Buying a condo in Los Angeles requires you to think a little differently than you would when buying a single family home. Here are some things to keep in mind:
You are going to have to factor homeowners dues into your monthly payments, and remember that these are not tax deductible. You should establish what is covered by these monthly payments. In most cases they generally cover building maintenance – landscaping, trash pickup, etc., and sometimes water. Although newer buildings are metering the water separately. On rare occasions you may find that utilities and basic cable are included. Also, rare again, earthquake insurance may be included but that generally covers the building and not the inside of your unit. Also you will find that the HOA dues will be more expensive if earthquake insurance is included.
You should be aware of the location of the unit in the building. Lower units tend to be darker depending on exposure, and safety may be an issue for you. If you are at street level how easy would it me for someone to gain entry? Also, if you are sensitive to noise you may want to consider a back unit, away from a noisy street or a building right next door where you may have to put up with noise from neighbors. In the latter case you should be aware as to whether the neighboring building is an apartment or a condo building. Renters may be more disruptive than homeowners.
Within a building do you want to be right next to an elevator or laundry room? This all comes down to noise sensitivity. Also, you may not want to share laundry facilities so check that the unit includes laundry hook-ups or at least the possibility of installing them.
What kinds of changes can you make in your unit? Maybe there is carpeting and you want hardwood. You may want to open up the kitchen area or close up a room. Make sure to check what you will be allowed to do when you take ownership. Most building will allow you to make changes if you adhere to the rules and get the required permits. But you don’t want to be stuck with features you can’t change.
If a building is all electric you are probably not going to be able to install gas, so be sure you can live with electric cooking facilities.
What about parking? Are the spaces tandem or side-by-side? Having to move your car when your living partner wants to leave can get old. Also is there enough guest parking, either in the building or available street parking? There may be owners in the building who are willing to rent out extra spaces or even deed one over to you.
What is the storage situation? Will you have enough room to overflow?
Are you going to want to rent out your unit at any time? If so make sure you understand the leasing rules. Many buildings are now not allowing you to lease out your unit until you have owned it for two or three years and then for a minimum of one year. You may also have go on a list when your time comes up because only a certain number of units can be rented at one time.
Part of the inspection process when you buy a condo involves reading and approving the Covenants Conditions and Restrictions (CC&Rs), and minutes of Board Meetings. The former will provide you with in-depth information on what is and is not allowed in the building, and the latter should provide a heads-up on any pending assessments.
Condo living is completely different from living in a single family home where you are your own boss. The good thing about buying a condo in Los Angeles is that you can just lock up and leave without any worries, but you are at the mercy of the rules of the building established by the Board. It would be a good idea to get a position on the Board so that you can provide input into your new living situation.
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