Buying a condo in Florida


DBPR Guide To Purchasing A Condominium

DEPARTMENT OF BUSINESS
AND PROFESSIONAL REGULATION
Division of Florida Land Sales, Condominiums and Mobile Homes

INTRODUCTION

Condominiums are a significant segment of the housing market in Florida. However, many prospective condominium purchasers are unaware of condominium concepts or the provisions of Chapter 718, Florida Statutes, the Condominium Act. The purpose of this pamphlet is to provide prospective purchasers with important information that should be considered prior to making a purchase.

Part One: Things To Consider Before Purchasing A Unit

A condominium is a form of real property consisting of condominium units and common elements. Units are the parts of the condominium property which are subject to exclusive ownership. Common elements are the portions of the condominium property not included in the units. Proportionate ownership of the common elements is an appurtenance to a unit, meaning that it comes with the purchase of a unit and cannot be divided from the unit. Each unit's share of ownership in the common elements is the same proportion by which the unit owner will share in the cost of operating the condominium. The condominium form of ownership, usually associated with high-rise buildings, may also be found in garden-style apartment buildings, row structures, semi-detached structures, single-family homes, mobile home parks, and recreational vehicle parks. A condominium may be residential, commercial, or a mixture of both.

The Condominium Act provides that an association, usually a not for profit corporation, is responsible for operating the condominium. The association's responsibilities include maintaining, repairing, and protecting the land and the facilities in the condominium such as swimming pools, tennis courts, elevators, etc. The condominium association is run by a board of directors, initially appointed by the developer, but ultimately turned over to unit owner elected directors.

The declaration of condominium is a document that describes the condominium property, the unit boundaries, the common elements, and other improvements. Reading this document will assist you to understand what you will own when you purchase a condominium unit. A purchaser usually obtains ownership and exclusive possession of everything inside the unfinished interior surfaces of the walls, floors, and ceilings of the unit, including the interior partitions, cabinets, appliances, and fixtures. The land and structural parts of the building are usually common elements. The declaration will also provide for the maintenance responsibilities of the unit owners and the association.
Condominium life requires that you live in close proximity to your neighbors, abide by restrictions on the use of your unit and common elements, and that you be personally involved in the operation of your condominium association. In order to protect your investment, it is important to attend meetings to keep informed on the issues pertaining to the operation of the condominium.

You may purchase a condominium unit from a developer of from a private party. The Division does not regulate by private parties. Keep the following in mind when purchasing a condominium unit from either a developer or a private party:

What will be your ownership and voting rights in the association?
What will be your percentage share of the common expenses?
What are the restrictions on the use of the common elements and the unit?
Are there any leases or contracts associated with the condominium association?  If so,
what are their terms?
Do you understand all of the provisions of the documents?
Exactly what items will you be personally responsible for maintaining?
Is the condominium development completed? If not, how many units will eventually be
added to the condominium development and what impact will they have on the use of
the recreational amenities?
What is the proposed schedule for adding units or amenities to the condominium?
Does the developer have the option of not completing certain facilities or amenities?
Does the association have a history of complaints by residents of the condominium?
Is the association currently involved in litigation?
Does the association carry adequate insurance?
Is the condominium property well maintained?
Has the association established reserve funds for future capital expenditures and deferred
maintenance projects?
If the condominium being created by converting a previously occupied residential structure,
what is the condition of the property and will major repairs be required in the near future?
(See the brochure "Conversions to Condominium Ownership.")
What is the history and reputation of the developer?
What is the association's pet policy?
Are there any restrictions on the selling or renting units?
Are there any restrictions on the number of family members or guests who may occupy a
unit?

Answers to many of these questions can be found in the "condominium documents." These documents include the declaration of condominium, articles of incorporation of the association, bylaws of the association, and the Frequently Asked Questions and Answers Sheet. The developer is required to file these documents with the Division of Florida Land Sales, Condominiums and Mobile Homes, prior to offering units for sale. The developer is required to give each purchaser a complete set of the condominium documents. Once you sign a purchase agreement and receive the documents from the developer, you have 15 days in which to cancel your purchase. Read these documents thoroughly before you purchase a condominium unit, and not later than the expiration of the 15 day cancellation period. It is for your protection and to your advantage to carefully read and understand the condominium documents. If you are purchasing from a private party rather than a developer, the cancellation period expires three days from the date you sign the purchase agreement.


