If you are buying a condo, you may be wondering whether or not condos need home inspections. After all, the Homeowners Association is responsible for everything from the walls outwards, so if there are any issues, it will be up to them to fix it, right? Wrong. If you or anyone you know are thinking – do condos need inspections? then read on.
Do Condos Need Inspections? Yes, if you are buying a condo, you should always have an inspection, and it doesn’t matter whether it is a new build or a unit in which someone has already been living. Include a “sale dependant on inspection results” contingency in your offer to purchase the condo and be sure actually to have the inspection.
Do Condos Need Inspections?
One of the biggest misconceptions about buying a condo is the idea that a condo does not need a home inspection. The thinking behind this is usually that the Homeowners Association is responsible for the fabric of the building. As such, they will be the ones who are responsible for any issues that may arise.
There are two problems with this train of thought:
- Issues can arise within a condo unit, that do not involve the areas for which the Homeowners Association is responsible. Such issues will be the condo owners responsibility and can quickly run to hundreds, if not thousands of dollars to rectify. In addition, if they impact other units, you could also be on the hook for their repairs.
- For issues that are the responsibility of the Homeowners Association, you need to consider two things:
- How easy, or otherwise, it is to get the Homeowners Association to make the repairs. Some HOAs are excellent and responsible and will jump straight on it; others could linger for weeks or even months before they will take action.
- Whether or not the Homeowners Association has enough money in their budget to make the repairs, or if they will levy a “Special Assessment” which will end up with you effectively paying for the repairs anyway.
To avoid having to pay for an issue, either directly or indirectly, and to ensure as smooth a beginning as possible to your condo ownership journey, it is essential to have an inspection before you buy.
Why Do Condos Need Inspections?
Some inspectors offer two types of inspection for a condo, either a full inspection or an interior only inspection. Before your inspection takes place ensure that your inspection will cover both the interior and exterior (within reason) of your condo.
The reason for this is simple.
If you have an interior only inspection, there is the potential to miss problems which are unfolding in common areas such as the parking garage, attics, crawl spaces, etc. These may not cause problems in your unit, but they may impact you in other ways. For example, a leak discovered in the basement area may cause water damage in any storage units located close to it.
In addition, while issues in these areas may not directly impact the unit you are planning to buy, any obvious problems will need repair at some point in the future. As a condo owner, you will be expected to contribute to the cost. This could either be in the form of higher Homeowners Association dues or a Special Assessment, levied on all unit owners to pay for repairs not covered by the annual budget.
What Happens During A Condo Home Inspection?
In general, during a full inspection, the inspector will walk around the outside of the building and look for any obvious defects or issues in need of repair. They will also walk through any parking or storage areas as well as any other common areas of the condo building that you would be using.
The inspector will then move onto the unit itself, and this examination is similar to a single-family home inspection with the inspector carrying out a visual examination of all readily accessible areas. The inspector does not move furniture, take up carpets, check behind wall panels, etc.
Their will, however, check the health of any appliances in the condo, any airconditioning or heating elements within the unit as well as any balcony area.
For both the inside and the outside segments of the inspection, the inspector will be looking for signs of current or developing problems with the building in general and the condo unit you are thinking of buying, in particular.
At some point, either before or after the inspection takes place, you will also be asked to sign a liability waiver. This is standard practice and protects the inspector if you later discover a problem that the inspector could not have reasonably found or anticipated themselves.
What Happens After A Condo Inspection?
After the condo inspection, you will receive a report summarizing the inspector’s findings and going into details where relevant.
Be sure to take the time to thoroughly read the report and understand what it is telling you. Then consider the implications of any issues the inspector found and, finally, go over the report and any problems with your real estate agent.
After this, you can consider your next steps. For example, you may want to have a specialist pest inspection as a result of a concern raised in your home inspection report.
If there are significant issues, you may be able to withdraw from the sale under your inspection contingency. However, don’t expect to be able to back out of the sale based on simple items such as a dripping faucet. This is not something significant enough to end a deal, especially if it was like that when you viewed the property.
How Much Does A Condo Inspection Cost?
The exact cost of a condo inspection will depend on whether or not you have an interior and exterior inspection and where in the country you are.
For a full interior and exterior inspection, be prepared to pay somewhere in the region of $300 to $350 in major metropolitan areas, with the price being more in the area of $200 to $250 outside of the major population centers.
Do I Still Need An Inspection When I’ve Seen The Status Certificate?
The status certificate is actually a collection of documents that are given to potential buyers. It will usually include the current financial statements of the Homeowners Association, the minutes of the last meeting, and an outline of recent repairs and maintenance.
The status certificate does not cover any problems within an individual unit. In fact, there could be significant issues in multiple condo units in the complex. Still, unless the unit owners bring them to the attention of the association, the HOA are going to know nothing about them.
This is why a status certificate has no bearing on the fact you absolutely must protect yourself by having an inspection before you buy.
The Extra Benefits Of Condo Inspections
If your condo inspection identifies any issues, the most obvious benefit is that you have the opportunity to withdraw from the sale and save yourself a lot of time and money further down the line.
But that is not the end of the benefits.
If your inspector finds issues that are not an immediate deal-breaker, you will have the opportunity to negotiate the price with the seller. You may be able to obtain a price reduction or maybe have the seller make repairs or replacements as a condition of the sale.
How Do You Choose A Condo Inspector?
The first port of call when hiring an inspector should be your real estate agent. However, do not automatically accept the first suggestion they make. Ask if the home inspector:
- Is experienced in or specializes in condo home inspections
- Will use a thermal imaging camera to increase the chances of finding water leaks, faulty electrics, poorly insulated areas, etc.
- Is happy to have you, the buyer, tag along on the inspection. This is important because it allows you to ask questions and for the inspector to give you little tips and other pieces of general advice which may not make it into their final report. Just be sure not to crowd your inspector, not to bombard them with questions and give them plenty of space and quiet in which to do their job.
While it may seem tempting to save a few hundred bucks and skip the home inspection for your condo, resist the temptation. Buying a condo is a significant financial investment, and as such, you should use every tool available to you to ensure you are purchasing the right home for you at a price that reflects the true value of the condo.
Other Helpful Information From Real Estate Professionals
There are close to one million condominiums sold every year and although FHA loans are extremely popular and account for more than 25% of all mortgages, every condominium project must be FHA approved before being financed with an FHA insured loan.
About The Author
Geoff Southworth is the creator of RealEstateInfoGuide.com, the site that helps new homeowners, investors, and homeowners-to-be successfully navigate the complex world of property ownership. Geoff is a real estate investor of 8 years has had experience as a manager of a debt-free, private real estate equity fund, as well as a Registered Nurse in Emergency Trauma and Cardiac Cath Lab Care. As a result, he has developed a unique “people first, business second” approach to real estate.
This article has been reviewed by our editorial board and has been approved for publication in accordance with our editorial policy.