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When is "Location" Not the Only Important Word?

This article is about Florida real estate. More specifically, this article is about Florida condominiums and the things we do wrong.

Proposed condominium properties are marketed based on a prospectus. The prospectus follows Florida law, and if read carefully by someone who reads them every day and if the document is not intentionally un-understandable, the prospectus will reveal some of what the purchaser actually needs to know.

Unfortunately, most buyers take the prospectus back to Tennessee or Mississippi or somewhere and put them in the hands of an attorney to whom a “condominium” is foregin word. (This is not criticism of the “other lawyer.” Some are very good at things they do regularly. They just don’t know any more about condominiums than they know about casinos in Mississippi or mining in Tennessee.)

The attorneys to whom these things are delivered for review appear unaware that the common area in a condominium is typically owned by the association. That means the reservation desk, meeting areas, swimming pools, and other improvements which are used and paid for by unit owners, are actually owned by the unit owners. Believe it or not, the Condominium Act in Florida is mostly a prescription for the way things are disclosed. If the prospectus discloses a self-serving Developer who has retained title to all necessary common elements, and a Purchaser buys it anyway, Florida law will not protect the Buyer from his own poor choices.

Combinations of commercial and residential units within one condominium building create parking problems which seem unimaginable; actually to professionals in real estate, those problems are predictable and inevitable. Live bands playing into the night from the first floor, one floor below owners trying to sleep, cannot be a surprise to someone with any experience looking at condominium documents.

We real estate lawyers and agents risk our own credibility if we fail to look critically at the documents that create any development. We also risk the credibility of our own industry if we don’t advise uninformed buyers to get qualified help. Purchasers risk foolish losses if they fail to find a local professional who is legally charged to protect their interests to review documents before they are signed.

Some of the things a local expert will consider are:

1. The reputation of the Developer.

2. The reputation of the Contractor.

3. Whether common areas are reserved to the Developer or a third party.

4. The degree of consonance between commercial and residential uses.

5. Restrictions on types of commercial uses.

6. Provisions for a rental program, such as a rental desk and storage facilities.

7. The adequacy of parking.

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