5 Questions to Ask Before Buying a Condo in a Mixed-Use Building

Whether you’re downsizing for retirement or buying your first home, cities can be attractive places to live.

They’re walkable, they have great restaurants nearby, and there’s always something to do.

Even if you can’t move to a big city, a lot of suburbs and smaller towns are starting to develop more mixed-used buildings—buildings that house both residential spaces and businesses. If you're considering buying a condo in a mixed-use building, be sure to get the answers to these five questions up front before you commit to anything.

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What types of businesses are in the building?

Owning a condo above a bar might seem like you’re living the dream. Think of all the cab money you’ll save!

But living above your favorite hangout is a lot different than living near it. If you’re trying to have a quiet night at home, will there be people shouting outside your bedroom window at 2:00 a.m.?

And it’s not just bars that might be a problem, either. Think about when the businesses in your building will be open, if they’ll cause any problems sound or smell wise, and whether or not it’s a place you’d want to spend your money (but not too much money, because you have a mortgage to pay now!).

Will you have the sense of privacy that you want?

If your potential condo is in a big, outdoor shopping mall, chances are it’s going to be crowded most days. Will having a constant stream of shoppers walking by make you feel like you’re on display when you use your balcony? And will you still have separate, secure parking and entrances to keep you and your belongings safe?

What are the HOA requirements?

If your building has a homeowners association, what are their rules?

There should be some to protect you from current and future businesses. But there’s also likely to be a lot of rules on what you can and cannot do.

After all, most businesses aren’t going to want people blasting their music, letting their dog bark all day, or hanging their laundry from the balcony. Just make sure all the rules in place are ones that you can live with.

Who's covering utility expenses?

In a lot of mixed-use facilities, you might split a fee like trash and sewage between the whole building.

If that’s the case, be sure that residents aren’t expected to pay the same amount as businesses. A restaurant is going to make a lot more trash than a single person in a two-bedroom condo.

What percentage is residential?

If there are only one or two residential condos in the building, you’re going to feel like you’re in a ghost town when the shops close down (hey, you might be into that).

But if it’s more 50/50, there’s a better chance you’ll feel like part of a community. Think about what’s important to you and then try to find a building that fits.

Do you think you'll jump into a mixed-use building? Or are you looking for something quieter within walking distance of the action?