Buying A Condo? Is An Inspection Necessary?

Should You Skip The Condo Inspection?

Since 1983, I’ve been asked this question over a hundred times. The biggest reason this question is asked is because potential condo buyers have been told by friends and real estate agents that an inspection is not necessary because the condo association takes care of the common property. This is true, but only to a limited extent. Most potential condo buyers fail to realize that they will own part of the building or buildings and share in the common property expenses.

Speaking from over 4 decades of experience inspecting condos

I can testify that the majority of major defects and deficiencies uncovered during a condo inspection are not found within the confines of the condo unit itself, but at or within the common property areas. If a condo association is not well managed, ignored maintenance issues can go on to become huge financial problems for the individual owners.

One of the most notable cases was several years ago in Boston, Massachusetts at the Harbor Towers. A special assessment was levied on the owners that varied from $70,000 to $400,000.

These assessments were required to be paid in a very short amount of time. Click the link below for important condo buying advice from a prominent Boston Attorney.

Buying Advice From Attorney

Monitoring well cover

Other than the actual condo buildings themselves, there have been cases where I have discovered evidence of undisclosed underground fuel oil tanks or have uncovered evidence of leaking underground fuel oil tanks. The cost of removing such tanks and contaminated soil and monitoring the surrounding ground can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Insurance usually does not cover this type of issue.

One condo building I had the privilege of inspecting several units in many years ago was Seal Harbor in Winthrop, Massachusetts. In addition to numerous window leaks, I found water leakage and corrosion issues at their underground garage. The unit owners faced multi-million dollar repairs, which they had to pay out with a special assessment.

Another issue that has plagued many condo developments, is termite damage. Although the condo unit you’re contemplating might not have a termite issue, you will be contributing to the treatment cost and repairs elsewhere in the condo complex. Although common property areas usually are not part of any state standards of practice for home inspections, most good inspectors will look beyond the individual condo unit for evidence of termite issues and other potential common property issues.

Dennis Robitaille, Professional
Home Inspector since 1983 (retired 2021).