Monday, June 16, 2014

Construction Cranes are going up but would you buy a new condo?



We've all seen the construction cranes going up, now the data confirms our suspicions. According to Cranespotters.com, there are 247 South Florida condominium projects in the works. Condominium sales currently make up half the home sales in South Florida. This trend of renewed condominium construction is not confined to our geographic area but is being seen throughout the U.S., particularly in Boston, Seattle, LA, Houston, New York City and San Francisco.

Many industry experts see this period as the early stage of a long-term recovery in the condominium market. South Florida developers with whom I have spoken expect the bulk of these units to be purchased by foreigners and, to a lesser extent, local empty nesters who are looking to downsize and transition to a more urban and convenient lifestyle. Let's face it, if you want a certain location combined with a relatively maintenance-free lifestyle, single family home ownership is not likely to meet those goals. A single family home on or near the beach is going to cost a lot more than a condominium unit and require extensive upkeep.



With this flurry of condominium construction surrounding us, it does raise the question of whether or not the intended purchasers of these units will be happy long-term with their choice. One way to ensure that your housing purchase remains a good fit is to do your due diligence ahead of time.

Certainly, you need to read the governing documents and association policies thoroughly and ask yourself if any of the restrictions currently impact your lifestyle or could do so in the future. Attending a condo class or hiring an association attorney to give you an overview of what items in your association documents could change over time is also not a bad idea.

However, there are some things that are typically out of your control no matter how much deliberation and planning go into your condominium purchase. Why? Because the game changes after you transition from developer control.  For example, you will probably not know:

-Who will sit on the board of directors after the community transitions from developer control.
-Whether or not a chronic smoker will move in next door.
-Whether or not that required soundproofing material was installed in the unit above yours.
-Whether or not the developer will deliver a structurally sound and defect-free community.
-Whether or not the assessments you are paying while the developer is in control will go up a little or a lot (assume the latter).
-Whether or not the developer has left the association's coffers financially sound.
-Whether or not you or a neighbor will need a service animal or emotional support animal at some point.
-Whether or not you will be outvoted on most matters in the future including amendments to the documents, funding reserves and material alterations to the common elements.

For condominium purchasers, a cost/benefit analysis is in order along with a leap of faith. Know that some things are entirely in your control including your choice to either be part of the solution or part of the problem.

As for the developers who have such high hopes for their new projects, they would be well advised to start taking into account the long-term comfort and peace of mind of their purchasers by creating certain safeguards (both in the documents and structurally) to ensure that the condominium lifestyle choice remains a popular one for many people. There are ways to better insulate units from secondhand smoke and  noise but tight budgets are often earmarked for bells and whistles that can be seen and not more mundane items.

So, will I ever leave my suburban home and delve into the condominium lifestyle? Time will tell but the doctrine of caveat emptor would certainly be forefront in my mind.

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