Condo Inspections/Associations

Just wondering how others handle condo inspections (The exterior). Since the association takes care of the roofing, siding etc. Do you still inspect/report on this?
No basement, no visible duct-work, no attic access. Feel guilty charging them $300 for only inspecting the interior.


If it is the responsibility of the association, then it is excluded in the contract.
Don’t ever feel guilty. One day, when you are in a barely crawl-able crawlspace, you will wish for that condo!

Does the association also pay for damages to the interior of the unit caused by common elements ?

Did you take into account there is a difference between a 3 unit and a 100 unit association when it comes to percentage of responsibility.

Many here will give the easy SOP out to avoid extra work but using common sense to take care of your client and treating them as if they are your friends goes a long way.

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I make a general statement that they should look at the association/boards by-laws to determine who is responsible for what and review their financials and discuss reserves to see if there is the potential for any additional and/or unforseen accessments (are they sufficently funded)…Recommend discussing with your real estate professional or attorney…prior to closing of course.

Have you ever heard of a Planned Unit Development (P.U.D.)? I thought my Mom’s condo was in a condo association. It was not. It was a P.U.D. Which means, at least the way this one was organized, the association only does the Maintenance (yard etc) and when major issues come up, roof for example, the owners are assessed for the cost. We discovered a roof leak and went to the HOA to get them to fix it. To my surprise, they replied that the roof was not their responsibility because of the PUD organization. I was required to get estimates to fix the roof leak, have it approved, and since it was at the junction of two units, get the consent of the neighbor.

This could make a difference in how to inspect the unit, if the difference is known in advance. If the roof is getting old and may get replaced in the near future and I have no choice except to pay the cost when the HOA decides to redo the roof, I may decide to look at other units.


I check them just like a house…

Because I am working for my client, I inspect the exterior as much as I am able to. My client would want to know if maintenance items on the roof or other places have not been kept up. He is going to be living there so he will want to know how well the condo association looks after the building.

Same here.

All of the associations have different bylaws. I inspect according to the SOP. The Realtors, seller, and my client can work out who is responsible for what.

I have been called to task as some Associations feel you are invading upon their Sovereignty.

Most Associations that I work with, look forward to the inclusion of my Common Area Report as they expect receival for the next inclusion of community repair.

Each Community varies… You need to develop a Relationship with the Property Managers…

Same as a house as much as that’s possible.

I don’t report on any common area items or property. To try to do so would open me up to all sorts of issues. For example, why didn’t I report the bulging sidewalk trip hazard? The trip hazard could be a hundred feet away, but you have no choice but to walk that sidewalk to get to the condo. At one condo I inspected over in Palm Springs, the A/C was on the roof. However, it wasn’t on the roof of the condo I was inspecting. It was on the roof of a condo three units away! No way am I going to walk on the roofs of other condos to get to the A/C! Water heaters often are in a common location, and rarely is it possible to determine which water heater belongs to which condo. No way am I inspecting five water heaters just to make sure I inspect the one that belongs to the condo I’m inspecting. On and on and on.

Fortunately, anyone buying a condo, as well as every Realtor in San Diego County, understands what is being bought and sold in a condo purchase, and that the home inspection will only include the interior space that is being bought and sold.

I charge less for condos and here’s why,
Where I am, a condo is an ‘entry level’ home for people who want to own their own home. In other word they aren’t rich and may balk at paying a higher fee. When my phone starts ringing off the hook I may get more picky :slight_smile:
An apartment style condo in a highrise does not have a furnace or water heater inside the unit, no basement and no attic. Check the plumbing, doors, appliances and closets and you are done.
Townhouse style condos have their own furnaces and water heaters, basements and attics, but most have no garage. If there is a garage it is attached the basements and 2 floors are small and easy to inspect, a 1200 square foot (typical for here), will have about 600 square feet floor area for each story and the basement. Most have few if any renovations compared to a house of the same age, which makes them easier to inspect and write up. I do a cursory outside inspection to look for stuff that the association needs to fix, like aging roof (inspected from the ground), lot grading beside the unit, siding and decks. There is legislation here governing condo associations, and most are pretty good at looking after things. Getting there a few minutes early allows a bit of time to wander around the complex and get a feel for the association is managing things.

Eric if they are on a 2 or 4 pipe hydronic I suggest you remove the panels and check the equipment as they most likely own it.

If they have a baseboard hydronic I suggest you look inside and make sure there is no asbestos wrap if it is pre 1980’s.

Due diligence is to offer looking at the allotted parking space,check any common area roof decks for safety and if smaller inspect the rear porch system as many cities are on a low budget right now at least in USA.

What about the storage locker as if in the basement could be flooded that is if you make it there.

Do you notate management signs if applicable ?

What about security at the vestibule area if your client is a single woman it is of high interest .

When checking the sub panel do you just assuming the bonding is incorrect or do you try and look in the main utility closet of the common areas to see if there is a main panel associated with a meter ?

