This guide to buying a condo or townhome in Asheville will help you navigate the real estate market in one of America’s most desirable cities to live in. When I sat down to write this guide, I wanted to give a realistic take on what it’s like to enter into the real estate market as a buyer. Throughout the guide, I’ll do my best to share information that real estate agents may be reluctant to share, and I’ll drip links to dozens of other useful articles to help you get more comfortable with Asheville real estate.
Now, onto step one: Determining whether you, your budget, and your lifestyle are suited for a home, condo, or townhome in Asheville.
Deciding Between a Home, Condo, or Townhome in Asheville
The Asheville market is primarily single family homes, but an increasing number of people are seeking out condos and townhomes as affordable alternatives to traditional detached homes. Single family homes in the Asheville area can (but don’t always) require more maintenance for the owner compared with condos. First time homebuyers and retirees may prefer less maintenance and amenities that often come with planned developments like condos or townhomes. When comparing homes with condos and townhomes, there are additional terms and fees to consider such as the HOA (homeowner’s association), CC&Rs (conditions, covenants, and restrictions), rules and regulations, condo certification, condo inspections, and financing constraints.
Condominiums (or condos) are separated owned individual units where you own the interior of the unit (from the paint in), as well as fractional ownership of common areas (elevators, gyms, hallways, decks, etc). The common areas, landscaping, community amenities, and utilities are managed through the HOA (homeowner’s association). In Asheville, there are 40+ different condominium buildings offering a variety of amenities with different fee structures. Some offer private exterior space, private parking, and some even come with private rooftop space. One of the most common misunderstandings about condos is that the monthly fees come with no value and make condos less affordable than single family homes.
After you buy a condo, you will likely find that the details of the legal ownership structure have little impact on your use of the condo. That being said, there are restrictions that you should know about prior to purchasing.
If you are getting a mortgage to buy a condo, banks will require a “condo review.” This is an extra layer of scrutiny that the bank performs to ensure that the condo qualifies for financing. Not all condo buildings in Asheville qualify for conventional financing, and with recent changes to federal financing guidelines, it’s best to reach out to see if the building you are interested in is financeable.
Townhomes or townhouses typically have less of an “apartment vibe” and live more like a single family home. They are usually designed to have a direct access outside and are multiple levels. Townhomes in Asheville are usually attached to other units and share one or two walls with adjacent residences. Unlike condos, townhouses often come with private exterior spaces that give the owner exclusive use of the front- or backyard space. Insurance is usually more expensive with townhomes because you own the interior, exterior, and the roof. As with condos, fee structures for the HOA vary because each HOA is structured differently. With some, you are responsible for pest control, roof repairs, fencing, exterior maintenance, yard maintenance, and trash. However, each HOA is different and must be reviewed individually.
Condos and Townhomes have homeowner’s associations which have CC&Rs, or covenants, conditions, and restrictions. They also have articles of incorporation, bylaws, and rules and regulations. The CC&Rs are created by the developer and outline the restrictions on the use of the property. They are enforceable and recorded with the County. The articles of incorporation legally establish and document the corporation for the development and the bylaws detail the activities of the board.
The bylaws or rules and regulations are similar to the CC&Rs, but aren’t recorded with the County. They are approved by the board that oversees the corporation and detail the restrictions on the homeowners, as well as the activities and voting interest of members.
Comparing condos and townhomes
Townhomes live more like single family homes than condos, but price-wise, they are not necessarily more expensive than condos in Asheville. There is such a wide variety of townhome and condo options, that it’s possible to find a condo in downtown Asheville that is more expensive than a townhome 15 minutes to downtown Asheville.
Generally speaking, these are the pros of townhome living compared with condo living.
- Privacy, privacy, privacy. In a townhome, you’ll have 1-2 neighbors. In Asheville, condo buildings have from 10-80+ units.
- Private outdoor space (a rear garden area, and sometimes a rooftop deck).
- Easier to get financing
- More freedom to renovate and alter the unit
- Less inventory means you may not find something you like at the price and in the location you want
Guide To Getting Condo Financing in Asheville, NC
If you’re thinking about getting a mortgage to buy a condo in Asheville, you’re going to want to speak with a few different lenders. You don’t need to commit to a lender until you are under contract to purchase a condo, but the first step is opening lines of communication with at least 2 (preferably 3) lenders. You’ll want to shop around for rates, customer service, and relationship. Condo loans have different requirements than loans on single family homes, so you’ll want to work with a lender that has a lot of experience with condos. The best case scenario is that your lender has already approved loans in the specific condo building. This will speed up your financing, because the lender must approve the building itself, in addition to you as a buyer. The lender will look at things like the percentage of owner-occupied units, upcoming large capital assessments, and the number of owners who are behind on their HOA payments.
