There’s so much to know about condos
By Natalie Gutwein
Trying to find a vacation home or an investment property can be quite a monumental task. While some people know immediately where they want to be, others spend months or even years visiting different locales before they find heaven on earth — or what we commonly refer to as Siesta Key.
That’s only step one of the battle. Once you’ve narrowed down the location, now you have to decide if you want a single-family home or a multi-family arrangement — and within that category, there are several options. Here on Siesta Key, we have condominiums, condo-tels, villas, townhouses, duplexes, and cooperatives.
Many times, people start with a condominium. It’s an easier transition than purchasing a home. The expenses for the property are shared between the common property owners. The yard is mowed, the hedges are trimmed, the grounds are cleaned. If something needs repaired, the management company is responsible for the onsite maintenance or finding a vendor, and the homeowner isn’t the one making sure the pool company shows up every week.
That is in stark contrast to a single-family home where the homeowner (in most cases) is responsible for all interior and exterior maintenance, the yard, the pool, the roof — the entire house. However, we do have at least one community of single-family homes on the island that is maintenance-free: the Banyan Club. The pool, tennis courts, yard maintenance, and irrigation are provided by the homeowners association.
There are several other factors to consider before choosing which condo is the best fit. One of the conveniences of modern-day living that gets sacrificed in some condominiums is a washer and dryer. When you are out looking at condos, don’t just ask if there is a washer and dryer in the unit. The question you really need to ask is if the association allows for individual units to have their own washer and dryer. Some buildings provide the washer and dryer and don’t allow them to be installed in each condo.
What type of parking is being transferred with the unit? Is there a carport, and how far away is it from the unit? Is there parking under the building? How many spaces? Is there a garage? Is the garage space deeded to the condominium you are purchasing? If not, are there garage spaces available for purchase? Where is the visitor parking?
Are there any age restrictions? Both Whispering Sands and Siesta Harbor are age-restricted communities. This has both advantages and disadvantages. Your rentals are restricted to people 55 and older, and both have rather strict guidelines regarding the age of people staying in the unit if the homeowner isn’t there. However, some people prefer a community that caters to a retiring population. Whispering Sands has designated quiet times at the pool so homeowners can relax without screaming kids in the background. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but if you are someone who prefers peace and quiet perhaps you should look into a community that has similar protections for their residents.
One of the biggest considerations for many buyers is the rental minimum guidelines for the community. The rental restrictions were established when the community was formed, and that very much sets the stage for the atmosphere at the property. Communities have changed their rental minimums through the years, but that can only be accomplished through the process outlined in their condominium documents that are filed with the state. A rental minimum is the minimum number of nights a homeowner can rent out their unit at a time. For example, if a complex has a seven-night minimum, owners are not allowed to rent their units for less than seven nights for each rental.
Frequently I am asked, “Why are the associations so strict about the rental policies here?” Each one of these condominium complexes was designed quite specifically to be exactly what they are. Gulf & Bay Bayside has a seven-night rental minimum, but Gulf & Bay on the gulf side has a very strict 30-day rental minimum (and no, they are not part of the same association). The developers, and now the residents, of each of these communities have carefully thought out what they want the atmosphere to be at their chosen development. A community with a seven-day minimum is going to have a much more transient population and appeal more to investors and vacationers. A condo with a 30-night rental minimum or more is looking for a longer-term renter, and a more community-based complex.
There are several variations for rental minimums. There are a few that have nightly rentals and three-night minimums, while others are one week, two weeks, one month, three months, yearly, and some that vary the length of stay based on time of the year. The associations must abide by the zoning laws based on the area of the Key they are located but can choose their rental minimums themselves within those laws.
And don’t forget your furry friends. Pets are considered part of the family for many of us. I could never buy a condo that wouldn’t allow my Rufus, whereas some people don’t want to be around dogs at all. Some complexes don’t allow pets at all, some only allow them for the homeowner, and most have breed and size restrictions even if they do allow them. Make sure the pet policy suits your needs.
In a nutshell, when you’re condo shopping, it’s not just about the unit itself. It’s about the whole package — rules, amenities, and the kind of community you want to be a part of. So, do your homework and find the Siesta Key condo that’s perfect for you!
Stay sunny, Siesta!
(Natalie Gutwein, a Siesta Key resident, is a licensed Realtor with Premier Sotheby’s International Realty’s Judie Berger Team and a member of the board of directors of the Siesta Key Association.)
(Data accurate as of Oct. 9, 2023 from Stellar MLS.)