If you're thinking about buying a condominium, research the condo association that makes the rules and charges the fees.

If you’re thinking about buying a condominium, the purchase will most likely mean that you’ll be involved with a condo association. The association will not only have a say over how you do certain things, but it will charge you monthly or annual condo fees for the upkeep of common areas. If you’ve never dealt with an association, here are some things to know before you dive in.

What Is a Condo Association?

The association governs the policies of the complex, allocates expenses for maintenance and collects any association fees that owners pay. Anyone who owns a condo in the complex is a member of the association, and can be involved in managing the land and property that surround the individual condominium units.

A condo association can make a set of rules that cover which color flowers you plant outside or how many cars can be parked in your driveway, according to the Ohio State Bar Association. It might sound like these associations are overly powerful, but most of the time these rules are intended to keep uniformity strong, appearances up and property values high.

What Is the Board of Directors?

While all condo owners are empowered to help run the complex, most powers and duties are delegated to a board of directors. As the owner of a condo in the complex, you get the chance to elect other unit owners to be on the board of directors. You can even volunteer to run for the board, depending on condo bylaws. The board runs the complex’s daily operations, and is in charge of any upcoming developments, such as building a pool or adding other amenities. The board can also pass budgets, charge fees and create and enforce rules. One challenge may be having board members with little to no propery management experience. This may attribute to the fact that two-thirds of associations hire professional property managers, according to U.S. News & World Report.

Considerations to Keep in Mind

Here are some details and considerations that you may want to look into before buying a particular condo:

  • Figure out what you’ll actually own.
    Most of the time, condo owners own their unit and part of all the common areas, such as stairways, hallways and amenities, according to Nolo. But before signing on the dotted line, find out exactly what you’re buying into.
  • Find out the rules.
    Is your cat your best friend and you can’t live without him or her? You’ll want to make sure the condo complex you’re considering allows pets. Get a list of the rules and regulations, and judge whether you can live with them or not.
  • Ask about fees.
    Owning a condo usually means that someone else will be shoveling the snow and mowing the lawn. However, these services aren’t free. You’ll also probably have to pay a fee to use the exercise room and the pool. Make sure you have a full picture of these costs before purchasing a condo, and be aware that the board of directors can charge condo owners for projects—ranging from revamping the tennis courts to redoing the sidewalks.
  • Examine copies of past board meetings.
    This may sound like a snooze fest, but if you’re planning to buy a condo, notes from past board meetings can reveal a lot — good and bad — about what’s going on within the development, according to The Washington Post. The meeting notes could identify conflicts between neighbors, upcoming expenditures that you’d be partially responsible for and how attentive board members and community members are in terms of running the association.
  • Talk with current residents.
    Ask them questions such as whether they’re satisfied with the association, if they like living in the complex and if they feel like the rules and regulations are up to standard.
  • Make sure there’s an uneven number of board members.
    The board of directors should be made up of an odd number of people in order to avoid ties when there’s voting.

Just remember that regardless of where you live — a single-family house or a condo — there will be ordinances and restrictions. However, before you purchase a condo, make sure you fully understand what a condo association is, and do your best to look into the rules you’d have to follow if you bought a unit. For more homebuying tips and resources, head to Owners.com.