My husband and I bought our first home, a condominium, about two years ago, and we’re still learning how to be homeowners. Everyone warned us about what to look for during the buying process, but no one explained how much of a learning curve there would be to owning a newly constructed condo once the papers were signed. There's a lot to learn. Now two years on, there’s much I wish I had known or done differently, but I can’t. Let my follies be your fortune.
Here are five things I've learned buying a newly constructed condo:
1. Take advantage of any offers you're given.
The builders of my condo were responsible for repairs that needed to be made for the first year after I moved in. Within that time I noticed a couple of cracked tiles in our entryway and two doors that wouldn’t latch, normal things to happen to new construction as it starts to settle. Did I call the developer to have them fix these problems? Nope. They weren’t urgent, so I put them on the back burner. Next thing I knew, a year had passed and I still hadn’t fixed them. Now I’m responsible for these repairs on my own.
2. Familiarize yourself with your condo documents.
If you bought a condo, knowing the rules set up in your condo documents can prevent issues with your management company, other condo owners, and the law. Condo documents can include rules on the number and size of pets you’re allowed to have, how trash must be disposed, whether you can have a grill on your deck, and where visitors can park and how long they may stay. Want to stay in everyone’s good graces? Know what rules to follow...and follow them.
3. Get to know your HOA.
A Homeowner’s Association (HOA) is the legal body that is in control of your community; changes are funded by your monthly condo fee. Want to know where all that money goes? You have to attend HOA meetings (or at least read the minutes), or better yet, join the HOA’s board.
4. Stand up for yourself.
When dealing with vendors, the management company, or the developer, don’t let them push you around. This can be difficult for people who tend to be passive, but these companies are looking out for their bottom line. You have to look out for yours. If you were billed a different price than you were quoted for flooring, cabinets, or countertops, press them to honor the agreement. Be professional, but firm, and don’t let anyone walk all over you.
5. Get comfortable.
If you budgeted for your home well, hopefully you set aside money for décor and furnishings. One of the great parts of owning your home is that you no longer have anyone telling you what you can and can’t do to the walls – you can paint, hang up pictures, shelves, mount your TV, or whatever else you want. Get your new house looking and feeling like your home. But your new home doesn’t exist in a vacuum – you should be enjoying your community, too. Meet your neighbors, maybe even try to get to know them, and explore your neighborhood, too!
If you’re still on the hunt for a house, don’t let new construction intimidate you. There’s great fun in picking out your brand-new appliances and the exact flooring and countertops you want. Just know that there might be some hiccups your first year, and know what’s within your rights as a property owner.
We've published a guide specifically for first-time homebuyers. Download your free copy for a step-by-step explanation of the home-buying process.
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