Condominiums have become quite ubiquitous since they started being heavily developed in Florida in the 1960’s. They were a new option for retirees who liked the concept of being able to “own an apartment”.
After the condo boom in Florida was successful, developments made their way up the east coast and throughout the country. Today, if you take a ride around any town you will see a number of condos for sale in CT that have been built in varying styles, sizes, price points and demographics.
It’s a way of life that allows for home ownership with shared or common areas of the property for all residents to enjoy. You are able to get more for your money than if you had purchased on your own. Amenities such as swimming pools, club houses, tennis courts etc are now available at a price point that makes them a reality. You also don’t have to worry about exterior maintenance, such as snow removal, cutting grass and raking leaves because you pay a shared monthly payment to have those professionally taken care of.
It’s a great way of life, it’s CONDO LIFE!
It’s not for everyone though. It’s a great decision if you are able to live in a community where your neighbors are also your business partners, for what could be the largest investment of your life, your home. If you don’t play well with others, it might not be for you.
Below, I have included links to current inventory of condos for sale in CT for every single town for you to check out what is currently on the market!
Looking for more information on condos? I will walk you through what you need to know about buying a condo in CT to help you make a decision that is best for you!
When people say they are buying a condo or living in a condo, they typically are referring to the concept of “common interest communities” and apply the term condo very broadly to all of these types of communities. In fact, there are a few different types of common interest communities.
These properties all have different characteristics that set them apart but share one common feature. They all have parts of the property that have shared ownership between the owners in the community. It could be the grounds, roofs, recreational facilities or anything else that is built on the property. You will find out exactly what is common in the declaration, which I will discuss later.
What is individually owned verses what is commonly owned is what defines the property type. Below are the different types of common interest communities and what sets them apart from each other.
While searching the Connecticut MLS or other real estate websites that show condos currently for sale (like this website) you should know that all of the above are typically included when you are searching for the property type ‘condos’. They usually don’t differentiate while searching current listing data.
So why is it important to understand what each type of community you are looking at or going to purchase? Because they all have legal and financial differences that directly impact you. It’s very important to understand what you are spending your hard earned money on and what you are getting yourself into when making such a large purchase.
When trying to decide on purchasing a condo or a single family home, you need to understand what type of lifestyle you are looking to have for yourself and your family. When you own your own single family home, you are ultimately “master of your domain” meaning you set your own rules, as long as you abide by the state and federal laws!
When living in a condo, you must always remember that you have shared ownership and you must abide by the condos rules that have been established. Also, anytime a group of people live, work or play together a certain “culture” develops and you should pay attention to that culture to make sure it fits in with your social norms. In other words, you need to play nice in the sandbox!
The other important distinction that sets apart single family homes and condos is maintenance. When living in a single family home you are responsible for mowing the lawn every week, shoveling the driveway everytime it snows, weeding the flower beds and raking the leaves in the fall. When you own a condo you pay a monthly fee where part of that fee is used to pay for the professional team of contractors who will perform that work for you.
A common objection you will hear single family homeowners say is that they can contract out the maintenance work themselves and find someone to do it cheaper. The advantage of living in a condo is that it is one less thing you have to manage in your life. Which depending on your lifestyle and goals, could be exactly what you are looking for.
Living in a condo certainly has it’s advantages, many of which are common to all forms of home ownership. There is just something special about taking pride in owning your own home. It’s a big part of the American dream and personally I feel that everyone should have the opportunity to become a home owner.
However living in a condo can have is disadvantages and if you are considering buying a condo, you will need to be aware of what some might consider the downsides.
First lets take a look at the advantages of buying a condo.
Whenever there are advantages, there are also some disadvantages to think about as well.
Hopefully the advantages highly outweigh the disadvantages and you will pursue buying a condominium for you next home.
When purchasing a condo, it is critical to understand you will also now be apart of a condo association by default with the purchase of your new home.
Previously, I discussed how a condo is a type of “common interest community” where there are shared parts of the community that is jointly owned by all condo owners. I also discussed how upkeep and maintenance is performed on these areas. In addition, the monthly fees need to be collected to pay for building maintenance, insurance and other costs associated with the community.
