We bought a home! Now what?
May 23, 2012 2:26 PM   Subscribe

So we bought a condo. Now what?

I just dropped off the deposit for our very first home this afternoon! We're very excited, but now I don't know what I should be doing. Between now and closing (and beyond!) what should we be doing to prepare ourselves for owning our first place and making it our own? We're getting an inspection set up and looking into doing some work on the bathroom before we move, but other than that I'm pretty stumped. I'm open to everything both practical and completely frivolous to help us complete the sale and settle in to our new place.
posted by backseatpilot to Home & Garden (17 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
First off get a copy of the Condo by-laws and rules and read and understand them. Also, you'll want to know if in the future you are able to rent out your condo instead of having to sell it (in my Florida condo only 25% of the total units could be rentals. There were only 20 units total.)

You may need to schedule an interview with your condo board to get approval. You will need to obtain from them an estopel letter. (I was on the board, I've written enough of them) you'll need this to close, so knock this one out early.

Also, make yourself aware of how to deal with repairs within your unit. Plumbing, electrical and HVAC are all on you, so know how to change a filter, flush your system, etc. Also, you might want to replace your tank water heater with a tankless. If you need to update the HVAC, you can get great deals by doing them together, and also some nifty rebates from the feds, your state and even your utility companies. Research this and get the best deal.

Find out what insurance the condo has, and then go to your agent to arrange for the right amount of insurance you'll need.

Homestead Exemption, find out from your county/state how to apply for and get the Homestead Exemption. In Florida this knocks off $35,000 of the property value for tax purposes, so it can save you money. Each year you had until March 1 to apply for it.

That's a good start.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 2:38 PM on May 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Get some practice signing your name because you'll be signing eleventymillion sheets of paper at the closing.
posted by SillyShepherd at 2:38 PM on May 23, 2012 [4 favorites]


Having just bought a house that we're getting some work done on before moving in, one tip that I have is to set up the internet service as early as possible, like the first weekday after closing. My work schedule is flexible enough to pop over to the new place and let the roofers in or meet electricians for an estimate, but having no internet means that it's extremely hard to still be connected to email and working while over there. If I had internet set up already, it wouldn't have been a huge deal to let my workplace know I was going to be working from my new home for a few hours in the afternoon to let in contractors--rather than ending up taking the time off because I couldn't get any work done while not connected.

In terms of pre-closing: the time period between the offer being accepted and closing was really stressful for me, because it definitely felt like "hurry up and wait!" I wasn't allowed to actually set up any repair or renovation appointments before closing without giving the title company heartburn (they were concerned about outstanding mechanics liens on the title they just insured). Unless you have a lot to pack up, I'd almost recommend taking a long weekend and getting out of town... you certainly won't have a lot of free time on weekends after you move in, and there's just not a lot you can do while you're waiting for the wheels to turn on the part of your bank and the appraisal.
posted by iminurmefi at 3:12 PM on May 23, 2012

Make sure you don't do anything binding or spend any money on upgrades until you have closed. Things sometimes happen to make sales fall through and you don't want to put yourself on the hook for anything on a condo you end up not owning.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 3:22 PM on May 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: In addition to what everyone else already said:

- Pay attention/attend the home inspection - this was the most valuable part of the process to me.

- Obtain warranty information and paperwork on all your appliances, including year, make and model type.

- If you can, negotiate the window coverings if they are in good shape into the offer/deal (e.g. curtain rods, blinds, etc.) that stuff gets so freakin' expensive. Even if you plan on replacing it, just having it in place temporarily until you get to it is a life saver.

- Change the locks and for gawdsakes, make extra keys!

- Hire movers - really, just do it. It's a nice treat after all the closing paperwork and closing.

- Give the place a royal scrubdown before you move everything in - it will help you get to know your place and it will be clean. If you choose to paint, paint before moving everything in.

- Introduce yourself to your immediate next door neighbors in person.

- Make copies of all of your paperwork after the closing and file it all together in a binder. Scan a copy as well.

- Make sure your address gets updated for bills, work, healthcare, daycare, mailing lists, etc.

- Save the cork from your first bottle of champagne in the house. Write the date on it - happy Houseiversary!
posted by floweredfish at 3:35 PM on May 23, 2012 [5 favorites]

Get homeowners insurance.