In my experience, working with lenders who are local to Asheville (meaning you can actually sit down and meet with them if you want), do a better job and provide a better experience than non-local lenders who offer slightly better rates. My experience is that the better rate comes at a high-cost of not being able to reach the lender when you need to, or the lender not really knowing the hyperlocal real estate market. At the end of the day, the choice of lender is yours as the buyer, but not all lenders are created equal.
Once your offer on a condo is accepted, you’re going to need a mortgage commitment letter. To obtain a commitment letter, you’ll submit quite a lot of financial information to the bank. Next, the condo is appraised, the lender looks at the building itself to make sure it meets their lending guidelines, and finally they give you a commitment to lend up to X amount by Y date at Z interest rate. Typically, these commitments come with conditions that must be satisfied prior to closing. If these conditions are not satisfied, the lender can back out. As a result, it’s so important for buyers to have a solid team including a real estate attorney and real estate agent to understand the full scope of possibilities, and how to protect yourself.
In Asheville (and North Carolina), our purchase contracts do not have a baked in mortgage contingency clause. This is different from some other states so it warrants explanation. This essentially means that your due diligence deposit and earnest money deposit may be at risk if your financing falls through. Unless your attorney has drafted a specific addendum to the contract giving you an out if financing falls through, you face a pretty expensive break up fee if the lender does not come through.
Do you really need a real estate agent to buy property in Asheville?
The vast majority of Asheville homes are listed in the multiple listing service through a broker who has contracted with a seller for representation in the sale of their home. The broker has typically negotiated a fee for the listing service, and through advertising in the MLS, offers a portion of that fee to cooperating brokers (if there is one) who bring a buyer.
In Asheville (and North Carolina), Buyers are not required to work with a Buyers agent. In fact, they may choose to work directly with the seller’s broker because they believe that it will help them in a competitive bidding situation. The prevailing thought process is that the seller’s broker won’t have to share commission with a buyer broker, and the seller’s broker may therefore subtly or not so subtly favor that buyer’s offer.
At face value, this could make sense, but it is also a potentially disastrous decision. Working with the seller’s agent, whose loyalties are divided, divorces yourself from the opportunity to have a real advocate during contract negotiations.
Consider working with a good real estate broker if:
- You’re busy. You don’t have time to manage the search process, including researching properties, collecting property data, setting up appointments, analyzing comps, or contract negotiations.
- You are new to Asheville.
- You are a first-time home buyer.
- You’re tired of being outbid, or you’re not finding properties in your price point.
- You are not familiar with the neighborhood you’re interested in.
- You’re buying in a competitive building or neighborhood. A good broker can find off-market options.
- You’re buying for investment purposes. A good broker with solid understanding of the market will help you get access to the data you need to create financial models.
- You’re buying a new construction or pre-construction product. Unlike the boilerplate contracts developed by the North Carolina Association of Realtors (which are approved by attorneys), developers draft their own purchase agreement. That often leaves open many more questions and potentially fewer protections for you as the consumer that would otherwise be covered in the boilerplate contract. New developments also come with a Public Offering Statement that buyers need to review and approve.
- You have special purchase requirements (timeline, financing).
Important note about working with real estate agents in Asheville (or North Carolina)
We have some great consumer protection laws in NC. NC consumer protection laws require that any real estate agent provides prospective customers the Working With Real Estate Agents disclosure (it was updated in 2021). Every real estate licensee in NC must provide this disclosure to at/during the first substantial contact/conversation with you and before providing you with property information. This disclosure is not a contract, it is truly a disclosure, but NC wants to be sure that you have received it, that you’ve discussed it and understood it, and that you determine how you would like to be represented in a real estate transaction.
There are thousands of licensed agents in the Carolinas, but the bar to entry is relatively low and not reflective of any earned experience transacting in residential real estate. Below are a few indications that an agent will be an asset to you in your search:
- They are intimately familiar with the neighborhood(s) you are looking in
- They have at least a few year’s experience
- They are busy, but not so busy that they hand you off to an assistant
- They work full-time
- You have a good gut instinct about them (no high-pressure tactics)
- They have experience with condos, co-ops, new developments, or townhouses (whichever you are focusing on)
- They seem to understand your taste and sensibilities.
How to find a good real estate attorney in Asheville
North Carolina is an attorney state. This means that when you write an offer, you will name a real estate attorney in your contract and offer to purchase real estate, and that attorney will represent you on your side of the transaction. The real estate attorney will be responsible for overseeing the legal transfer of the property from the owner to you. The real estate attorney will also facilitate any custom contract language that needs to be drafted between you and the owner.
It’s a good idea to identify the attorney you want to work with early on. You don’t want to rush the attorney selection process and while your real estate agent will have worked with several in town, it’s a good idea to give yourself the time and space to review your options.
