Buying a Condo in Santa Monica

By: Simon Salloom

Things To Think About When Buying A Condo
Condominiums have made homeownership affordable for many people. This is particularly the case on the Westside of Los Angeles, where theprices of single family residences are prohibitive to even the mostwell heeled professionals. There are however many things to considerwhen buying a condo in these areas:

Earthquake Insurance:
Approximately half of all condominium andtownhouse buildings on the Westside have earthquake insurance included in the homeowner's dues.

Pros:
This protects the owners from having to come up with funds to payfor repairs, should an earthquake occur. Price of construction per square foot in Santa Monica, Brentwood and other Westside neighborhoods can be anywhere from $150-300. This makes a complete rebuild on a 1000sf condo at the very least $150,000 up to $300,000. Often the insurance provides funds for replacement housing shouldthe homeowners need to move out during reconstruction.
Some, not many, buildings were completely torn down and rebuiltafter the Northridge Earthquake in 1994. So no matter what thedeductible, these buildings were happy to have had earthquakeinsurance.

Cons:
Earthquake insurance can be very costly. Premiums tend to besignificantly higher for buildings that are looking for new coverageas opposed to buildings who signed on for coverage 20 years ago. The deductibles can be upwards of $250 -500,000, much higher thanwhat most buildings in Santa Monica suffered during the NorthridgeEarthquake in 1994. Personal Assessment Insurance can be had for a maximum of $50,000per condominium. You would be covered in an instance where your 10unit condo building had $500,000 worth of damage.

The federal government often supplies subsidized loans at very lowinterest rates for disaster victims.Many buildings in Santa Monica had to go through years of courtaction before their insurance providers would give them the financialassistance that was owed to them

Earthquake Insurance FAQ's:
All of the units in a condo building need to subscribe to theEarthquake Insurance policy. Coverage cannot be given to units on anindividual basis.
Pet Policy:
Most condominium buildings have a restriction on pet size. Smallerbuilding and townhouse buildings tend to be more liberal while largebuildings are more conservative.
Pet size restrictions tend to be by poundage and number of petlimits. The most common is two dogs or cats under 20lbs each. Otherbuildings have 30 and 40lb limits. The average Labrador is over 40lbs.

If you have a pet or plan on getting one make sure you read theCC&R's on pet restrictions. The CC&R's are the rules that govern theHomeowners Association.

Pet Policy FAQ's:
If a homeowner breaks the rules with regards to pet size or numberthe pet will be mandated to leave the building. If the pet does notleave the HOA can place liens on the property and or force courtaction to have either you or your pet forbidden entry.

Amenities:
Many people enjoy the idea of amenities such as pools, sauna, 24hour guard gated access. For many residents of these buildings theseamenities never become truly valuable. There are thousands ofresidents of local condo buildings who use the building pool aboutonce a year. Additionally, in Santa Monica and Brentwood there aremany local gyms that do a better job of motivating you. So, if you aregoing to buy in a building with amenities, and therefore higherhomeowners dues and purchase prices, make sure you are going to take full advantage of them.

I should also mention that if you are looking to live in a luxurybuilding; say an ocean view condominium on Ocean Avenue, none of the above applies. You are going to have amenities whether you like them or not and enjoy using or not using every minute of them.

Reserves:
After the Homeowners Dues are collected and used to pay debits tothe different vendors the left over money is put into reserves for thebuilding. Funds from the reserves can be used in case the buildingneeds a new roof or upgrades to the hallways and common areas.

Difference between a Condo and a Co-op:
In a condominium, the owner owns the space inside the wallsindividually and the common areas collectively as part of a group. Itis a pure form of homeownership, with the same rights andresponsibilities of a single family home. A co-op is owned by acooperative that issues shares to the building and the right to occupya given unit. As the owner, you own shares in the building not thespace inside the walls. Your right to occupy a particular section ofthe building is usually issued via a lease term that renews everyfifty years or so. About 95% of the multi-unit inventory in LosAngeles (Brentwood) and Santa Monica is condos. In New York City the majority of units are co-ops. The difference between buying a condo or a co-op in Santa Monica and Los Angeles is that buyers of co-ops tend to have less financing options available to them. You also have to be "approved" by the board. Here on the Westside the boards are pretty liberal in contrast to the stories you might have heard about New York City co-op boards.

Difference between a Townhouse and a Condo:
In Santa Monica and the other neighborhoods of the Westside of LosAngeles, people refer to single story residences as condos and double or triple story residences as townhouses. These are both condominiums in the legal sense of the term.

Simon Salloom is a Realtor with Coldwell Banker who specializes in Santa Monica Real Estate.Click here to learn more about Santa Monica Real Estate

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