Thinking About Renovating Your Condo? What to Know Now to Avoid Trouble Later

Thinking About Renovating Your Condo? What to Know Now to Avoid Trouble LaterWhen you purchase a home, you’re purchasing someone else’s vision of what the place should look like. Sometimes, that vision is similar to yours. More often than not, though, there are things you want to change. Maybe you’d like a more open floor plan, a larger kitchen, some additional closet space . . . the list goes on.

Making these changes to any property can be stressful, but when you want to renovate a condominium, the number of potential pitfalls increases exponentially. While on the one hand, you do own the property, you really only own the structural components within your specific unit. Therefore, if the changes that you want to make have the potential to affect other owners within the building — in other words, they go beyond simply painting or adding some new hardware — you have to do some legwork before you start tearing down the walls to avoid trouble.

Whether you want to renovate a property you already own, or you are considering the purchase of a condo that will need some renovations, here are some important points to keep in mind to save time and money.

1. Review the Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions

The Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (CC&Rs) outlines the rules that condo owners must adhere to as members of the condo association. As the CC&Rs specifically relate to renovations, they will include expectations in terms of giving notice, getting permission, what can and cannot be done, and who can do the work and when. The document will outline which improvements do not require permission (for instance, you probably do not need to seek approval to get new appliances) and which do.

CC&Rs are usually designed to help maintain the overall look and feel of the building, but also to protect the structural integrity of the building and prevent disputes between owners. In most cases, interior projects offer the most flexibility, and it’s only when you begin changing the structure, layout, and plumbing and electrical systems that the association needs to be involved. However, even if you are only doing basic cosmetic updates, you may need to notify the association and provide details about the project and the work crew before work begins.

It’s also important to review the CC&Rs to understand the rules about how and when the work is actually done. Many associations have restrictions related to work hours, parking, materials delivery, and permitting, and failing to adhere to these rules could lead to fines or legal trouble.

2. Get Permission

The condo association CC&Rs will outline the process for getting permission to perform the work. Do not skip this step! Follow all of the rules to the letter; again, some associations are very strict about the rules, and will penalize owners who violate them, even unintentionally.

3. Work With the Right Contractor

While you may be able to complete some of your renovation projects on your own, condo owners are usually advised to work with a contractor who has experience working in condominiums and understands the unique restrictions and challenges of working in such an environment. An experienced contractor can also help you navigate the approval process by providing detailed plans, permitting assistance, and providing assurance that all of the rules and regulations will be followed to the letter.

Your condo association may be able to provide you with a list of approved or recommended contractors, but do your homework to find the right person. Try asking your neighbors who’ve done renovations for recommendations. Your real estate agent or condo maintenance provider may be able to provide some referrals as well.

4. Maintain Friendly Relations With Your Neighbors

Renovations can be messy and noisy — even when you work with the most experienced and professional crew. There may be times when your project inconveniences your neighbors, thanks to the noise, dust, debris disposal, parking issues, etc., and you want to try to minimize those annoyances as much as possible while still getting the work done. Many of the rules in your CC&Rs are designed to do just that, but strict rule-adherence doesn’t replace good old-fashioned courtesy.

Let your neighbors know about your project ahead of time, and assure them that you are following all of the proper protocols to minimize disruptions. Be sure to thank them for their patience; a nice card with a small token of your appreciation (like fresh flowers, a bottle of wine, etc.) can go a long way toward keeping your relationship with your neighbors friendly.

A renovation project isn’t always enjoyable, but in the end, you’ll have a home that is updated and better suited to your needs — not to mention, the right renovations can increase value. Be sure to work with an experienced real estate professional like Raphael Toledano for all of your condo or apartment needs, and your projects will be completed without costly and frustrating condo association battles.

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