Saturday, February 18, 2006

Is owning a Condo on Martha’s Vineyard the right lifestyle for me?

I have never been a fan of condos on Martha’s Vineyard. People think condo living is easier than maintaining a home. That may be true in America, but I believe maintaining a home on Martha’s Vineyard is not as difficult as you might think. Nevertheless, for those who really want a condo, here are some suggestions that could prevent painful mistakes when purchasing a condo.

If by chance you have a choice of units, which rarely happens here, compare unit locations. Consider not only the compass location as it relates to the seasons, but also noise producing factors like proximity to the community pool, tennis courts or playground, club house, or main roads and bike paths. Where available, second floor units are usually quieter, but not as convenient for senior citizens.

The price of owning a condo does not end with the mortgage. I cannot stress this enough: There can be numerous fees. Some of those fees are basic, while others are hidden and undisclosed or pending but not due until after the closing. You need to attach a dollar value to all those amenities and conveniences and evaluate exactly what you are receiving for the fees you are paying. Is it all worth the price? In most cases, fees that are due prior to closing are the responsibility of the seller but disclosed fees due after the closing are the responsibility of the buyer, so make sure you have a clear picture of all finances that could effect you. Is there a HOA emergency fund account and how much is in it? Are there any major maintenance projects being considered for additional assessments? These are all questions you should be asking.

Get copies of all documents current to the date of closing. You want to review the minutes from the Home Owners’ Association (HOA) meetings and the Condominium Documents and Declarations. These documents as well as additional information like the public offering statement which outlines the Conditions, Covenants and Restrictions are available from the Registry of Deeds, the condominium management company or the law firm representing the property owner. When reviewing the documents, pay close attention to voting rules as well as current and proposed changes in the budget. Be sure you know how the responsibility for common areas is handled. You want to know how many parking spaces are attached to your condo ownership and where they are. You want to know the rules and location of additional parking when you have visitors. You want to know what your storage area looks like and where it is located. Be sure you are clear on any restrictions that could limit your use of spaces outside your unit, as well as limitations and restrictions regarding rentals, both in terms of income and time period. There are also sure to be restrictions regarding ownership of pets. One of the best ways to know what life is going to be like in your new condo is to talk to people who already own condos so don’t be shy, knock on doors and approach people.

Martha’s Vineyard is first and foremost a vacation area and one of the main businesses here is taking care of the homes of seasonal residents. Most properties require minimal maintenance and caretakers charge very reasonable rates. The choice is yours, but for my money I want to own the dirt.


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