5 Tips for Buyers to Determine the Quality of a Condo

By: Jeff Hammerberg

Even if you aren't technically trained, there are easy ways to judge the quality of condo construction. Book an appointment to view the property and bring along a flashlight, a 'night light', and a golf ball. Then follow these five simple tips:

#1 Test the Major Appliances and Heating/AC Units

When you arrive at the condo, begin by testing the heating and air conditioning systems. Turn on the oven and the heat. If you're viewing the property in winter, you may prefer to turn off the heat and crank up the air conditioning. As you tour the condo, these systems will have time to boot-up and prove their worth, and if they aren't functioning properly you'll be able to detect it within 10 or 15 minutes. Make sure that heat or air conditioning is delivered to every part of the condo, and that the oven heats up in a timely manner. Just be sure to turn everything off or back to the original settings before you leave.

#2 Check the Plumbing and Electrical Systems

As you walk from room to room, check the plumbing by briefly turning on the various taps and watching to see if the water pressure is sufficient and if drainage is fast. Slow drains may just need cleaning to remove clogs, but lack of pressure in any building - or sluggishness in a brand new condo - may mean that the plumbing system is inadequate.

Turn on lights in every room, and use the 'night light' you brought to test the wall outlets. If you plug it in and it doesn't light up, the outlet is probably dead. Any outlet near water - such as in the kitchen and bathrooms - should be the special kind that interrupts the flow of electricity in the event of a power surge. If the condo does not have them it needs upgrading. Three-prong outlets are important for rooms where you will operate computers and small appliances, so survey the condo to determine if those are present in sufficient numbers.

#3 Check the Walls, Ceilings, and Floors
Examine the ceilings and walls, using your flashlight, and look for spots where there may have been leaks or patch repairs. Study the areas around door and window frames and in the corners of the room for splits, cracks, or gaps. If the walls appear bowed or the lines where the walls and floor or walls and ceiling meet seem off-kilter, that may be a sign of warping or sloppy framing.
Put the golf ball you brought in the middle of a bare floor. If it rolls to the other side of the room, the floor is tilted. Test the doors to see if they automatically open or close all by themselves, which is another confirmation that the construction is askew. If, on the other hand, your golf ball or door stays where you left it, the room is probably level and balanced.
#4 Read the Property Offering, Disclosures, or Minutes of the Condo Association Meetings
Read the descriptions in the property offering for new condos, or the minutes of association meetings for existing properties. The amenities itemized in the offering should match what you see in the condo, and this includes the brands of appliances as well as the quality of any features such as flooring or counter tops.
If the condo is an older one, then study the minutes of the condo association meetings and look for mentions of repairs or service calls to the property. Repeated repairs may be a red flag, or it could simply indicate a responsive and responsible association, but you will need to investigate further to find out for yourself.
Study any official disclosures, and beware of buying a condo that has had previous problems with flooding, fire, environmental hazards, or other catastrophic scenarios.
#5 Do Some Fact Checking of Your Own
To find out what kind of quality you are getting for your money, make a few phone calls. If the builder touts a particular brand of insulated windows or hardwood flooring planks, for example, call the local distributors and find out how much they sell those particular items for, and then tally up how much you're paying versus how much the builder is delivering.
You might discover that so-called top-of-the-line products used in the construction of the condo are actually cheap and inferior. Or you could be pleasantly surprised to learn that you are getting excellent materials for a discounted price because your builder has more buying power than you do and negotiated a good deal for your benefit.

Before buying any home, you should always hire a licensed and qualified inspector to provide you with a full professional report on the condition of the property. But the above tips will save you time while you do your preliminary shopping to narrow down your condo selection.

Whether you're buying, selling, or refinancing, contact the professionals at http://www.GayMortgageLoans.com and http://www.GayRealEstate.com. Or call toll-free at 1-888-420-MOVE (6683). The entire network is comprised of experts dedicated to the GLBT community.

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