Part Two: The Purchase

Reservation Deposits

A reservation program allows a developer to "test the market" in order to make a decision to construct a condominium project. Prior to construction, the developer may enter into a reservation agreement with prospective purchasers. The reservation agreement is not a binding contract since it allows either the developer or the purchaser to back out at any time. The developer is not required to construct the property. Any reservation deposit must be fully refunded upon the written request of the purchaser or the developer.

Sales Deposits

If you are purchasing a condominium unit in which the construction, furnishing, or landscaping of the property is not substantially complete, The Condominium Act requires that deposits up to 10 percent of the sales price must remain in an escrow account with an independent escrow agent. Deposits in excess of 10 percent of the purchase price may be used in the actual construction of the condominium, if so provided by the purchase contract. For example, in the sale of a condominium unit priced at $100,000, only $10,000 of the sales deposit must remain in the escrow account. The remainder of the sales deposit may be used in the actual construction of the property. You should check your purchase contract to determine whether your complete sales deposit is protected.

Listed below are key condominium documents, along with a brief explanation of what these documents should address:

Declaration of Condominium
Articles of Incorporation
Bylaws
 
The declaration of condominium is one of the most important condominium documents as it is the document that creates the condominium (when it is recorded in the official records of the county in which the condominium is located). Some of the issues addressed in the declaration include: membership and voting rights of unit owners; the manner of sharing in the common expenses, common surplus, and ownership of the common elements; the maintenance responsibilities of the association and of the unit owners; identification of the units; use restrictions; the manner in which alterations may occur within the condominium; insurance requirements of the association and of the unit owners; rights of the developer during the period of construction and the sale of units; and procedures for amending the declaration.
 
 
The association's articles of incorporation address: the purpose of the articles, the powers granted to the association, the rights of members, the number of directors and officers, an indemnification clause for directors and officers, and procedures for amending the articles.
 
The association bylaws address items such as: the type, frequency, and location of meetings; meeting notice requirements; powers and duties of the association; duties of officers and directors; procedures for amending the bylaws; use restrictions; financial reporting and other pertinent information.

Estimated Operating Budget

The estimated operating budget provides detailed estimates of various common expenses that are to be shared by the unit owners. The budget also includes significant information regarding future capital expenditures and deferred maintenance projects such as: roof replacement, building painting, pavement resurfacing, and other future expenditures in excess of $10,000.

Receipt for Condominium Documents

Remember that your purchase agreement with the developer may be cancelled up to 15 days after the date that the purchase agreement is executed and the date you receive the condominium documents, whichever is later. The developer will ask you to sign a receipt for condominium documents. Be sure you have actually received all the documents listed on the receipt. If you are purchasing from a private party, you are entitled to copies of the declaration of condominium, the articles of incorporation, the bylaws and the most recent financial reporting information, at the seller's expense.

Frequently Asked Questions and Answers Sheet

This document provides a summary of any leases or other covenants and restrictions, affecting the operation of the condominium and association.

Prospectus

A developer is required to provide purchasers a prospectus if the condominium consists of more than 20 residential units, or is part of a group of residential condominiums which will be served by property to be used in common by unit owners of more than 20 units. The prospectus summarizes some of the major points detailed in the condominium documents. Read the required disclosure documents to make sure that all the obligations and restrictions contained in the documents are understood.

AVAILABLE FROM THE DIVISION OF FLORIDA LAND SALES, CONDOMINIUMS AND MOBILE HOMES
Chapter 718, Florida Statutes, the Condominium Act Chapters 61B-15 through 61B-24, Florida Administrative Code

OTHER INFORMATIONAL BROCHURES
Condominium Unit Owner Rights and Responsibilities
Condominium Living in Florida
Conversion to Condominium Ownership
Election Brochure for Condominium and Cooperative Associations

You may obtain the above material (free of charge) from the Division of Florida Land Sales, Condominiums and Mobile Homes at: Northwood Centre, 1940 Tallahassee, Florida 32399-1030 or by calling 850-488-1122 or toll free (Florida only) 800-226-9101.
Revised November, 2003.

Frequently Asked Condo Questions (FAQ)


Condos 101

What exactly is a "condo"anyway!?

Directly translated from its Latin roots, condominium means "dominion with others"or "shared domain". Before this century, primary reference was to joint sovereignty over a territory by two or more nations.

