A condominium inspection should be considered critical if you are thinking about buying a condo. This inspection should be done before you sign any agreements or make the purchase commitment in most cases. Condominiums are individual units inside a collective building, and the focus of this specific inspection is somewhat different than a general home inspection in many ways. A building which houses a limited number of condominium units or that is very upscale, can have a big effect on the costs assessed for each unit owner when major improvements or repairs are deemed necessary. A condo board, also often referred to as the home owners association, is responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of the building exterior and common areas that are shared by all of the individual unit owners. This can include the building entrance, any lobbies, the roofs, and other components that are used by more than one unit. A complete condominium inspection will include all components that will affect your unit and potentially your assessments and even property value. If repairs are needed, each unit owner is assessed an equal share of the costs involved, so it is good information to be made aware of any significant problems in advance of making a final purchase decision.
Without a comprehensive inspection, you may end up getting stuck with large financial responsibilities for common components and areas that are outside of the unit you purchased. There are many ways that a complete and thorough condominium inspection can protect you and your finances. The inspection may reveal expensive repairs that are needed, or systems that may need to be replaced. In addition, if someone gets hurt because of defects, not only can the association be sued but you too may end up a defendant as well, because you own the unit where the injured person was headed when the accident occurred. When purchasing a condo, you are also agreeing to pay a percentage of the total costs for the maintenance and repair of the common areas and components of the entire building. If the building is in poor shape or it needs significant maintenance and repairs, these costs can quickly add up to a significant financial burden. A condominium inspection can prevent this by alerting you to any problems or repairs needed before you buy the unit, so you can make an informed choice knowing what the current conditions are.
An inspection will help protect you as long as it is thorough. Some inspection companies and inspectors may not be thorough and complete when they perform a condominium inspection, and this is because the inspector may only look at the unit, and not all of the other components and areas. There are two different philosophies when it comes to a condo inspection. The first is that common areas and exterior components are not part of the purchase so they do not need to be inspected, because they are maintained by the association and not the unit owner. This philosophy is somewhat flawed, however, because any repairs, maintenance, and replacement costs for common components and areas are assessed to the individual unit owners on an equal percentage basis, so if these are in need of repairs or poorly maintained it will result in a financial assessment for each condo owner. That is why many professional inspectors insist on a thorough inspection that includes all areas and components that can affect more than just the unit you are considering. When you purchase a condominium, you are also purchasing a percentage of the common components and areas as well, so their condition will have a direct effect upon your financial responsibilities.
For the best protection, the inspector must have access to the common components and areas, as well as the individual unit. Most of the time you will need to get permission for access from the Home Owners Association, and if this access is denied this should be a sign that maybe everything is not all it looks to be. If you can not have access to these areas, a complete inspection is therefore not possible and you might want to even consider a different building or perhaps request some serious written disclosures and guarantees. If possible, talk with the owners of the unit underneath the one you are considering (if your unit is not on the first floor), to see if the inspector can gain access to their unit to check for signs of water damage from the unit above. This can alert you to water leaks and other plumbing problems that may not be visible within the unit being inspected. Not having a complete evaluation performed can a big mistake, and may end up costing you a bundle after the closing.
Thorough inspections can alert you to many problems that can end up costing you financially later on. One scenario I touched on in the preceding paragraph is if the unit has leaks or other repair issues that affect other units, because even if the damage occurred before you bought the unit, as the new owner you may likely end up being responsible for the repair costs that should have perhaps been the responsibility of the previous owner. Another issue may be the age of the building and the systems, which all may need to be replaced soon. A new roof or heating and cooling system can be quite costly, and if several things need to be replaced simultaneously, this can add up to a substantial amount of cash out of your pocket. Make sure you know the condition of every common component that could cost you if repairs or replacement are needed. Depending on the size of the unit and the building, these inspections can take from one to four hours or more, and the cost will often vary depending on the location and size of the unit and building as well.
Insist on an inspection before you agree to purchase any apartment or condo, to protect yourself and ensure that you are not getting stuck with large financial obligations later on. Make sure that your inspector gets the necessary access to inspect of all the common components and areas, as well as the exterior of the building, in addition to a complete inspection of the individual unit. A NY condominium inspection can help you achieve needed peace of mind or in other cases can prevent you from making a big mistake.
Find our more about our experience and available services by visiting our Local NYC Home Inspections section of this site.
Brooklyn: 665 88th Street, Brooklyn, NY 11228
Manhattan, NY: 459 Columbus Avenue New York, NY 10024
Queens: 47-01 Greenpoint Avenue Sunnyside, NY 11104
Staten Island: 1365 North Railroad Avenue Staten Island, NY 10306