DOES NOT have a blank for the Seller to enter the age of the hot water heater!) Hot water heaters can last a long time….but…10 years is their normal life span….and that is when they are “maintained.” Did you know that you should drain your hot water heater and refill it? Once a year? Who has a garden hose in a condo, right? So this service is never done, and can lead to a shorter life span! And replacing a hot water heater is no cheap trick! So, if you live in a building that is 10 years old….or older, you might want to be on the lookout for a request to pay for a home warranty for the Buyer.
This should be pretty easy, right? Hmmm. I’ve had a rental condo where a tenant did not realize the kitchen sink was leaking until it FINALLY went through the ceiling into the condo below. Not to mention the damage to the kitchen cabinet under the sink, AND the hardwood floors. Moral of that story…look under your kitchen (AND BATHROOM(s) sink every month. Takes you but 5 minutes to make sure all is well, versus hundreds or even thousands of dollars in damage. And make sure if you are ever having any renovations done, that the contractor is insured, the plans have been approved by the Architectural Review Board and you have insurance as well. A water “event” in a condo building is a serious matter!
Washer, Dryer, Stove, Dishwasher, Refrigerator, Microwave….these are ALL inside your condominium, and are YOUR responsibility. A leaky connection on a washer can be hard to find in some of the tight laundry closets in most condos, so just keep an eye open. Same goes for a dishwasher that may leak. And a word to the wise….never leave your condo and leave a washer or dishwasher running unattended!!!
Is Condo Living Maintenance Free? So you don’t have a basement, or a garage or all that stuff to worry about. And most of this stuff is pretty simple and easy. Just have an annual maintenance contract on your HVAC, and consider a home warranty that will help defray the costs of repairs/replacement of the other items!