Boston condos for sale are a popular option with many first time home buyers mainly because they are more affordable. They are also a good fit for home owners looking to downsize and have someone else take care of all the maintenance hassles.  Or if you want to be close to the hub of downtown Boston life and stroll to bars, cafes an restaurants, then a downtown Boston condo is probably your only option.

There are pros and cons to buying a condo versus a house. However, buying a Boston Seaport condo is not the same as buying a house. There’s a whole other set of questions you need to ask when viewing Boston condos for sale.

The answers to these questions will help you decide whether you should even make an offer in the first place or bail on the sale once you get all the facts.

Ideally, you want to get answers to as many of these questions BEFORE you make an offer. You want to avoid wasting your time (and the seller’s) getting into a contract when there’s a good chance you will bail once you have all the answers.

Here’s a list of the most important questions to ask when buying a Boston Seaport condo for sale. And make sure to ask ALL of them!

#1: WHAT ARE THE MONTHLY CONDO FEES DUES AND WHAT’S COVERED?

When you buy a home, you are responsible for all your own repairs plus covering the cost of them. When you own a Boston Seaport condo, you will be required to pay monthly Condo fees. These monthly fees can vary a lot from one Boston Seaport condo development to another and just like property taxes, they always go up over time. 

You’ll want to ask what you are getting for that chunk of monthly money. Usually, items like common area maintenance, water. sewer and  garbage removal ect will be covered but you will probably have to pay for your own electricity. It’s a good idea to ask how much the dues usually go up each year. Part of your monthly dues also goes into a reserve fund that’s used by the condo fees for repairs and upgrades.

When determining how much you can afford to buy, make sure to take into account the condo dues. Most online mortgage calculators don’t include them in their calculations.

#2: IS THERE A CONDO SPECIAL ASSESSMENT?

A downtown Boston condo special assessment is the bane of condo owners and happy are those who don’t have to endure them. Special assessments are levied on all the owners of a Boston Seaport condo development when the condo association has insufficient funds to cover the cost of needed repairs and upgrades. 

So when you are considering making an offer on a  condominium, you will want to ask the following questions:

  • Are there any current or upcoming special assessments?
  • What is the special assessment for?
  • Is it a one-off payment or split over a few years?
  • When was the last one, how much was it and what did that cover?

If the special assessment is already in place and requires a one-off payment, then you can request that the sellers pay for it at closing from the net proceeds of the sale.

The problem is when the assessment is not in place yet and will be instigated sometime after you have taken possession of the home. You should be particularly wary of situations where the amount that each owner will have to pay has not yet been decided by the HOA. You could be in for an ugly house warming gift!

#3: IS THE CONDO DEVELOPMENT FHA-APPROVED?

Boston Seaport District condos are a good foot in the downtown Boston real estate door for many first time home buyers, many of whom rely on FHA loans. These loans are popular because they only require a buyer to have a 3.5% downpayment. 

If you are relying on one of these loans you will need to ask if the condo development is approved to accept FHA loans. Some Boston Seaport condo developments will be but some will not. If you are relying on an FHA loan, your condominium options will probably be more limited compared to if you were using a conventional loan with a bigger downpayment.

For a condominium to be FHA-certified, it must meet certain FHA loan requirements. These include a minimum percentage of units that must be owner-occupied and a set maximum on the number of owners who are in arrears on their HOA dues.

The condo assocation must undergo a certification process in order to get FHA-approval.  Unfortunately, for some HOA’s they just couldn’t be bothered with the hassle of going through the process. It’s a little short-sighted since they are reducing the saleability of their homes (assuming they would meet the FHA criteria).

#4: IS THERE A RENTAL CAP?

This is an important question to ask when buying a Boston Seaport condo for sale. When you own a house, you can do as you please, run off to Antarctica for 2 years and rent out your home. When you buy a downtown Boston condo, however, you have to abide by the rules and regulations of the association.

A rental cap is the maximum number of units in a condo development that be rented at any one time. All other units must be owner-occupied.  For condominiums with caps, 20% is a common limit with luxury Boston Seaport condo developments. Some buildings don’t allow renters at all.

#5: WHAT’S THE CONDO ASSOCIATION’S PET POLICY?

We love our pets and we’ll do anything for them. But pets can’t speak so you’ll need to speak for them.

The last thing you want to do is get the keys to your new condo and then discover Rex and Fido are not welcome. And as for that 10-gallon piranha aquarium… time to advertise it on Craigslist!

