Condo prices are falling (a tiny bit)
October 16, 2006 5:27 AM   Subscribe

What do I need to know before I decide to buy a condo (in DC)?

I’m considering buying a condo in DC some time in the next year or so. I’ve never owned before, but I’ve lived in the area forever, so I know the market pretty well. I also understand the financing process from start to end. What I don’t know is everything else...real estate agents, what sort of benefits/tax credits I may be eligible for (if any, I make a good amount of money), what I should be looking for when I go look at places (ideally my place will be in a renovated rowhouse, but since they’re rare, I have the feeling I’ll end up in a big ol’ condo building), and you know, other stuff that I don’t know enough to ask you about. What else do I need to learn about? Do you know of any good resources for a first time home buyer (both general and specifically to DC – again keeping in mind that I know everything I need to know about mortgages)? I know this is a really general question and I’ll be around all day if there’s anything I need to clarify or I have follow up questions. Thanks for your help!
posted by echo0720 to Home & Garden (2 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
First-time homebuyers buying in DC will receive a $5,000 tax credit on the purchase, here's some info I got from Fannie Mae just now:

Individuals may claim the credit if (1) they purchased a primary residence in the District of Columbia, (2) they did not own a home in the District during the one-year period ending on the purchase date, and (3) they have a modified adjusted gross income (AGI) of less than $90,000 if single or married filing separately, or less than $130,000 if married filing jointly.

I looked at buying a condo in DC three years ago, right when everything was exploding and got priced out pretty quickly. I did learn a few things though. If you are probably ending up in a building, school yourself on the differences between a condo and a co-op. With a co-op, you generally own a share in the building and can't rent it out to anyone (in a lot of cases), so that's something to keep in mind. There's plenty more than that, but that was the biggest thing I remember (since I didn't think I'd be around that long and wanted to keep it as an investment property). Plus, beware of condo fees and underlying mortgages. Your agent can fill you in on all of this though and you are probably already aware.

I really enjoyed using Ziprealty to stay on top of new listings in the area (usually I'd find them before my agent's staff did) and there's a bunch of new tools out now like Zillow.

This lifehacker post and its comment section may be useful as well: Good luck!
posted by ml98tu at 6:36 AM on October 16, 2006

I would ask what the condo fees are and on what schedule are they paid to the Condo Association (monthly, quarterly); how large is the reserve fund of the Condo Association; have there been any assessments in the past year or 24 months, and for what -- big repair, covering a cost such as insurance that was underestimated; ask about the remaining life of anything that looks old such as the roof or shared areas that might be very expensive to overhaul and whether there are sufficient reserves to cover their upkeep.

Also ask the seller what their impressions are of the Condo Association and how they've run things.
posted by contessa at 6:38 AM on October 16, 2006

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