Did you finally find your dream home or perfect investment property? Maybe you like the security of the gated community or the master planned neighborhood. If you’re like most northerners, you came to SW Florida because of the beaches, the beauty, but also because of the feeling of safety and sense of community that most developments have to offer. However, if you overlook these 5 things you may be more sorry then happy after you get the keys to your new property.
- What are the fees? There can be monthly fees, quarterly fees, application fees, transfer fees, yearly fees, special assessment fees, the list goes on and on. Most importantly, what do they cover? Do they cover insurance on the building, lawn maintenance, water and sewer, cable, etc? What about that private beach club you have? The golf course? The amenities center, the workout facility, the community pool? Are they all included or are there separate fee arrangements for their use? Here’s a tip: you’ll see different fees advertised online or through literature, make sure you check with the association’s management on what the current fees are because these can change and are not set in stone.
- What is the financial stability of the community? Especially in today’s market, there are some stellar deals, but the association could be in trouble. The property may be extremely discounted and the fees seem reasonable, making you want to act right away. Be careful- in the future the fees could really increase. This is why getting the most current financials and budget before you buy is very important. I would recommend having your accountant read through the financials too. You want to buy in a development where they ideally do not have any debt and have plenty of money in reserves. In today’s market, this is more of the exception rather than the rule, so use your judgment and speak to your advisors before moving forward.
- Is the community gated? Sounds like common sense, but some developments have gates that haven’t been installed or that are only used at nighttime and open during the day. Maybe there’s a guard at your gate. Ask if they are there 24 hours a day or only at night. These are all things you want to make sure you know the answers to before you purchase, since this is something you will be paying for. And most importantly, you want to feel safe knowing you’re truly in a gated community!
- What are the rules and regulations of the community? The rules and regulations can make or break you! Say you have all your friends over to watch the big game. Everyone’s having a good time and late at night everyone leaves to get in their car and drive home, but their cars are gone! Everyone was towed because they violated the ‘No Parking on the Street after 10pm’ rule. Maybe you fire up the grill to cook some burgers and all of the sudden you get a fine for grilling in your lanai, violating yet another restriction of the community. What if you park your commercial vehicle in the driveway? This can be a violation too! How many dogs and cats can you have, if any? The rules are for the good of all the homeowners in the community and everyone agrees to abide by them whether you like it or not. So do yourself a favor and make sure you know what to expect before buying! The rules and regulations can be provided by the association management.
- Is there a private beach club or amenities center, and if so, how many people can it hold? This may not be as important in the summer, but when season is in full force and snowbirds are everywhere, will you be able to get a chair at the pool? Can the exercise facility hold all the sweaty bodies come February? This last one may seem kind of silly, but you would be surprised how often in season this can be an issue, especially if you have friends and family visiting.
It all comes down to the basics- do your research before you buy! As always, happy hunting!