I’ll be discussing in more detail in a later section but each condo has developed a set of rules defined in the condos declaration and bylaws, that they want unit owners to abide by. Those rules have to be enforced or modified from time to time to best protect the interests of the community.
So in order for all those things to actually happen, people need to be involved in that decision making process and management of that work. That is where the condo association’s responsibilities come into play.
A condo association is comprised of all unit owners in the complex. However, your involvement in the condo association is completely up to you. It can be as little or as much as you want.
Some unit owners choose to be heavily involved in the operations of the condo and choose to take on leadership roles on what is called the Board of Directors. These positions are elected annually by votes from the associations unit owners and typically have a president, vice president, secretary and treasurer.
The actual roles and responsibilities of the Board of Directors is defined in the condos declaration and bylaws. Which I will be discussing in a later section.
Another group that is part of the condo association are committees. They are specifically formed to assist the Board of Directors and focus on researching various topics that ultimately the Board needs to make a decision on.
Depending on your condo, some committees are mandatory and others are setup on an ad-hoc basis.
All of these roles and responsibilities make up the condo association and the structure is put in place to ensure the needs of the complex are taken care of with the goal of maximizing the overall desirability of the community for the benefit of the unit owners.
Check out the below infographic I created to help you visually understand the structure of the condo association.
Part of the benefits of condo living is enjoying your home without the inconveniences of having to maintain the exterior and grounds of your home. However, this does come at a cost that you will have to pay for. After all, you can’t expect the work to get accomplished without having to pay for it!
Part of the Board of Directors responsibility is to create an operating budget every year. This budget takes a look at the projected expenses for the upcoming year to maintain and manage the condominium complex.
In addition to the expenses, a reserve budget is determined for projected big ticket expenses. Such as parking lot maintenance or roof replacement. These expenses may not be paid out that year and is a “savings account” for condo owners for when the expenses occur.
After the planned expenses and reserve funds are determined by the board, they total them up and divide by the number of units in the complex (or the formula in the declaration) to determine what each owner will pay for condo fees each month.
The amount of fees paid each month will depend on the condo complex you live in and the amenities that are common property in that complex. A complex with a pool, clubhouse and other features will cost more than a complex that has minimal amenities. The condo lifestyle you want determines the amount of condo fees you pay each month.
The condo association uses the funds collected by condo fees to then pay the vendors that they contract with for all the various maintenance jobs that will make your condo look well kept and desirable to live in.
It is important to understand that certain costs associated with living in a condo are tax deductible such as mortgage interest. However, condo fees are not able to be tax deductible expenses on your personal tax return.
When people are shopping for condo’s, one of the first items they look at is how much the condo fees are every month. That’s important to understand because it will allow you to budget appropriately and figure out if you can afford the condo.
However, there is a very important part of condo living that a lot of people overlook or are not aware of, it’s the special assessments.
If you remember from the condo fees section above, I described how the Board of Directors will budget for operating expenses every year and also set aside money into a reserve account for big ticket expenses. However, what happens if the expenses exceed the reserves, an unexpected expense occurs or the condo association votes on a project they want done?
This is where a special assessment is put together for the condo owners to have to pay back. It can take on many different shapes and sizes and also repayment options.
The important thing to take away from this is that you always run the risk of additional expenses outside of what you agree to when buying a condo. The good news is, this really is not any different than any other form of homeownership!
Before making a final decision on purchasing a condo there is some additional documents that need to be reviewed. It’s can be a little overwhelming to navigate and decipher it all. Especially since parts can be written in legalese or the formal language of the law.
However, once you understand the basics, you should be good to go. Be sure to take the time to review all these documents to understand what you are agreeing to when you become a condominium homeowner.
Don’t think that these documents are same for all condos. They can vary drastically from complex to complex.
All these documents have important differences but they are all basically types of rules that the homeowners must abide by as members of a common interest community.
Declaration or Covenants, Convictions and Restrictions (CC&R’s)
This is a legal document that is recorded with the deed on the land records of the town the condominium is built in. The CC&R’s will “run with the land”, which means they are transferred between owners and they are extremely hard to change.
The CC&R’s for a condo will spell out how the common areas are to be used, define the restrictions, allow for a Board of Directors to govern the complex and allow for bylaws to be set by the association.
