Condos and Home Asoc.
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Useful Tips

Condominiums have held their value as an investment despite economic downturns and problems with some associations. In fact, condos have appreciated more in the past few years than when they first came on the scene in the late 1970s and early 1980s, experts say. While there are lots of reports about homeowners association disputes and construction-defect problems, the industry has worked hard to turn its image around. Elected volunteers who serve on association boards are better trained at handling complex budget and legal issues, for example, while many boards go to great l engths to avoid the kind of protracted and expensive litigation that has hurt resale value in the past. Meanwhile, changing demographics are making condominiums more attractive investments for single homebuyers, empty nesters and first-time buyers in expensive markets.

Typical covenants, codes and restrictions (CC&Rs), which govern condo associations, give the board authority to make and enforce reasonable rules for the use of common property. But that would not apply to interior spaces owned by smokers themselves. A homeowners association's board of directors can restrict smoking if it applies to indoor common spaces such as hallways or recreation rooms. Outdoor spaces are a different story, say legal experts. Any restriction would probably hinge on local laws (i.e. if a city banned smoking outdoors, a homeownersassociation probably could restrict smoking in its outdoor spaces). The 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act does not require strictly residential apartments and single-family homes to be made accessible. But all new construction of public accommodations or commercial projects (such as a government building or a shopping mall) must be accessible. New multi-family construction also falls into this category. In all states, the Federal Fair Housing Act provides protection against discrimination for people with physical or mental disabilities. Discrimination includes the refusal to make reasonable modifications to buildings that aren't accessible to the disabled.

Condominium owners pay a fee, usually monthly, to the homeowner's association to cover the costs of managing and maintaining all common areas. In addition, you may pay extra assessments for major maintenance projects. In general these must be voted on by the association board or in some cases by all of the owners. The particular cost of monthly fees and the rules regarding special assessments vary from association to association. When considering a condominium, it's a good idea to thoroughly research the fees and bylaws of the condo association.

The appraised value of a house is a certified appraiser's opinion of the worth of a home at a given point in time. Lenders require appraisals as part of the loan application process; fees range from $200 to $300. Market value is what price the house will bring at a given point in time. A comparative market analysis is an informal estimate of market value, based on sales of comparable properties, performed by a real estate agent or broker. Either an appraisal or a comparative market analysis is the most accurate way to determine what your home is worth.