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4 Things You Need to Know Before Buying a Florida Condo

Updated on August 24, 2017
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Dreamworker has a lifetime of business, career and financial experience she shares with her readers here.

The four most important things you need to know about if you are thinking about buying a condo in Florida are:

  1. The important ways you are connected to other owners.
  2. The quality of the professional condo management company.
  3. The rules and how well they are enforced.
  4. State condo laws and how they affect owners.

Any one of these issues can seriously affect you in terms of the quality of life you will have as well as your cost of living.

Thus it is important for you to do a lot of research before you buy. If you don't, you could run into some major upsetting and financially damaging problems.

I know this because I have lived in a Florida condo for the past 26 years!

4 Important things you need to know before you decide to buy a condo in Florida.
4 Important things you need to know before you decide to buy a condo in Florida. | Source

The Hype Is Different Than the Reality

If you're thinking of moving to Florida and buying a condo, you may want to reconsider doing so.

There are thousands of these places all over the state, many of which are making life a living hell for people who thought they were buying a piece of paradise only to find that where they have chosen to live out their golden years is actually a quagmire of problems.

For this reason it's important for people to learn the facts about Florida condos in general and also the one they are thinking of buying long before they make a purchase.

The hype is that condos offer you an affordable way of life that relieves you of external maintenance chores while at the same time providing a community of like minded people who enjoy social activities together.

The reality is that buying into any community means

  • signing an enforceable contract that holds you accountable to a bevy of nit-picking and sometimes ridiculously stupid rules,
  • turning major maintenance decisions over to a board of generally uneducated and inept neighbors who have no background or training whatsoever in property management matters,
  • living in close quarters with people, some of whom you will grow to dislike greatly and
  • being forced to spend money on things you do not agree on or like.

Furthermore, if you have never lived in a condo before, you will not understand that you have agreed to live this way and won't have any choice in these matters unless you want to move.

More importantly, there are now things happening legally in the state that could even cause you to lose your home and most of the investment you have put into it!

Condos Are Poorly Run Corporations

What most people do not realize is that condominiums are not-for-profit corporations and therefore are subject to a special set of laws that determine what owners can and cannot due.

Most corporations are run by educated, trained business people who have staffs on call to handle their paperwork.

Condos, on the other hand, are expected to be run equally well by individuals who

  1. are not required to have any training or pertinent educational background at all,
  2. are often over the age of 55 (sometimes way over),
  3. may not have a good understanding of the English language,
  4. may not understand enough English to be able to deal with the legalese in the state laws and condo documents and
  5. may be highly medicated and thus mentally impaired.

Condo Owners Must Share Financial Responsibilities

Many who move into condos come to them from homes and do not realize the legal ramifications of what they are purchasing or that they will have to share the financial responsibility of repairs and upkeep with their neighbors.

They do not understand (or even want to understand) the concept of communal living.

  • In short, people who buy condos come into them happy about the fact that they no longer have to mow lawns, paint their buildings, clean their pools or worry about their general safety.
  • However, the honeymoon ends as soon as they realize they will have to pay their share of buying somebody else's new roof, even though they may not be getting one themselves.

Furthermore, they are not aware of the fact that if someone becomes injured on the condo property, all residents are equally liable for any damages, the cost of which can run into hundreds of thousands of dollars!

Poor Management Can Drain Finances

New residents feel secure because they have been told that there is a professional management company overseeing the business of the community. They often think believe that board members work for the management company.

The truth is that the company is employed by the board to handle important mailings, provide guidance when needed, and serve as a liaison between the association and the board’s law firm.

While this seems to be a good idea, the truth is that a management company is only as good as its employees. If they are lax, misappropriate funds or give incorrect advice, they can wreak havoc with the finances of a community.

The board can replace them, of course, but there is no guarantee that the new company will be any better. In fact, most of them do a terrible job. No matter how bad they are, boards are required by law to employ them, and the costs of doing so is significant.

For example, it costs my 84 unit community $20,000 per year to employ a management company that was once good but now is making things worse for us. Our board refuses to employ a different one, so we are stuck (at least for now).

Furthermore, there is little residents can do to protect themselves against companies that mismanage (or sometimes steal) their money.

When boards and management companies overspend, they levy assessments and raise maintenance fees to make up for the shortfall. They then place liens on the properties of residents who refuse to pay.

The only recourse for owners is to take them to court, but this is extremely difficult and expensive to do, so most people simply tolerate the problems or move out of the community.

Condo documents provide rules that can be very expensive to enforce.
Condo documents provide rules that can be very expensive to enforce. | Source

Rules Are Always a Problem

It is human nature to dislike being told what to do, especially when people feel they own their property.

However, for a community to function well, everybody living there must adhere to the rules. In fact, people are forced to agree to uphold the rules before they make their purchase.

The problem is that many residents sign the agreement, then do whatever they like.

They agree

  • not to have pets, but they sneak cats and dogs into their condos,
  • to not park on the grass, but they do and
  • to park their cars in their driveways, but they park on the streets.

These things irritate and inconvenience other residents and thus cause hard feelings that ruin relationships.

Residents complain to the board, but although violators are breaking the law when they ignore the rules, violations are expensive and difficult to pursue.

In extreme cases, rule breakers can be fined, but they must be given a two week notice and then meet with a “fining committee” and arbitrator to decide whether the fine is justified.

The problems with this is that

  1. the arbitrator must be a lawyer who charges the community a hefty hourly sum for conducting the meeting and
  2. finding residents who are willing to impose fines on their neighbors is almost impossible.

Thus, although consequences are written into the law, they are virtually useless.

The end result is that residents either have to put up with violators or move.

In most cases, owners are simply stuck in costly and upsetting situations from which they cannot afford to extricate themselves while they continue to lose money!

Florida Laws Make Buying Condos Risky

In recent years the State of Florida has passed laws that allow developers to overtake condo properties at pennies on the dollar.

The attached videos give excellent explanations of the types of things that have been happening, but the bottom line is that these laws are forcing owners to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars simply because the state has pulled the financial rug out from under them.

Many are senior citizens who have invested their life savings into their homes and owe far more than what they'll be paid when they're forced to move.

This not only will bankrupt many of them, but also will leave them homeless.

This is due to just one of the laws the state has passed that bring real financial harm to Florida Condo Owners, but there are others that are equally harmful.

Consider Carefully Before Buying

The next time you start thinking about drinking a beer and basking in the Florida sun while watching workers mow your lawn and tend to your flower beds, you might want to consider that because of the way Florida is doing things, buying a condo here might force you into bankruptcy in the future.

At the very least, it may make your life miserable.

For these reasons, I would advise you to do plenty of research before you make your decision.

After reading this, do you still think you'd like to move into a Florida condo?

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© 2017 Sondra Rochelle

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