HOME FRONT: Ask plenty of questions before buying

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In Steamboat Springs these days, prospective condominium and townhome buyers often suffer a bit of "sticker shock" when they see the prices some properties command.

A second bout of sticker shock can hit once the hopeful buyer discovers how much his or her association fees will be. These monthly or quarterly dues cover upkeep and maintenance, as well as liability insurance, which comes with a big price tag. As would be expected, association fees tend to be higher in complexes that offer an increased number of amenities, such as hot tubs, pools and tennis courts.

But before you decide to buy a condo and pay those fees, ask plenty of questions.

I've always encouraged prospective buyers to request a copy of the minutes for the past two annual meetings. Discussion usually begins there on what improvements need to be made.

Find out if there is a capital reserve and whether a portion of your association dues goes into that reserve. This reserve may be earmarked for future capital improvements. For example, should a new roof be needed, it may be that these reserves will be used to pay that cost rather than burdening the owners with a special assessment to cover it.

Have the budget explained to you so you're comfortable with the dues you will be paying. Keep in mind these folks are working for you and it should be their goal to make you comfortable and happy with your new purchase.

Then, sit back and enjoy your investment and the wonderful community in which you have invested.

Jayne M. Hamm is an owner/broker associate with Century 21 Ski Town Associates in Steamboat Springs. Home Front is a weekly column about local real estate issues, written by local Realtors. If you have a topic for Home Front, call Reporter Tom Ross at 871-4210 or e-mail tross@steamboatpilot.com.

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