Derek Morgan
Derek Morgan
Condos at sunset
Derek Morgan
Derek Morgan

    The Ultimate Guide for First Time Condo Buyers

    From choosing the right location to navigating legal contracts, there are many important steps to consider. This blog post can serve as a comprehenisve guide for first time condo-buyers, taking you through every step of buying a condo, so you can feel confident in your decision and enjoy your new home.

    Primary Research

    The Location

    When buying a condo, the location should be one of your top priorities. Location will determine the value of the property, and it can also have a large impact on the quality of life you’ll have while living in the condo. Look at the proximity to public transportation, shopping centers, restaurants, and parks. You should also research the crime rate and local school districts if you have children or plan to have children.

    Local zoning ordinances will reveal which types of businesses can be built or whether the property is in a flood zone. Should the condo happen to fall within a high-risk area, you’ll need to factor in the cost of flood insurance into your budget.

    Price Range

    Any monthly HOA fees should be taken into account alongside the initial purchase price when budgeting for a condo. The homeowners associations (HOA) fees cover the maintenance of common areas, such as the swimming pool, gym, and parking lots. If the condo is in a gated community, the HOA fees may also include security services.

    Repairs and renovations could also raise costs, as well as any taxes and insurance. When calculating your budget, make sure you have a 20-25% down payment saved up and that your total housing payments don’t exceed 30% of your gross monthly income.


    There may be amenities available to the condo community and can include a pool, gym, clubhouse, or a playground for children. Some condos offer additional perks like an on-site restaurant or bar, salon, concierge service, or even a pet spa.

    You should also look for amenities like security features, such as an alarm system or cameras; green features like solar panels or energy-efficient appliances; and outdoor features like a balcony or patio. Even if you don’t plan to use these amenities, they can be a great selling point if you decide to resell your condo in the future.

    Condo Association Rules

    Before buying a condo, you should make sure you understand the condo association’s rules and regulations. The rules can vary widely from one association to another, so it’s important to do your research. You should get a copy of the association’s covenants, conditions, and restrictions (CC&Rs). They will typically outline rules concerning the number of pets allowed in the unit, whether you can rent out the unit, and how much noise you can make. It’s also important to understand the condo association’s insurance policy and any special assessments that may be imposed. Special assessments are fees imposed to fund major projects, such as roof repairs or new landscaping.


    Mortgage Pre-Approval

    A pre-approval ensures that you can financially afford the purchase and helps you to better understand what mortgage options are available to you. When getting pre-approved, you’ll need to provide basic financial information to the lender such as your income, credit score, and debts. You'll then receive a pre-approval letter, which states the maximum loan amount you qualify for and the interest rate that you’ll receive on the loan.

    You should also compare lenders and the different mortgage products they offer to make sure you’re getting the best deal. Special programs are sometimes granted to first-time buyers and make the process a bit easier. Pre-approval does not guarantee that you’ll actually get the loan, since final approval is based on an appraisal of the property and an assessment of your credit score and income at the time of closing.

    Online mortgage calculators are more accurate in their estimates of your mortgage payments and the total interest you'll pay. You will also need to tally additional costs such as homeowners insurance, property taxes, and maintenance fees when calculating your budget.

    Down Payment Considerations

    You’ll typically need to put down at least 5% of the purchase price as a down payment for a condo, but that depends on the type of loan you get. Closing costs are summed into down payments, which can range from 2% to 7% of the purchase price. Closing costs include fees for the loan, title insurance, appraisal, inspections, and more. The amount of closing costs you’ll pay will depend on your lender and the type of loan you get. It’s important to budget for these costs, as they can add up quickly.

    In addition to the down payment and closing costs, you should also budget for other costs associated with buying a condo. These include moving costs, furniture, and any renovations or repairs you may need to do after closing. It’s best to overestimate the amount you’ll need, as unexpected costs can arise and you don’t want to be caught unprepared.

    Closing Costs

    Closing costs are the fees associated with the purchase of a condo. Generally, closing costs include fees for the loan, title insurance, appraisal, inspections, and more. It’s important to budget for these costs, as they can add up quickly.

    Additionally, you’ll need to pay for title insurance, which protects the lender in case of a dispute over ownership. Appraisal fees are also typically required, as lenders want to make sure the property is worth the loan amount. Other closing costs may include inspection fees, attorney’s fees, and other miscellaneous costs.

    It’s important to shop around for the best deal on closing costs. Some lenders may offer to cover some (or all) of the closing costs, while a real estate agent could negotiate a better rate with the lender.


    Before purchasing a condo, it’s important to get a thorough inspection of the property. A home inspector will check for structural issues, such as foundation problems, electrical issues, and damage from water or pests. Their findings will be shared with you in a detailed report.

    It’s important to hire a qualified home inspector who is certified in their field. A qualified inspector will be able to detect any current or potential issues with the property. Additionally, make sure to ask for references and read reviews before hiring an inspector. It’s also a good idea to ask the seller for any inspection reports they have on the property, which can help you save money on the inspection cost.

    It’s also important to note that some states require special inspections for condos, such as radon or mold testing. Be sure to check with your state’s laws before purchasing a condo to make sure you’re in compliance. 

    Making an Offer

    Making the Offer

    To determine what you’re willing to pay for a condo, find out the current market value of the condo and the state of the local housing market. It’s important to also take into account any upgrades and features that the condo has that could affect the price. Additionally, you should research the condo association’s rules, restrictions, and fees to make sure that you’re comfortable with the level of control the association has over the property. Finally, be sure to get a copy of the condo association’s covenants, conditions, and restrictions (CC&Rs) that detail the association’s rights and responsibilities.

