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What Are Common Areas in Condominium Complexes?

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When you browse through listings of condos for sale in downtown San Diego, you’ll invariably come across descriptions of common areas, such as swimming pools, parking garages, fitness centers, conference rooms, lounges, and even panoramic terraces complete with fire pits. In condominium towers, apartment buildings, gated communities, and all residential communities governed by homeowners associations, common areas are any structural sections that aren’t deeded individually. They’re meant to be used, enjoyed, and maintained by all property owners, and they may go beyond amenities.

Legal Definition of Common Areas

When your real estate agent gathers condominium documents requested by mortgage lending banks, you’ll find out the legal definition of common areas within the community you intend to live in. In essence, any part of the residential structure that isn’t individually owned qualifies as a common area, and this includes hallways, entrances, lobbies, courtyards, and even the ceiling outside your unit’s door. In some cases, the sidewalks surrounding the structure may also be considered common areas if the municipality doesn’t have a claim over them.

Common Areas as Condo Selling Points

The newest boutique condo towers in downtown San Diego derive their strong appeal from common areas. Listings for cozy condo units at exorbitant prices often justify their value based on their shared condo amenities. For example, in Manhattan, indoor basketball courts with fiberglass backboards and rubberized floors are common areas that can seriously boost property values. In Miami Beach, rooftop swimming pools with advanced water temperature controls are highly sought after by condo buyers, and this is an element San Diego developers have borrowed and augmented with fire pits and poolside lounges.

Use of Common Areas

For the most part, unit owners and tenants can use shared amenities, but the homeowners association must set specific rules. Reasonable use would include all tenants (in the case of condo owners who rent their units), and it isn’t uncommon to include guests and visitors. Usage rights of common areas can be segmented. For example, a condo tower with lavish penthouse units may have a lounge or terrace for the exclusive use of penthouse owners, but this must be agreed upon by the homeowners association.

Management & Maintenance of Common Areas

The declaration of covenants, conditions, and restrictions (CC&Rs) of a condominium complex’s homeowners association will determine the administration and maintenance of common areas, and this is what condo fees are for. Some associations contract property management firms for this purpose, while others set up reserve funds specifically for anticipated repairs. Common areas can also be turned into value-added services and perks. For example, a boutique condo tower with a large lobby can set up a concierge service, and a massage therapy provider may be allowed to set up shop in a condo that has a spa.

Common areas that feature a lot of enticing amenities can add value to a condo, but there are other considerations to take into account as well. If you need advice on any aspect of buying a condo, call on the professionals at 92101 Urban Living, the experts on what matters most when it comes to downtown San Diego real estate. Give us a call today at 619-649-0368.