What To Look For When Buying a Condo

Every year, many people purchase condos (condominiums) for the first time. Some people buy condos because urban-dwelling suits them. Others are downsizing, or purchasing a second home. And yet some people purchase condos as investment properties. Luxury Phoenix Condos showcases condos of all types, for all types of buyers.

Whatever your reason, pay attention to the following things when buying a condo.

Embassy Condominiums pool
The pool at Embassy Condominiums in Downtown Phoenix.

1 – Exterior Condition

Take a look at the exterior condition of the condominium. Is it in good shape? If so, your investment will likely be protected. If not, it’s very possible that the condo fees collected by the HOA are not being used properly, or are being used to settle debts or make payments.

The purpose of the condo fee is to distribute the cost of the building’s upkeep among its owners. If the building is not being kept up, something is wrong. I always, always, always advise buyers to steer clear of condos in communities that are in poor condition.

2 – Common Areas

Just as you should pay attention to the exterior of any condo building, look at the common areas. Do people use them? Are they well-maintained? Outdated? Remember: you pay for that! If the common areas are poor, that’s not a good investment. It means the money is going somewhere else. Look for condo communities where the hallways, elevators, pools, fitness centers, parking garages and grounds are very nice. You will probably pay higher fees, but at least you won’t have huge special assessments that will be needed for big fixes.

3 – Renovations & Special Features

The entire world was shocked when a high-end luxury condo community in Miami collapsed this past year. And that collapse also rocked the condo industry, as more and more light is now being shed on the building structure and maintenance.

Ask about recent and upcoming renovations. It’s imperative that buildings get renovated as they age. In Phoenix, many of the condo buildings were constructed decades ago. But even newly constructed buildings can be unsound.

Rooftop pools (rooftop anything), garages, underground parking and other special features also deserve scrutiny. During your inspection period, ask the HOA about how often the structural soundness of the building is reviewed, and what residents can do if they feel unsafe. I hate to go there, but it is worth it for your life.

4 – Amenities and Fees

What kind of amenities and services are available to you? You should pay attention to condos that offer amenities that meet your specific needs and desires. Heated pools, secure entrances, elevators, parking, concierge, and extra storage are just some examples of amenities that are commonly offered with luxury condos. Some lesser-known amenities include electric vehicle charging, on-site guards, on-site restaurants and retail services, and all-inclusive utilities.

Along with amenities, take a good look at the condo fee, what it covers and decide if that will work for your budget. The higher the fee, the more it should cover. If it doesn’t, run.

5 – Floor Plan

Now we get into the things to look for in the individual units, and the first is the floor plan itself. Beyond basic layout and traffic flow, think about things like the bedroom placement, kitchen, and bathrooms. Do guests have to go through or near your private spaces to get to the half bath? Is your bedroom along a common wall? Also, think about the size. Can you easily get furniture in and out of the unit? Does that matter to you? These are the types of questions to ask yourself.

6 – Unit Location

Where exactly is the unit located on the floor? Is it right by the elevator, or is it a corner unit? How many shared walls do you have? Along with that, are the units priced any differently based on this information?

A unit right next to a common area such as an elevator or fitness center is going to be louder and less private than an end unit at the end of a hall. Condos with fewer or no shared walls are more valuable than units with 2 or more shared walls.

Additionally, top-floor condos typically cost more than lower-level units. They are quieter, more secure, and more private. A lower-level unit should not cost more than a floor plan on a higher level unless its updates make up for the less advantageous placement.

7 – Light and views

How much light does the unit get? What are the views like? These things go together with unit location and floor plan. Floor-to-ceiling windows are a luxury with condos because they provide better views than standard windows and more light. The more natural light a condo gets and the better the views, the more it is worth (to some people).

Depending on where the condo is in town, a north-facing view could be more valuable than a south-facing view or vice-versa. Same with east and west (this is especially important for sunsets and sunrises).

8 – Sound and Noise

Consider how noisy the condo unit is when you are inside it. Building materials, the placement of the unit on the floor, and the level of the unit all play a part in noise reduction. If you can easily hear traffic while inside the unit with all of the doors and windows closed, determine if you can live with that or not. Can you hear your future neighbor? That matters, too. Quieter condos are worth more than noisy ones.

9 – Floors, Ceilings and Appliances

Last and least for a reason, consider floors, ceilings and appliances. The reason I put these last is that of all of things above, these are the ones you can change!

While you can change your refrigerator and your kitchen cabinets, you can’t change the overall size of the unit. And yes, you can lay all new flooring, but you can’t move the condo to a whole new floor.

So yes, these are important, but they are changeable. If you don’t like them but you love the building, its amenities, the location of the unit, the noise level, etc… strongly consider purchasing it anyway and making changes later.


Tia Peterson is a residential REALTOR® in Phoenix specializing in condo sales and leasing. Contact her to buy or sell your Phoenix area condo today. For a completely free condo valuation, call 602-753-6176.