    Once you’ve determined the purchase price that you’re willing to pay for the condo, it’s time to make the offer and start drafting a contract. It’s important to keep in mind that the written offer may be rejected by the seller, so you should be prepared to negotiate if necessary.


    As the buyer, you may have certain contingencies that you want to have included in the written offer. This could include a home inspection, financing contingencies, or even an appraisal. It’s important to remember that the seller is likely to have their own contingencies as well, such as a certain closing date or a specific term of the sale. Be sure to discuss all of these points before signing the contract.

    It’s also important to keep in mind that the seller may not be willing to accept the offer that you make. In this case, it’s important to be prepared to negotiate. The seller is likely to have their own goals and desires when it comes to the sale of the condo, so it’s important to be flexible and open to compromise when negotiating. It’s also important to be aware of any deadlines that may be in place, as the offer may expire if it is not accepted within a certain timeframe.

    Reviewing the Contract

    Once the offer has been accepted, it’s important to review the contract carefully or consult with a lawyer to ensure it is legally binding. Double check that all details are correct, including the purchase price, the date of closing, any contingencies, and the terms of the sale.

    Once the contract has been reviewed and signed, it’s important to ensure that all contingencies have been met. This could include obtaining a home inspection, securing financing, or obtaining an appraisal. It’s important to make sure that all of these contingencies have been met before closing on the condo.

    Closing the Sale

    Final Walkthrough

    When buying a condo, the final walkthrough is an important step that should not be skipped. This is the time to inspect that things are either in the same condition as when you made the offer, or that the repairs have been made accordingly. It is also a good opportunity to take photos of the property for your records.

    You should also check for any issues that weren’t included in the inspection report, such as cracks in walls, strange odors, or water damage. If you spot any problems, you can hold the seller accountable for resolving them. This can be done through a request for repairs or a reduction in the purchase price.

    Bring a copy of the inspection report, a list of any requested repairs, and a checklist of items to inspect to the walkthrough. Flashlights and measuring tape can also come in handy at this time.

    Signing the Closing Documents

    Signing the closing documents will confirm that you and the seller are in agreement when transferring the title of the property to you. At this point, you may be ready to hurry things along, but these papers are too important to skim through. The closing documents typically include the sales contract, deeds, and other documents that will transfer the title to you. They may also include an HOA disclosure statement, or an HOA addendum, and mortgage documents.

    Then you can make your down payment in the form of a personal check, cashier’s check, or wire transfer. Once the paperwork is squared away, you officially become the owner of the condo.

    Getting the Keys & Moving In

    In most cases, the seller will provide you with two sets of keys upon closing. You can also get the keys from the real estate agent or the title company if the seller has already moved out. Before you start packing, make a list of all the items you will need to move in (furniture, appliances, cleaning supplies, etc.).

    After settling, take some time to familiarize yourself with the area by walking around the neighborhood and introducing yourself to neighbors. You should also get to know your HOA’s board members and attend any meetings or events they may have. Lastly, make sure you sign up for renter’s insurance to protect your belongings.

    Buying a condo is an exciting process, and the closing process can seem daunting. But with the right preparation and due diligence, you can ensure that the process goes smoothly and that you end up with a great condo that fits your lifestyle and budget.

    Other Considerations

    Homeowners Insurance

    It is important to have homeowners insurance in place when purchasing a condo as it will provide financial protection should the worst happen. Condo owners may require additional protection as the HOA’s insurance typically covers the building’s structure but not the interior of the unit.

    When purchasing condo insurance, ask your broker or insurer if the coverage is adequate for the building and the area you’re living in. Consider additional riders to cover items such as furniture, electronics, and other valuable possessions. Make sure your policy covers any special assessments that the condo association may charge. It’s also important to understand the deductible amount and how it affects your coverage. 

    Property Taxes

    You will be responsible for your condo's property taxes: taxes assessed by state and local governments on real estate, paid annually or semi-annually. Property taxes can vary widely from one area to the next, so it’s important to research the property tax rate before making an offer on a condo. It’s important to factor in the property tax rate into your budget when considering a condo purchase. When you purchase a condo, your HOA will typically reimburse you for your portion of the property taxes, and you not have to pay the full amount of the property taxes each year.

    Association Fees

    Condo association fees, also known as HOA fees, are dues paid by the condo owners to the homeowners association (HOA) to cover the costs of running the condo complex. These fees are typically paid on a monthly basis and can range from a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars depending on the size of the complex and the amenities it offers.

    When considering a condo purchase, it’s important to understand the HOA fees and what they cover. These fees can cover everything from common area maintenance, to utilities, to insurance, to amenities. Make sure you understand exactly what you are paying for when you sign the contract.

    It’s also important to understand if there are any special assessments that the HOA may charge. Special assessments are additional fees that the HOA may charge to cover unexpected expenses or large projects. These fees can add up quickly, so make sure you understand what they are and their cost before signing the contract.


    Maintenance is an important consideration when purchasing a condo. Many condo owners opt for a condo because it eliminates the need for them to maintain the exterior of the building. The HOA is responsible for exterior upkeep such as landscaping, snow removal, and repairs to the building. This can be a major advantage as it eliminates the need to hire contractors or do the work yourself.

    It’s important to understand the HOA’s policy on repairs and maintenance. Some HOAs require that all repairs and maintenance be done through the HOA, while others allow owners to hire their own contractors. It’s important to understand these policies before making a purchase.

    It’s also important to understand the HOA’s policies on noise levels and pets. Some HOAs have strict rules about noise levels and may even have rules on how many pets you can have in your unit. Make sure you understand these policies before making an offer on a condo.

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