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Going to Buy a Condo? Here's What You Need to Know

4 questions you should ask before closing the deal

What is the occupancy rate?

Ask upfront about a condominium's occupancy rate — especially for new developments — because a shockingly high number of homes for sale are actually empty.

Consider Florida, which has traditionally been a magnet for pre-retirees and retirees seeking nice weather, a cheaper cost of living and plenty of condo offerings. In late March, the Census Bureau revealed that 18 percent of all homes in Florida, 1.6 million properties, are sitting vacant.

With a glut of condos on the market — in the Sunshine State and elsewhere — it may seem that you have your pick of real estate bargains from desperate sellers or developers looking to unload properties at rock-bottom pricing. No matter how attractive the pricing, be careful with condo units found in developments that are in the early marketing phase or still under construction.

Many financial institutions won't issue mortgages for condos where the development isn't already 70 percent sold, Duckett says. That's a way for banks to protect themselves against the risk of a potential failure of an entire development. When a condo project goes under, borrowers may be more inclined to walk away from their mortgages or the value of those condos can plummet.

Lynnette Khalfani-Cox is the author of Perfect Credit: 7 Steps to a Great Credit Rating. You can friend her on Facebook or follow her on Twitter @TheMoneyCoach.

Next: Thinking about downsizing? Read this first. >>

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