• The rule of caveat emptor is sage advice.

    Now is a terrific time to buy a home, whether a condominium, single-family home or other type of housing. Homes prices have fallen, interest rates are low and there are plenty of homes on the market to choose from. I encourage you to take advantage of this opportunity if you can. However, please know what you are buying - save yourself from heartache and future troubles. HOA Examiner recently ran a string of articles with advice for home buyers, particularly first time buyers. A couple of them are posted below:

    I’d like to reiterate and expand on some of the points mentioned.  

    Your home is your Castle, right?  This maxim, originating as far back as the 1700’s, stands for the proposition that a homeowner may do as he (or she) pleases in his (or her) home, free from invasions of privacy. Well, when you buy a home in a community governed by an association, you cannot always do what you please, so its important to understand both the benefits and the obligations of shared ownership housing.

     One Florida appellate court explained this concept succinctly.  It said:

    Every man may justly consider his home his castle and himself as the king thereof; nonetheless his sovereign fiat to use his property as he pleases must yield, at least in degree, where ownership is in common or cooperation with others. The benefits of condominium living and ownership demand no less. The individual ought not be permitted to disrupt the integrity of the common scheme through his desire for change, however laudable that change might be.
    [Stirling Village Condominium Association v. Breitenbach, 251 So.2d 685 (Fla. 4th DCA 1971].

    With that in mind, here is some additional advice for home buyers:

    • Read the Documents!  All of the contributors to the HOA Examiner articles listed this as the number one priority.  You need to understand what is permitted and what is prohibited.
    • Look at the Budget:  What will you have to pay in monthly or quarterly fees?  The mortgage may be affordable, but you cannot afford the home if you cannot pay the assessments (maintenance fees) required.  Associations in Florida have the right to foreclose if assessments aren’t paid in a timely manner.   
    • Look at the Financial Statements: Is there money in reserve for major projects?  Did the association collect the bulk of the budgeted assessments?  How many special assessments were levied?
    • Ask Questions:  If you feel the governing documents are vague, ask!  Ask whether you are allowed to have 2 or 3 cars, ask whether your visitors can park on the street overnight, ask whether you need permission to change the exterior appearance of the home or hang holiday lights from your balcony.  Ask when the association last replaced the roof.  Ask if there are any plans to renovate the clubhouse or security gate.  The board will welcome someone who genuinely cares about the rules because they want to be in compliance.

    As I said to Adam Sinclair, you can live very happily in an association setting, once you find the right place for your lifestyle.  Neighbors can turn into life-long friends, you and your family can enjoy the amenities, comfort, security and maintenance standards community associations have to offer.  Don’t fret, the right community is waiting for you to find it!

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