Inspecting a Condo? You May Have Missed These Important Areas
- Aug 9, 2016
You might not think that a Home Inspection is necessary when purchasing a condominium. After all, condo owners don’t have to worry about fixing or maintaining the exterior, so why get an inspection? What could go wrong in such a small space?
The answer is lots. Although condos are generally smaller and buyers shouldn’t have to worry about the exterior, grounds, foundations, roofs and other sections usually inspected for a single family home or townhouse, there are still plenty of things that need to be inspected to make sure they are safe.
None of the maintenance of a condominium complex’s exterior is the responsibility of a unit’s owner. However, we will still inspect it for safety and suitability.
As with all our inspections, we start with the exterior, even though this common property is the management’s responsibility:
- Are the walkways safe, with smooth, even surfaces and no trip hazards
- Are the handrails present and secure
- Are the elevator inspections up to date
- Are the exterior doors secure
Problems with these areas point to maintenance problems overall and suggest that the buyer re-examine the Condo documents for maintenance plan and budget.
We then go inside the unit and continue the inspection.
- Does the age of the development mean a LEAD PAINT waiver may be required?
- Are any outlets painted over?
- Have the smoke detectors been replaced, and are there an adequate number of detectors?
- Is the water temperature safe?
- Is the stove properly anchored?
- Is the electrical panel accessible and appropriate?
- Are there GFCI’s (ground fault circuit interrupter) in all the appropriate places?
- Is the HVAC system in working order and has it been maintained?
- Are the bathroom walls/tile in serviceable shape?
- Do the toilets work properly and are they securely anchored to the floor?
- Do sinks drain properly? (the pipes belong to the association)
Most condominium buyers choose NOT to have a home inspection and choose to give attention to the building’s status certificate that determines any major issues and costs to be paid for by the condominium firm. The status certificate review is a critical area of the condominium purchase process and I always recommend that a property offer be conditional on a real estate attorney reviewing the proper documentation. With the knowledge that the roof needs to be replaced at a cost of $150,000 – and knowing if the condominium corporation has the money to pay for it – is important to know before you purchase the condo. In truth, it can affect the price you pay and your decision to buy in the same way in which a home inspection would impact the purchase of a house.
It can be unfortunate but there could have been a poor installation of some items, so even a brand new property could have some costly issues not necessarily related to age. The value in having an unbiased 3rd party come in and identify any absences or potential risks is incalculable.
Special Considerations for Condos
When you buy a single family home, you own and are responsible for all the systems and structure of the home. However, in a Condominium, your ownership stops at the drywall. Everything inside the walls (plumbing pipes, vents, electrical wiring, and wall studs) are the property of the condo association and, usually, unit owners are NOT permitted to repair or alter these systems.
This water damage in a condo unit could lead to structural issues like rot, but the unit owner is not permitted to repair it as the pipes belong to the Association.
There are several issues that are cause for serious concern because even if YOU address YOUR UNIT, the issues may exist above, below and to each side of you.
- Recalled Electrical Panels: FPE Panels were popular when many high-rises were built in the 60′s and 70′s
- Polybutylene Piping: This is rarely discussed in Condos or Apartments because acknowledging the problem would mean system wide replacement, which would be extremely costly.
- Asbestos on Steam/heating Piping
- Lack of Smoke Detectors because the units didn’t require then when built
- Overly long dryer vents with no plan to routinely clean them (they go through common space and are in the walls so they are the Association’s responsibility)
Condo/Apartment living does have its advantages, but everything INSIDE the unit is your responsibility so make sure everything is working properly before you buy the unit. Even though the systems and all the stuff in the walls is someone else’s responsibility, you want to know if they ARE maintaining it properly.
Some other considerations when buying a condo
Technical Audit – an inspection performed on the entire building to predict any future problems the building might have in regards to common areas, such as the roof, exterior walls, main lobby, and all electrical and plumbing.
Windows and Doors – windows must create a seal when they are closed, allowing no air to escape the unit or enter it from the outside. The door needs to be low enough to prevent any substantial amounts of air from coming in or out of the unit from under the door. As well the doorbell/buzzer should be tested.
Ceiling and Floor – check for staining on the ceiling which might indicate a problem with plumbing, or a leak that happened in the past. The space between the tile and floorboards can be measured to determine the durability of the floor. Check for any loose tiles or carpet, which should be fixed and can be as a result of previous flooding.