Your Blueprint for Buying a Condo

If you’re out of a job, nervous you might lose one or have simply decided enough is enough, ditching that big McMansion and downsizing to a condo might be a good idea. Prices are low, inventory is high and you might sleep better at night knowing you have a smaller mortgage payment.

If, that is, you can even sell that big house of yours. According to the U.S. Commerce Department, new homes sales dropped by 3.6% in September, indicating that weakness is the watchword in the housing market.

A silver lining could be an extension of the $8,000 new homebuyers tax credit beyond Dec.1. With the 2010 Congressional elections only a year away, politicians will do whatever it takes to get the housing market back into the black.

But if you want to sell now, or have enough cash saved up to trade up from a rental to a condo, you’ll want to tread cautiously.

Let’s do just that with these tips on finding the best deal, then making your condo happen with a minimal amount of migraines:

Location, location, location. When you start shopping for condos, note how the complex is laid out. Some have units side-by-side, and some have first, second or third floors. If you hate climbing stairs, then avoid the third floor. Similarly, if you like as much privacy as you can get, aim for a corner model, where you’ll only have one direct neighbor. Just be prepared to spend up to 10% more for a corner unit, or up to 10% more for a first-floor condo.

What’s the “livability” factor? Condos are usually run by condo associations, which sometimes have more rules and regulations than the Internal Revenue Service. Can you have pets? What about a hot tub? How much will you have to pay for landscaping and lawn-cutting? Know the answers to these questions before you sign on the dotted line.

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