These are usually the highest level of rules that need to be followed and other documents described below can further clarify or restrict the use of the property. A good example of what would be in the condo declaration or CC&R, would be architectural requirements of the buildings or changes to use of the units or common areas.
Rules and Restrictions
If you think about the CC&R’s as basically the highest level of rules for the condo, then the Rules and Restrictions document is further specifics and clarification on the CC&R’s. Think about it this way, the CC&R’s state that the condo allows pets, the rules and restrictions document can further restrict to small dogs or only indoor cats.
These are usually modified by the Board of Directors with input from the condo association and are never in violation of what the CC&R’s define.
This document is also extremely important and the best way to wrap your head around what they are is to think about your homeowners association as a business and the bylaws is the structure of that business and how it will be run. Including the frequency of meetings, meeting objectives, election of, voting rights and duties of the board. The bylaws are important to reference for the process that you will need to follow when participating in anything concerning the HOA.
In addition to the above documents, when purchasing a condo you will hear about a couple other references to documents in the form of a condo resale package or certificate and depending on your lender, a condo questionnaire.
The resale package or certificate is really just an assembly by the HOA of the documents above and provided to the home buyer for them to review before the purchase and sale contract becomes binding.
The condo questionnaire is only going to be requested if you are taking out a mortgage and your lender requires it to be filled out by the HOA. In the questionnaire, they will be looking for specific answers that determine if the condo complex meet the requirements for them to lend money to you to buy. If they determine the complex to be to risky, then you will be out of luck for getting a mortgage on that property. At least with that lender!
When looking to purchase your condo, you must have your financial affairs in order and you will no doubt want to select a condo that does the same for their financial health. Remember when I discussed all the advantages of living in a condo and having shared access to common areas and facilities as well as property maintenance performed for you? Well be sure to review these 2 financial areas in order to ensure the condo is being effectively managed and funded.
1) Operating Budget
A condo is just like any other small business and there will be both income from condo fees, as well as expenses from maintaining and managing the property. In order to live in a condo that is financially healthy, an operating budget must be created as a plan to estimate the income and expenses. It is important to review the operating budget to see what items have been budgeted for and also to ensure the expenses are not greater than income.
2) Reserves Fund
If you were to think about the operating budget to be like your checking account where you manage your personal expenses month to month. You can think about the reserves fund as your savings account, where you put extra money for unplanned expenses or to save up for larger items that will be performed at a later date. It is critical that a condo have a reserve fund, otherwise expenses over the budget would have to be paid for with a special assessment. Also, when buying a condo a mortgage company may not even lend money on a condo without an appropriate reserve fund.
Now that you are a pro after after reading the condominium basics section above, you are in a much better position to know if a condo is right for you. If you have made it this far, you are probably wanting to understand how the process of buying a condo actually works. Below you will learn how to do just that!
Finding your condo begins with searching for ones that are actively being sold on the real estate market. There are a number of ways to do that. REALTORs will enter their listings into the Multiple Listing Service and that is the #1 source of accurate data.
Websites such as this one will pull directly from that data to give you what is currently on the market from the MLS, in a more user friendly and presentable form.
Other popular search platforms are the big national sites such as Zillow, Trulia and Realtor.com which all have their advantages and some big disadvantages.
It’s a matter of personal preference, what I would recommend is to find one that feels right to you when you are just browsing around, but when you are ready to get serious, work with your real estate agent on a search strategy and pick the website that works best for those goals.
When you want to get serious about buying a condo, one of the first steps is to make two lists.
The first list will be what you absolutely NEED and can not live without. For example, do you need 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms because of your family size or how about a garage or a basement? How about a condo that will allow your large dogs?
It’s important to eliminate condos from your home search that will not meet your needs so that you are not disappointed or get overwhelmed.
Once you know what you absolutely need, then you can make another list of your WANTs or features that would be icing on the cake but not 100% necessary. This is where you will get into features such as pools or clubhouses for entertaining. A deck of the back would be nice but is it a deal breaker?
Start asking yourself these types of questions to form a solid list of wants so that you can focus on what is important and get excited when you find a condo with a condo the meets both your NEEDs and WANTs!