Today, the word "condominium" does not describe a type of building but rather a specific form of home ownership. Thus, any building from a villa to a skyscraper can be a "condo." The form of ownership you receive with your condominium is this: Most commonly, you own your unit from the drywall inwards, plus a share in the "common elements" of the remainder of the property, i.e. the pool, tennis courts, grounds etc. You pay for the upkeep of your share by way of your monthly maintenance fees (also called "Home Owner's Association" dues or "HOAs"). To protect the interests of each home owner, there may be some rules and regulations that prevent you from doing certain things like owning certain kinds of pets, painting your house a different color from the rest, and so forth. But provided your contract does not state otherwise, you can sell or lease your condo just like any other home.

The setting up of a condominium is governed by Florida Statute which establishes strict procedures for the creation, sale, and operation of condominiums.

Why purchase a Florida condo /vacation home?

With a few notable downtown exceptions, condos in Florida are generally cheaper than houses. Condominiums are a great way to start out when you're young - and they're a great way to retire when you're not! Another advantage to Florida condo living is that most communities have onsite resort-style facilities like pools, tennis courts, fitness centers, and security, which make them versatile investments for out-of-state and overseas buyers. And because all the maintenance is taken care of, you'll never have to cut the grass, fix your own roof or clean the pool again!.

HOA basics

The Home Owners Association (HOA) is an important element of condominium ownership that provides each owner with a sense of personal comfort and security.

The HOA is responsible for the care and maintenance of all those "common elements" include landscaping, exterior paint, roofs, and also the general cleanliness of areas outside each owner's home.

An owner-elected board runs the HOA. At minimum, the Board consists of a President, Vice President, Secretary, Treasurer, and often another person who oversees all maintenance responsibilities. The Board members are your fellow condo owners. They are not paid.

Things to consider before purchasing your new condo:

  • How much are the monthly HOA dues?
  • What are the general rules of the HOA?
  • Are any special assessments due now or in the near future?
  • How strong are the reserves?
  • Is the budget adequate?

A well organized HOA will have a strong impact on the day to day success of the project as well as ensuring a steady increase in its value. For a full analysis of what to consider before you purchase, see the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation's Guide to Purchasing a Condominium.

Insuring a Condo

Insuring a condominium is different from insuring a house through home insurance. The insurance for a house covers the entire house - from the top of the roof down to the foundation. When insuring a condo, your insurance should cover the drywall, ceilings, floors and the interior. You will need separate " contents insurance" to cover your own possessions.

The Home Owners Association (HOA) dues that are part of almost every condominium complex generally cover the exterior of the building including the roof, siding, and foundation. All condominiums have certain rules and regulations that may change the requirements of the coverage you will need.

Property inspections

As a condo buyer, you are entitled to have what is known as a " Full House Inspection." Generally, these inspections are done by a licensed " bonded and Insured" Professional Inspector.

The following is a basic list of what an inspector will look for:

  • Electrical problems
  • Indoor and outdoor plumbing leaks
  • Condition of floors, walls and ceilings
  • Wood rot
  • Proper insulation
  • Condition of windows
  • Pests
  • Roof damage, including proper drainage
  • Attic ventilation, wiring, insulation and structure
  • Appliances in working order
  • Proper operation of heating and cooling systems
  • Condition of the foundation and basement

Each inspection should come with a written report describing what was discovered, if anything. A good report will separate minor repairs from major repairs. It may also include a list of things that the new owner might wish to fix, but are not necessarily a safety or structural issue at the time.

A comprehensive report will also include photographs of any major issues so that all parties can see exactly what the problem is. Keep in mind that no matter how good the inspector is, there are still areas that he or she will not be able to see in order to determine their condition. Items such as the studs, wiring inside walls, or plumbing lines that are not visible to the eye cannot be thoroughly inspected. So while a " Full House Inspection" is generally a good iidea, it is no guarantee that a home or condo is in perfect condition. However, it will cover the most important parts of your new home.


For North East Florida Home Buyers


 

 
Congratulations!  You have decided to purchase a home, or are thinking about buying one.  You'll be joining the ranks of hundreds of families who realize that home ownership offers a number of benefits including building equity, saving for the future, and creating an environment for your family.  When you own your own home, your hard-earned dollars contribute to your mortgage. The equity you earn is yours.  Over time, your home will increase in value.

In the following reports, you'll find the information you need to make a wise buying decision.  We'll take you through the planning process step-by-step , to help you determine which home is right for you.  You'll find a host of informative articles on mortgages, viewing homes, the offer, closing details and moving.

Please contact me if you have any questions about buying a home in St. Augustine or elsewhere in Florida.


Below, select desired reports and complete the form provided.

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Avoid Common Buyer Errors
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But Do You Need It
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