Different Boston Seaport condominiums will have different rules when it comes to pets. Some development can be like zoos with little or no limits while others will have very strict rules. Some will allow zero pets, some will allow just cats and some will allow cats and dogs.

#6: DOES THE CONDO COME WITH DESIGNATED PARKING OR ANY PARKING FOR THAT MATTER?

Especially for downtown Boston real estate, parking is a precious commodity. Having your very own designated parking spot is a thing to be cherished. Driving around in circles on a rainy night looking for parking is way overrated

Never assume that the Boston Seaport condo comes with an allocated parking spot. Ask! Sometimes on the online listing it will list the number of the parking spots if they go with the condo. 

If you need more than one parking space, ask if you can lease a second spot from an owner who’s not using theirs.

In some Boston Seaport condominiums, it might be a first come, first served set up and won’t have enough parking spaces for everyone. If all the spaces are gone, will you be able to find parking nearby on the street? If you live in the middle of a bustling city like downtown Boston and you own a car, then you most definitely will need a designated parking space.

#7: IS THERE ANY CURRENT LITIGATION?

When purchasing a Boston Seaport District condominium, you want to avoid ending up with one that is embroiled in some expensive, drawn-out litigation. Then most common of which is where the Condo Association is suing the builder. 

Most new Boston Seaport District construction condos come with a builders warranty and warranties are only as good as the willingness of the builder to honor that warranty.

The classic items that will fail first are the siding, the windows, the roof and the decks. They are exposed to the wind, rain, and elements and any shoddy construction will be quickly exposed.

Asking about any current or upcoming litigation is critical when buying a Boston Seaport condo for sale.  Also, it’s good to ask about any previous litigation and see if the issues were addressed properly.

#8: WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME A RESERVE STUDY WAS DONE?

Boston  Seaport Condo buildings, like any home, always need maintenance, repairs, and updates. And that costs money. 

So how does a Condo Association know if they have sufficient cash on hand to be able to take care of unexpected repairs plus have enough to address big known repairs down the road? 

A well-run condo association will have healthy financial reserves and be able to cover the recommended updates without having to start tapping the individual owners. A badly run association will probably be scrambling to make up the needed funds and likely have a history of one special assessment after another. These are the condominiums you want to avoid or seriously reconsider before making an offer.

SOME FINAL THOUGHTS ON THE 10 CRITICAL QUESTIONS TO ASK WHEN BUYING A BOSTON CONDO.

Buying a Boston condo for sale requires an added layer of investigation and is a lot different than buying a house. Use the list of questions above to find out early in the process if a Boston Seaport condo will work for your particular needs. 

Then more answers you can get up front the better. Make sure your Realtor works for their commission and get busy ferreting out the answers that will help you make the right decision. Good luck!

Boston Seaport Condos for Sale


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Author Profile

John Ford
John Ford
EXPERIENCE

Over the course of 20 years in the Boston downtown real estate market, John represented and sold numerous, condominiums, investment and development properties in Greater Boston and in the surrounding suburbs



In addition to representing Boston condo buyers and sellers, John is currently one of the most recognized Boston condo blog writers regarding Boston condominiums and residential real estate markets. John's insights and observations about the Boston condo market have been seen in a wide variety of the most established local & national media outlets including; Banker and Tradesman, Boston Magazine The Boston Globe, The Boston Herald and NewsWeek and Fortune magazine, among others.



HISTORY

For over 24 years, John Ford, of Ford Realty Inc., has been actively involved in the real estate industry. He started his career in commercial real estate with a national firm Spaulding & Slye and quickly realized that he had a passion for residential properties. In 1999, John entered the residential real estate market, and in 2000 John Started his own firm Ford Realty Inc. As a broker, his clients have come to love his fun, vivacious, and friendly attitude. He prides himself on bringing honesty and integrity to the entire home buying and selling process. In addition to helping buyers and sellers, he also works with rental clients. Whether you’re looking to purchase a new Boston condo or rent an apartment, you’ll quickly learn why John has a 97% closing rate.

AREAS COVERED

Back Bay

Beacon Hill

Charles River Park

Downtown/Midtown

North End

South End

Seaport District

South Boston

Waterfront

Brookline

Surrounding Communities of Boston
Contact
John Ford and his staff can be reached at 617-595-3712 or 617-720-5454. Please feel free to stop by John's Boston Beacon Hill office located at 137 Charles Street.




John Ford
Ford Realty Inc
137 Charles Street
Boston, Ma 02114

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