What Questions To Ask Before Buying A Condo In Connecticut: Part 1 of a series

This is the first of a multi-part series from veteran condo owners on what they would have asked when they first bought their condo if they knew what they know now.  Gail is a former board member, president of her condo association, and is now a member of the Executive Committee of the Connecticut Condo Owners Coalition.

Whew, no more mowing the lawn, no more shoveling snow, and no more outside maintenance; I can play golf every day! Isn’t life grand — or is it?

Do these narratives sound familiar:

My first letter from the condo association; aren’t they nice to send me a welcome letter. Surprise! “Your monthly common fee payment is past due and you also have been assessed a late fee.” Gee, I remember my agent telling me something about monthly fees. Now where did I place that large envelope of “important condo documents?

What do you mean in addition to my monthly common fee; all owners now have to pay an additional monthly assessment for new roofs. No one told me that this condominium complex was putting on new roofs. I cannot believe that the association is also discussing the possibility of replacing the entire swimming pool?

My friends and family will soon be arriving at my new condo. Everything looks great, the new patio furniture came yesterday and this week I finally finished planting a new rock garden in the lawn at the front of my condo. A knock at the door – my first visitor. Oh No! A board member stopped by to tell me that I cannot plant anything on the “common ground”. Not only do I have to remove all my beautiful flowers and pay to have the lawn reseeded but I am going to be assessed a fine.

If you have chosen to purchase a condo thinking that it is the most suitable to your lifestyle, you should speak with your agent, the management company (if the condominium has one) or the individuals who are in charge of the condo association. There are advantages and disadvantages to owning a condo and only by asking questions will you be able to make a sound decision on this major investment.


    1. When are my monthly common fee charges due? Is there a late fee and how much?
    2. Does the Association have reserve funding – How much money is invested?
    3. How many owners are behind in their monthly fees?
    4. Has the association been involved in any civil or criminal law suits?
    5. Ask questions about the master insurance policy; what does this policy cover, and what are you responsible for?


    1. What is the association’s responsibility – what is my responsibility?
    2. Are doors and windows “limited common property? This may mean you pay to replace, but there could be specifications for these replacements as well as specific requirements on the type of contractor.
    3. Can I plant on the common ground – What is the common ground?
    4. Are bird feeders allowed?
    5. Can I put hanging plants on the front soffit?
    6. Can I have a fire pit on my patio?
    7. Are generators allowed?


    1. Remember, if you are being told that common fees have not increased at all, although it may sound wonderful, be attentive. Look at the unit structures, look at the grounds, are they well kept or do they look like they need upgrading or repairs.

              What major improvements have been done – What improvement are being planned?


    1. Ask about roofs, paving or asphalt repairs, swimming pool/tennis court/club house renovations, concrete patios that need replacing, attached decks that may need replacing.


    1. Will the reserve funding cover these improvements?


    1. Listen to the voice inside you – the barometer: is there a sizeable reserve fund that will cover these major repairs. No or low reserve funding could mean a possible increase in your monthly fee or an additional assessment.

Some of these questions are addressed in the “Resale Packet” that is provided by law to your agent for you by the Association and/or Management Company.

Ride or walk through the complex, talk to individuals you may see, do research if you can, be observant. Is there a no pet rule? You do not want to move in and find out that your loyal family pet can no longer be a part of your family – ask questions.

You will be provided with the governing covenants for the condo complex. This will be the Declaration, and probably By-Laws and Rules & Regulations. When you first look at the declaration, don’t be traumatized. It must be provided by law and although you may not want to read through what may seem to be numerous pages of legalese, keep it in a safe place for future reference.

Read and become familiar with the “Rules”. These should outline the basic set of guidelines for what you can and cannot do. If you don’t know or are uncertain about what you can or cannot do – call, email, or write the management company or the person who is the head of the condo association and ask your question.

In most cases, directors of association boards are unit owners too. Most volunteer their time; their decisions on financial matters and the managing of the condo complex affects them as well as you. However, whether you are a first time owner or if this will be your retirement home, it is a major investment – you cannot make a decision without weighing all the facts.

Relax, enjoy your new home and don’t forget to READ AND ASK – ASK – ASK!

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