Trying to navigate the process of buying a condo is complex, that’s why I have put this together for you. The problem is, there is not any single guide, book or resource that will cover every real estate situation that will come up. You are unique and so is your condo search. Having a real estate agent as an advisor on your side will no doubt provide benefits to you.
There are a lot of real estate agents that can help you out, but don’t think that they are all the same. The best advice is to find one that seems to be a personality match for you AND has a proven system to get you the results you want.
If you are looking for a condo in Connecticut, I would be more than happy to have a no obligation discussion with you to help you make your decision. My philosophy is simple, I focus on what is important to you and apply that to a structured home buying process.
Not only can I help you out but I have a network or REALTORs around the state that we could match you up with.
After exhaustively searching the active condo market up and down, selecting and viewing properties and discussing how those condo’s fit into your goals. You are ready to make an offer.
This is a process where having a real estate agent on your side is very valuable. Depending on the market being a sellers or buyers market, will determine the best approach. Consult with your agent on the best way to put an offer in, remember you are a team and your agent wants to help you.
It’s important to submit your offer as a complete package for the listing agent and sellers to correctly evaluate. Your agent should walk you through important decision points when writing up an offer such as.
Be careful about playing games with your offer when its is a condo that you want. The best way to think about it is like this. If this is the condo you WANT, put together an offer that shows that to the seller. I can tell that based on working with sellers that when a buyer submits a low ball offer it never works out favorable for the buyer.
The stories you might hear about the guy who got a “great deal” from time to time are probably greatly exaggerated or just false information. Unless the property is listed very high above market value, then we will have to pull comps to submit to strengthen your offer.
Work closely with your REALTOR and put together an offer that will ensure you get the condo for reasonable terms that are agreeable to both sides. You never know when your offer will be competing against other offers and putting your best foot forward, just makes sense.
For most situations where real estate is changing hands, it is in the best interest of the buyer to get a home inspection by a licensed home inspector. Condos are no different. The rule of thumb is to always get the condo inspected to protect yourself against the unknown.
There are situations where you might want to forgo an inspection, such as an investment property that is a cash deal with a quick close. Or purchasing from a relative where you are aware of the homes condition and can trust what they tell you. However for the few hundred dollars, it is worth while to have a home inspection.
Once the big day is here, you will have a ton of emotions running through you. Always try to stay calm and be prepared for any last minute bumps in the road.
Before you close, you will want to do a walkthrough of the condo to ensure the sellers have left it in “broom clean” condition and everything that the contract said would be left, is in fact still there.
Once you are at the closing table with your attorney, you will be signing a lot of paperwork, especially if you are taking out a mortgage. Be prepared!
A good attorney will make the complicated closing process seem like a breeze. They will tell you what you need to know concerning each and every document you are signing. They will also take care of all the legal requirements associated with that paperwork such as submitting to the bank and recording the deed with the town.
You should be getting from the seller all sets of keys, garage door openers and transferable warranty documentation. Once you have these items, signed all the paperwork and shaken hands the condo will officially be yours to move into and live happily ever after in!
Looking for additional information on buying a home in Connecticut? Be sure to download my E-book below!
About the Author: The above real estate information on Condos For Sale in CT: Ultimate Guide to Buying a Condo was provided by Sandy Smith, a local Connecticut real estate agent serving Hartford and Tolland Counties.
Are you currently thinking about buying or selling a home? I have an awesome marketing plan that focuses on what works to sell your home and welcome the opportunity to help you find your next home in Connecticut! Contact Sandy Smith for a no obligation discussion, call or text 860-455-1371.
Sandy Smith services real estate sales in the following Hartford and Tolland County towns: Andover, Avon, Berlin, Bloomfield, Bolton, Bristol, Burlington, Canton, Columbia, Coventry, East Granby, East Hartford, East Windsor, Ellington, Enfield, Farmington, Glastonbury, Granby, Hartland, Hartford, Hebron, Manchester, Mansfield, Marlborough, New Britain, Newington, Plainville, Rocky Hill, Simsbury, Somers, South Windsor, Southington, Stafford, Suffield, Tolland, Union, Vernon, West Hartford, Wethersfield, Willington, Windsor, Windsor Locks Connecticut