Don't over think things.
posted by Kololo at 4:33 PM on May 23, 2012

I'm sorry to disagree with Ruthless Bunny, but: depending on your location, your local laws may require that the seller provide you with a copy of the condo by-laws at signing. And there's a very good chance the condo board has no say in your purchase, whereas with a co-op building they would. (In a condo, you own your unit plus a share of 'common elements' like the lobby; in a co-op, the entire building is commonly owned.) And I've never heard of an 'estopel letter'; this may also be something you don't need, but again, check with your RE agent for the laws in your area.

Utilities: check to see if utility costs such as water, electric etc. are or are NOT included in your condo association monthly payment --- some condos do and some don't, and it would obviously make a difference in your monthly expenses (mortgage + condo fee, OR mortgage + condo fee + water + electric.)

Maintenance: there may be in-building maintenance personnel available for emergencies, although of course you would not be required to use them. For instance, my own building does not have in-unit water heaters (most plumbing work IS included under my condo fee), and the HVAC filters are automatically replaced by our building maintenance twice a year, plus you can have them do other work as requested on your own dime. And yeah, get the locks changed --- building maintenance can probably help you out here too.

posted by easily confused at 4:50 PM on May 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Anything you an do before you move in you should. New flooring? New paint? Bathroom remodel? All this stuff is MUCH easier before you put a bunch of stuff in the apartment.
posted by magnetsphere at 4:57 PM on May 23, 2012

I got some great advice when I asked a similar question, although it was a house and not a condo.
posted by tryniti at 5:54 PM on May 23, 2012

Read up on reserve funds and assessment costs. How much does the board have in reserve? Any maintenance scheduled? Is there enough to cover the work?

Surprise assessments are not pleasant and bite a lot of condo owners. What are your monthly fees to the condo association? Try to get a balance sheet if your state allows you to request that.
posted by JoeZydeco at 6:16 PM on May 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

Play with Floorplanner and decide in advance where to put your furniture. Makes it so much easier on moving day.
posted by kjs4 at 6:58 PM on May 23, 2012

Champagne and a picnic/take out dinner for your first night there!
posted by Vaike at 8:23 PM on May 23, 2012

Congrats! Take over your HOA Board first thing. I'm serious. Figure out who is on the Board. Read the minutes from past meetings. Go over the finances. Get elected onto the Board or at the very least follow everything that they do.

Also, fix everything that the inspection brings up. If it is something that is the HOAs responsibility to fix start talking with them immediately. Document everything.
posted by fieldtrip at 9:15 PM on May 23, 2012

have the place cleaned before you move in - it's sooo much easier to do before all your stuff is there. if you don't have time to do it yourself, hiring a cleaner will be worth every penny. floors, walls, inside cupboards and appliances; Starting off with a spotless place is a really good feeling. Also, painting is way easier without furniture in the way, so see if you can get that done too. And make sure you take some pictures of yourselves in it right when you get the keys, it's a big exciting moment and you'll be happy to have them.

posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 9:56 PM on May 23, 2012

We can offer better suggestions if you can supply a few more details, such as the approximate age and size (# of units) of the building; who manages the building; what is included in common property (do the units share plumbing? a water heater? a heating system?); and your location.

In the meantime, my 2 cents regarding self-managed, vintage buildings: find out the procedure for monitoring/maintaining the condition of common property (e.g., seeing that gutters are cleaned, bricks are tuckpointed). Ideally, these tasks are done according to an established schedule, backed with receipts for inspections and evidence that repairs are done before a condition becomes critical.

Not so ideal, no preventative maintenance routine, i.e., things are fixed when they break and/or inspections get done if/when someone brings up the topic at a meeting. Especially troublesome if the building is full of first-time home owners with little experience/knowledge about home maintenance. (Don't even get me started regarding the boiler that hadn't had an "annual" inspection in five years.)
posted by she's not there at 11:43 PM on May 23, 2012

Response by poster: Yes, I should have included some more information - we bought one unit out of a two-family home. The association, such as it is, is just us and the upstairs neighbors. We just received the condo docs and I'm going through those, and I'll ask about scheduled inspections and maintenance.

This is great information so far!
posted by backseatpilot at 4:08 AM on May 24, 2012

Did it come with land/a yard? Areas that look like they have been landscaped or gardened? Do you plan on being garden type people, even if you weren't already?

Go outside and take pictures. There's no point in messing with anything this year, because you don't know what's already planted or where or when it comes up. Go take pics every few weeks through October, so that you can plan over the winter for next year. Also it's nice just to be able to document how your place looks over the course of a year.
posted by instead of three wishes at 11:31 AM on May 24, 2012

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