9 Common Buyer Traps When Buying a Condo or Townhome

Often when we meet with buyers the goal or at least the initial goal is to buy a house! You know, a regular single-family residence with a yard and in a nice safe neighborhood. But sometimes for whatever reasons, be it price or location, or a combination of both, the buyer will decide to also look at a condo, a townhome, or an attached single-family residence.

Before moving onto the 9 common buyers traps you need to avoid when you make this choice, let's look at the differences and similarities between these types of homes.


A condo is usually a single-story unit located in a building or complex of similar units. These units can be stacked into a building (apartment-style) or single-story and spread out throughout the complex. They will usually share at least one wall, and often multiple walls and floor or ceiling spaces. All common areas and outsides of buildings will be the responsibility of the HOA to maintain, and this maintenance is supported by the monthly association fees.


A townhome is usually a two-story unit located in a complex of similar units. They will usually share at least one wall. Most townhomes will have a garage and some sort of yard or patio area as well. All common areas and outsides of buildings will be the responsibility of the HOA to maintain, and this maintenance is of course supported by the monthly association fees.

Attached Single-Family Residence

This is a single-family home that shares at least one wall with the neighbors, and will often look and feel like a townhome complex. Usually, but not always, there will be an association fee, and again all common areas will be the responsibility of the HOA to maintain. This maintenance is of course supported by the monthly association fees. Note that usually on an attached SFR, you the owner will be responsible for maintaining the outside of the home.

Now that we have an overview of what we are looking at, let's discuss what you the buyer need to look for when purchasing one of these types of properties.

1. Know What Type of Home You Are Buying

As we covered in the descriptions, many of these units look very similar, and often, unless you are working with a knowledgeable professional realtor, your agent might not know what type of unit it is! If your agent does not know what type of unit it is fire them and call us and we can help!

2. Study the Rules

All buyers are given a copy of the CC&Rs (conditions, covenants & restrictions.) These are the rules that govern the association and cover everything from parking to common area facilities usage and much more.

3. Study the Condition of the Common Areas and the Outsides of the Buildings

Are things being maintained? What does the roofing look like? Are the siding elevations and exposed wood dry rotting, termite-infested, or just look in bad repair? These are all signs that the association management board isn’t taking care of these facilities responsibly.

4. Know What the Future Holds for the Community

Along with your copy of the CC&Rs, you will be given a copy of the minutes from the last two years' HOA meetings. This will clue you in as to any improvements planned in the community as well as how the community plans to pay for them. Often badly managed communities will have to do a special assessment to cover repair costs because they failed to properly plan and budget for such things. This costs you the homeowner so beware.

5. Neighbors

Be aware of what the neighbors are like and make sure that this is a community that you want to live in. If there’s loud music playing when you see the home, or if the association allows storage or working on cars, or something else that you don’t like, understand that this is what’s the norm and standard in this community, and changing it might not be worth the effort.

6. Shared Utilities & Lines

Make sure that you are aware of what's covered by the HOA in regard to utilities and what's not. Also, make sure that you know whose responsibility it is to repair something if it breaks.

7. Parking

This is one of the most common concerns is parking availability and rules surrounding parking. You don’t want to come out to find that your car has been towed.

8. Area

While many of these complexes are newer and look great make sure to check out the surrounding areas as well as check any crime reports.

9. Resale Value

Talk to your agent about the resale value of the property, as well as possible rental values. Many buyers are buying this type of home as a first or starter home, so you want to make sure this home fits your future plans well.

For a free copy of this report or any other questions you might have, please call us at (714) 406-1414