I can go on if you like or you can simply call it all simple ,charge less and hope your rep does not suffer.

I don’t take into consideration the wealth of the individual because I’m not privy to that information. However, you remind me of a situation back in 2003 where a caller asked for a quote on a 360-SF studio condo in Point Loma, popular with airline pilots and flight attendants.

At the time, I charged $149 for those little things. It only took 30 minutes to inspect them. The guy argued with me for 30 minutes about the price. Finally, I said, “Well, the price now is $199.” “What?” he yelled. “I charge $100 an hour and you just used up 30 minutes of my time.” “No, no, let’s do it for $149.” We did.

Four years later a guy called, introduced himself, and asked me if I remembered him. I didn’t. He told me he was the guy who took 30 minutes of my time trying to get a lower inspection fee on a Point Loma condo. “Oh, yeah, I remember you!”

He was buying a house and wanted me to inspect it. The problem was that the house was on Santa Catalina Island. To do an inspection over there would require me to be gone all day, leaving at 6:00 a.m. to get to Los Angeles to catch a flight or boat to Santa Catalina Island. I would get home around 8:00 p.m.

Since I charge for my time, $100 an hour minimum, the fee would be a minimum of $1,400 just to even consider doing the inspection. I didn’t immediately say no, but I was pretty sure he wasn’t going to accept a minimum inspection fee of $1,400.

The house was a larger house with a commanding view of the Avalon harbor. If the house had been down the street, I would have charged $599. So I quoted him a fee of $1,999. He accepted. “Meet me at the Coronado Naval Station, side gate, tomorrow morning at 8:00 a.m.”

Turns out that his dad owned a military air shuttle service between San Diego and military bases in the West. Dad had died a couple of years earlier and my Client inherited the shuttle service. When I got to Coronado Naval Station, he was there at the side gate to let me in, took me to his private 23-seat jet, and flew me to Santa Catalina Island. He and I were the only two people on the plane, so I got to sit in the co-pilot’s chair.

It was by far the most interesting experience I’ve ever had as a home inspector. Second most interesting was finding a homeless person living in the crawl space under a canyon home.

All good advice for condo inspections, I check the baseboard heaters, and the air handler if there is one. I actually spend more time on walls floors and doors then I would in a place where there are basements, attics, and mechanical systems.
Electrical panel inside the unit is inspected same as any other, the building manager would (and should) kick my butt if start taking things apart in the shared utility closets.
I check parking spaces if there is one in front. Yup its paved, plug in has power, next. Parking spaces in high rises and low rises, are assigned, the location of the parking spot is usually not known at the time of inspection and subject to be re-assigned when ownership changes sometimes they are not even in the same building.
Security in lobby - how did client and I get in?, buzzed in, somebody has a key or was it wide open? Have never seen a door man or woman in a building here.
Good suggestion re checking the storage locker area.
I am trying to make my inspections affordable, when I am as experienced and have as good a rep as I am sure you do Bob, I may raise my rates, and confine my inspections to million dollar homes. Or not, I like my first time, not so much money home buyer clients, I remember what it was like to buy my first house, pretty scary, and everybody wants a piece.

All I am saying is go with the flow and adjust your method of viewing and reporting according to the property as they are all different.

Do I go on the roof of a 60 story Hi-rise like I used to [No] however I do usually check them if it is a small building and especially if my client is below.

Imagine being in a small building ,your inside the units utility closet which more than likely has a Water heater and Furnace so you look up at the B vent and see water stains all over the ceiling and rusting inside the fan inducer compartment .

Do you :

  1. Simply write up what you see and suggest an HVAC tech examine ?

  2. The condenser is on the roof anyway so if easy access you take plate info off the condenser unit and examine roof penetration flashings at the flue and freon lines ?

Which of the above is more likely to have a client write you a good review and benefit the client ?

Which Inspector would you want ?
The guy who says its too much effort and liability ?
The guy who seems to care about you and your investment ?

Slick marketing and laziness do not work well together but good marketing and exceeding expectations do.

I inspect the common elements for Clients so those issues can be known and presented to Board of Managers, after all, the Client will have a percentage of responsibility for any catastrophic issues if they purchase. It is best to know going in.

I live in a small condo association and I am too familiar with how they work. As a standard recommendation to my Clients I suggest they read the By-Laws and Declarations of the Assoc before purchase and/or have legal counsel explain them. These documents are nothing short of a “double edged sword”. I also recommend obtaining past meeting minutes to be aware of Assoc. activity and up coming actions such as Financial Assessments. Most people don’t know that Condo Assoc. are a Private Government and are highly susceptible to corruption. Also most courts have no jurisdiction when it comes to an Owner - Assoc. disputes unless it involve a civil violation by the Assoc…

Just booked an inspection 3 blocks from home from a guy who was referred by a client that I did work for 3 weeks ago.
He said my details on the building along with the unit were amazing and the new guy said he was not even going to look elsewhere .

Common area comments required / NO
Common area comments a good idea…Read above and tell me.