10 Terms, Rules and Points to Consider Before Buying a Condo

By: Chris Muellenbach

Not too many years ago, most of my work with condominiums had to do with helping growing families move into single family homes. Many purchased their condos at the height of the market and could not afford to sell and take such a large loss. So, once they found a home, many opted to rent their condo to pay the mortgage.

A lot has changed.

Today, the majority of people I am showing condos to are selling their suburban homes and looking to downsize. Tired of taking care of the lawn, shoveling snow, or worrying about their home in the winter months while they enjoy warmer climates, many of my clients are opting for condo living.

I held an open house recently at The Soap Works Lofts condos: SoapWorksLofts.com  The majority of people who toured the open house were over 50 years old, have lived in single family homes and are interested in condo living. A few of the many advantages to condo living in the Soap Works Lofts is the amazing downtown location. Only two blocks to the Milwaukee Public Market and Historic Third Ward. Additionally, the building is located on The Hop, Milwaukee’s new streetcar line. Surprisingly you can still buy a reasonably priced 2 bedroom, 2 bath condo with over 1,800 sq./ft. of living space for the price of a one bedroom condo two blocks away.

Similarly, I held an open house for a 3 bedroom, 2 bath listing at the Knickerbocker on the Lake. Living up to its name with incredible Lake Michigan views from nearly every room: 1028eJuneau.com

Every person who toured the unit was old enough to remember where they were when they learned President Regan had been shot.

What is my point? Condo living is becoming increasingly attractive to folks who have likely not considered it in the past. But, the rules are different and can be restrictive.

Understanding condo terms, rules, and regulations is vitally important before choosing the condo building that’s right for you. Not all associations are created equal. Oftentimes there can be vast differences.

  1. HOA – Home Owners Association
  2. Assessments: Associations bill unit owners for their share of building expenses.Roofs, elevators, pools, and security guards are some of the high priced items within condos. Make sure the association’s financials are strong and they have the appropriate reserves.
  3. Annual Meeting: Meeting of all the members of the Association at which time items and concerns are shared and can be voted on by the full association.
  4. Common Elements: The portion of the property owned collectively by the members of the association. Roof, parking lots, gardens. Typically anything outside of the individual units.
  5. Limited Common Elements: Owned collectively by members of the Association, but the use is limited to one or only certain members. Examples: Parking and storages lockers can be examples of Limited Common Elements.
  6. Townhouse: One of many side-by-side single family homes often sharing common walls.
  7. Low rise: Buildings three stories or less
  8. High rise: Building over seven stories
  9. Twindominium: According to the Wisconsin Realtors Association: “Twindominiums appear to refer to a duplex held in condominium ownership.”
  10. Rules of Renting a Condo: Most associations restrict renting condos. AirBnB and short-term renting are not allowed in most Milwaukee area condo associations, please be sure to understand the Rules and Regulations of the association you are considering purchasing within.


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