Below are some tips that I’ve compiled and given to friends moving to Miami from my own housing search and experience helping friends buy or rent their condos. Some are applicable to general housing searches in other parts of the country and some are more Miami specific.
General Tips Whether Renting or Buying
-Parking spots: in Miami most units come with one parking spot. If you only have one car this will be fine, but if you need two spots (two cars, roommates, etc) it’s important to figure out how much another parking spot costs (my roommate and I pay $120 for an additional spot) or if your building has free valet for residents.
-This was more of a concern right after the housing market crashed in Miami but I still think it is important to ask your realtor how filled the building is. This can be important because if the building is pretty empty the condo association might have trouble paying for all the amenities/services and some things like security you want to make sure they are not cutting back on. This also can affect just the atmosphere of the building and how comfortable you feel if there are a lot of units empty. Also see if there are a lot of foreclosures in the building because this can also affect how many owners are paying their fees. I never came across this issue really in my search but I do know there are still some buildings out there which are having some problems filling them.
-Check if the windows are hurricane-proof and if not if they can be hurricane-proofed (for those buying). Most buildings, especially newer ones, have this but something to check on because it’s an important thing to look for in Miami relative to other parts of the country.
-Condo associations have an application/approval process, whether you’re renting or buying, that really varies in terms of application fee and the length of the approval process depending on the building. Questions about the application fee and estimate length of approval process are things to factor into your search.
Tips for Renting:
-Most places in Miami require first and last month’s rent, plus a security deposit equal to one month’s rent. This is important to keep in mind because that can be a sizable payment.
-Many buildings allow condo owners to have pets, but do not allow renters to have pets. If you have a pet and are looking for an apartment it probably is one of the first questions you ask, but you should be be aware of the distinction.
-It can be helpful to know in a building with amenities what’s included in the condo association fees your landlord pays. If it pays for things like cable that can be money you’re saving that you can then put towards paying a higher rent.
Tips for Buying:
-Condo association fees: in Miami these can get very expensive. When you set a price point for your condo you should make sure these fees are included in the price you are planning to pay per month for your mortgage and insurance. Also in your search check to see what this includes (some buildings include cable, internet, water, etc) since this would affect what you budget. Many listings will include it in the information, but if not make sure to ask your realtor for this information when you’re looking.
-Another thing to factor in is property taxes. Your realtor would know more than I do, but people’s property taxes are based partially on their purchase price and until your condo is re-assessed you’ll be paying the current owner’s tax rate. If someone bought during the boom they would have been paying a higher tax rate than someone who bought since the crash or in older buildings someone who bought awhile ago at a lower price. Your realtor should hopefully be able to help you estimate or find information on whether your tax rate will be higher or lower than the current owner, but regardless it’s another expense to factor in.