Written by: Glenn P. Milgraum, Esq.*
While purchasing a co-op or condominium unit in ordinary times has added concerns for the purchaser over the purchase of a typical stand-alone residential property, there are potentially unseen pit-falls when purchasing one during age of COVID-19. These are typically things that your Real Estate Agent need not necessarily inform you about, but for which due diligence is absolutely necessary:
1. Will you feel safe residing in your new apartment or complex? What are the safety precautions in place? Are those precautions aligned with your expectations? Are they too restrictive, or not restrictive enough?
2. Can you get financing? While loan rates are at historic low levels: many banks are restricting who they will make loans to, especially when dealing with “jumbo” loans. They may be requiring higher FICO scores than are typically required. They may be requiring the borrower to maintain an account with a substantial minimum deposit with their financial institution. They may require additional proof of current employment and income, rather than just relying on last-year’s financial statements. Banks will also pay close attention to the Co-op or Condo’s financial statements and prospective budgets to see if the building qualifies. In other words, even if you qualify, the co-op or condo corporation may not.
3. Review of the financial statements and budgets for a co-op or condominium association is extremely important during these times. One should look to see whether the corporation is relying upon, or has relied upon, income from a commercial entity; whether they have bolstered their financials by using SBA Loans or other Federal Grants or loans (i.e. Paycheck Protection Program [PPP]); and what delinquencies are reported as to payment of the maintenance or common charges.
4. Has any “special assessments” been made to cover what would have been ordinary costs during ordinary times? Are any proposed assessments under consideration by the Board? How aggressive is the Board in pursuing delinquent owners for back maintenance or common charges.
5. Knowing that all local municipalities have had to expend unexpected monies during the “pandemic” are the real estate taxes applicable to your unit likely to go up, and if so by how much?
6. What is the percentage of units that are “owner-occupied” units as opposed to “rental” units and “sponsor-owned units”? This too can have an impact on your ability to finance the unit.
7. What are the house-rules regarding use of the common areas and what services are being provided by the management company? Are the cost of these services covered under the current budget? Are they being considered in the proposed budget?
8. Are the common amenities open for use? In other words, can you use the elevator or access the garbage chute; pool; gym; community room; laundry facilities, etc. If so does the corporation have sufficient insurance to cover lawsuits if they are sued by someone who claims that due to the corporation’s negligence they contracted COVID-19.
9. Are there any special rules as to renovations in the building? Some buildings have gone so far as to say only one unit can be renovated at any given time. Some have even restricted the comings and goings of contractors, limiting the number of times, as well as the times that they can enter or exit the building on any given day.
10. How current are the corporate minutes? How detailed are they? Is the corporation “self-managed”?
So many questions, but none of which the Real Estate Agent is required to volunteer information about while you are looking to purchase your new home.
When you are ready to sell or purchase your new residential property, retain the services of an attorney who understands the current trends in the complex coop and condo real estate market. To protect your interests in New York or New Jersey, you should contact Glenn Milgraum P.C. by email at Disputelaw@aol.com or by calling 973-812-8660.
You can find additional articles written by Glenn P. Milgraum, Esq. at https://www.glennmilgraum.com or at www.linkedin.com/in/Disputelaw. Check back frequently to review new posts.
* Nothing herein should be construed as legal advice. The content herein may be considered “attorney advertising”. You should always consult and/or retain a lawyer regarding any legal matter.