Whether you are purchasing a vacation condo or making South Florida your permanent home, there are a few tips and tricks you should use to help make the condo buying decision easy and stress-free. Contrary to what many believe, purchasing a home and purchasing a condo have very different steps and stipulations. Prepare yourself for the process by being proactive in choosing the perfect location, considering the age of the unit and taking a close look at the financial health of the condo association to ensure that you won’t be hit with costly and unexpected issues.
Here are just a few South Florida condo-buying tips to help you find your dream condo.
Take a close look at the health of the association just as closely as you do the unit itself. Associations should have reserve funds to maintain the parking lots, roofs, painting and other maintenance items. If there are not enough funds to pay for the repairs, it would require a loan to the association which would be paid in monthly installments or a special assessment where all owners would have to pay their portion of the repair upfront. You should take this monthly condo association fee into consideration when planning to budget for your new home. If the association is not financially healthy, you will need to prepare to pay for unexpected expenses out of your own budget.
The style of the building in which your condo is located in can impact your financial costs over time. Garden-style buildings have lower maintenance costs than towers. Multi-story buildings and towers have elevated costs associated with maintaining the elevator systems. The number of units and the size of the units within the association will also affect your maintenance dues. A larger number of smaller units divide the fees up between more people, lowering the cost than if you had a smaller amount of units with larger floor plans.
Depending on the exact location in South Florida, the cost of insurance varies. Research insurance costs and availability before signing the contract for your new condo. Beaches that are located on barrier islands offer additional challenges to obtain traditional all-perils insurance policies for both the association and the condo owner.
If you want to purchase a condo on the beach, you’ll need to consider the quality of the sand, the condition of the natural elements such as the dunes, and the width of the beach. Beach erosion is a common problem in Florida, especially after hurricanes and tropical storms hit. Take a deep dive into the history of the beach erosion and maintenance in the area you are looking to purchase your condo in. You certainly don’t want to purchase a condo on a beach that is eroding or isn’t properly maintained.
Financing a condo is not the same as financing a single-family residence. While it’s critical to get approved for a loan whether buying a condo or a house, obtaining financing can be trickier for a condo purchase, because many lenders don’t allow purchases of condos. Many condos are purchased with cash because of the regulations lenders and programs place. If you are looking to get an FHA loan, you’ll need to first make sure the condo community is on FHA’s approved list of communities. FHA typically requires that 80% of the units in the building are owner-occupied, so before you have your heart set on a property, double-check that it is on the approved list.
You can also obtain a private mortgage to purchase the condo, but this comes at a much higher price tag since many private lenders require a minimum of 20% down payment.
In many condo communities in South Florida, there is a monthly, bi-annual or annual fee that each resident must pay. These fees are used to cover common expenses like maintenance and the insurance. You’ll want to ensure that the community has enough reserve funds in the event that a major repair is needed. The association fees can impact whether a buyer can budget for the condo as well, when seeking a loan, the lender is going to add the association fee into the monthly debts of the buyer.
It is also important that you know what your association fees include. The fees generally include insurance and maintenance, but make sure you about any exclusion that may apply. Association fees also commonly include landscaping, water, lawn maintenance, trash pickup, etc.
If the condo community offers amenities such as a tennis court, fitness center, clubhouse or pool, these may be kept up using part of the association fee. If these types of amenities aren’t something you would utilize, be mindful that you are still paying for these amenities.
Know About Special Assessments
A special assessment is a large fee that is charged to help pay for a significant project within the condo community, such as a structural repair. These special assessments can raise your association fees for a certain period of time.
Typical Condo Amenities in South Florida:
Southwest Florida Condo Communities
Vanderbilt Beach – The area of Vanderbilt Beach goes from Vanderbilt Drive to the Ritz-Carlton on the south to Delnor Wiggins State Park to the North. There are beautiful waterfront properties throughout the community offering some of the most stunning water views.
Sterling Oaks – Sterling Oaks is a gated resort community consisting of 745 homes and condos. The community offers an optional tennis membership. It is located in North Naples, just four minutes from the stunning gulf beaches. The community features a clubhouse, pool, spa, tiki bar, and 12 lighted tennis courts.
Barefoot Beach – Barefoot Beach is one of the most exclusive beachfront condo communities in Florida. The luxury condos exude tropical charm and offer the best Florida waterfront living. Barefoot Beach is accessed through Bonita Springs and offers numerous shopping destinations, restaurants and entertainment. Prices in this community range from $1.5 million to $6+ million.
Coconut Shores – This upscale, gated community consists of just 168 condos, villas and coach homes, offering buyers a wide array of home styles to choose from. This community is the essence of Southwest Florida living.
Waterside at Bay Beach – This high-rise, luxury, gated condo community in Fort Myers Beach features seven towers on the waters of Estero Bay. The community offers sweeping views of the sunrises over Estero Bay and the sunsets over the Gulf of Mexico. Residents love the private pathway leading directly to Fort Myers Beach and the marina with 42 deep-water boat slips that can be leased or purchased. The residents also have access to the Fort Myers Beach Club.
Villages at Country Creek – This community has condos, houses and villas in a broad price range, offering a great selection of homes to choose from. The county club community has an executive 18-hole golf course and membership is included with your home purchase.
Benefits of Condo Living in Southwest Florida
Buying a condo is very different than purchasing a home, but it does have its benefits. In South Florida, condos can offer you incredible ocean views, top-notch amenities, and plenty of different floor plans to choose from to fit you and your family’s wants and needs. After you have chosen a specific community and researched all of the ins and outs of the fees and insurance costs the association may require, you will be prepared to purchase a condo in South Florida – and don’t worry, the team at Barry DeNicola will be there to help you every step of the way.
Interested in buying a condo in Southwest Florida? Contact the team at Barry DeNicola Realty to get started on finding your dream property. To find out what your current home is worth, fill out our questionnaire for a free appraisal. To take a look at current properties available, check out our listings. We are excited to partner with you in finding the property you’ve always dreamed of in a place we know you will love to call home.