Sunday, September 27, 2009

Be Wary of Buying Condos in this Market

Those great looking foreclosure deals on condos may turn out to be a trap for unsuspecting homebuyers.


There are a lot of apparently great foreclosure deals on condominiums on the market right now, but you definitely want to do your homework before buying Condo one.
Attached condos (those sharing at least one wall) in most areas of the country have lost a higher percentage of value than single-family houses. Worse, that trend is expected to continue, probably even get worse.
Why are condos losing value faster than stand-alone homes?
When a condo owner starts getting behind on their mortgage, they usually also stop paying their Home Owner Association (HOA) dues. If enough owners fall behind on their HOA dues, the association has to cut back on their budget, which could affect the upkeep of the common areas. As the problem gets worse, maintenance can be affected and even major projects like roof repair put off. Depending on the association’s reserve funds, they may be forced to raise HOA dues for the rest of the condo owners.
All of these issues will push the value of all condos in the complex lower. Who wants to buy a condo in a crappy looking building? How great of a deal is a condo for $50,000 if the association fee is soon doubling from $150 a month to $300?
These problems will only get worse as the associations get further behind on their expenses because of owners not paying their monthly fees. InMaison-Grande-2 July a condo association in Florida was forced into bankruptcy due to unpaid HOA dues. Many more associations around the country are expected to soon follow. Bankruptcy won’t be an easy solution though, as associations have really no hard assets to sell and no way to go after delinquent HOA dues.
One more issue will have a huge affect on condo values – when more than 15% of owners fall behind on their HOA dues, FNMA, FHLMC & FHA will no longer allow mortgages on the units in the condo complex. When that happens the only way for a condo owner to sell will be to an all cash buyer – driving prices down even further.
If you plan on owning a condo until the market turns around and can afford to absorb higher and higher association fees, then go ahead and buy a condo. Otherwise, I highly recommend doing a lot of due diligence on the condo association’s budget and reserves before buying.


  1. Drew, Great point that many are missing. I'll also add that as the price point drops and investors come in for deals the number of investment or rentals goes up and that will start effecting ownership/investor concentration making agency lending more difficult. Every opportunity has many facets. Ray Webber

  2. Condos are rarely as marketable single family residences. I remember years ago a friend bought a condo in Stamford, CT at the same time I bought a single family home also in Stamford. I sold my house the day it went on the market and his condo sat for over a year before he could sell it.