Here are a few suggestions for choosing a good real estate attorney in Asheville:
- You probably won’t make this mistake, but do not hire an attorney who does not specialize in residential real estate transactions in the area that you are purchasing in. Local attorneys who specialize in real estate have accumulated many years of knowledge about the local market and issues that are specific to the geography. These attorneys are most prepared to resolve issues that are hyperlocal in nature usually with no additional cost for semi-custom contract work. Local attorneys are also usually intimately familiar with condo and neighborhood development practices in the County and can advise on what to look out for.
- On the other hand, try to avoid firms that feel too transactional in nature where you don’t feel like you are going to get the type of responsiveness and representation you seek.
- If you aren’t local, ask for referrals from people close to you, or from your real estate broker. Your real estate broker should offer at least three referrals to qualified attorneys in the area. If your broker offers one referral only, I would be very skeptical about using that attorney. In the Asheville market, there are certainly more than 3 great options for real estate attorneys, and a referral to a single attorney is a red flag in my book.
- Fees for attorneys typically range from $1,000 to $3,000, depending on the nature and complexity of the transaction. These fees are due at closing. If your purchase is more complex and requires the attorney to draw up custom contract language or addenda, the rate usually ranges from $200 per hour to $300 per hour.
Questions to Ask Before Buying a Condo in Asheville
Finding a quality condo building in Asheville requires a substantial amount of due diligence – much of which can be done prior to ever writing an offer. With a few exceptions, most condo buildings in Asheville have been around for 2+ years and have a track record and reputation in terms of their management, maintenance, performance, and quality. Condo buildings in Asheville are just as diverse as the population of the city itself, so it’s a good idea to have an open mind and be prepared to ask questions. Especially if it’s your first time, you may not be sensitive to all the ways buildings diverge–from service and financial health, to flood zone location to short-term rental and pet policies.
- Who lives in Asheville condos?
- What type of ownership do I have? Is it a condo or townhome?
- Are there Asheville condos in my price range?
- Are Asheville condo rules overly restrictive?
- Can I AirBNB my condo while I’m not there?
- Can I long term rent my condo in Asheville?
- What are the restrictions against short-term rentals in Asheville?
- Are pets allowed? Are there breed or size or number restrictions? Is there a fee?
- Are washers and dryers in unit?
- Can food be delivered to your door or is it delivered to a lobby area?
- Can packages be delivered to your door or are they delivered to a common area?
- What are the average HOA fees for condos in Asheville?
- What do HOA fees cover for condos in Asheville?
- What condos have deeded parking in Asheville?
- What condos come with parking in Asheville?
- Was this building built as a condo project, or is it a hotel or apartment conversion?
- What is the pet policy?
- What’s the neighborhood like?
- How many people live here year round?
- Are there upcoming special assessments?
- Is the building professionally managed or owner managed?
- Is the HOA balance sheet healthy?
- What are the HOA rules?
- What does the HOA master insurance policy cover?
- Are there outstanding or past lawsuits?
- Are there onsite storage units available? Do they come with the unit, or are they leased or purchased?
- Who owns the balconies?
- How many units are owned by investors and why is that important?
- What type of loan can I get?
- What is the building made of? Steel, concrete, or wood frame?
- What type of parking is available?
- Are there electric vehicle charging stations in the parking garage? If not, can you pay for one to be added?
- Are there storage units available in the garage?
- How is garbage disposed of? Are there on-floor trash chutes?
- How many units in the building and how many elevators in each building?
- Are the units closer to the elevator any noisier than units further away?
- Has the elevator had issues in the past?
- What is the security like in the building?
- What do the residents say about the building?
- What’s the developer’s track record?
- What building extras am I willing to pay for?
- Does the design fit my lifestyle?
- When can I move in?
- What kind of amenities does the building have?
- Who owns the real estate around the condo building?
- How many units are owned by the developer?
Common Issues with Condo Buildings in Asheville
Street Level Units:
Be wary of noise from the street (if the apartment faces the street) and the lobby. If you’re facing the street, you may be keeping your blinds drawn much of the day for privacy.
In an elevator building, they typically sell for 10 to 20 percent less than a second floor unit and 15 to 25% less than units above the second floor.
Near Elevator/Trash Room/Mechanical Room:
Elevators can send vibrations into neighboring apartments. Noise is also sometimes a problem in the form of rattling elevator cables and the chatter of neighbors waiting for the elevator (who are also privy to sounds coming from your apartment). There are a few condo buildings in Asheville where elevator vibrations/noises are audible from within the units nearest the elevator.
Trash chutes can also produce vibrations and in newer buildings some residents complain they can hear trash as it falls down the shaft, as well as the slamming door of the compactor room as residents drop off their trash.
These rooms can house boilers, a/c equipment, pumps and other devices that can produce noise, heat, or vibrations.
Foot traffic and noise from the room itself can be a problem.
Buying Pre-Construction Condos in Asheville
As of November 2021, District Brewery, a 10 unit condo development in downtown Asheville’s South Slope neighborhood, received the green light to proceed with construction.
Units in each of these buildings were offered before construction began. The main plus to buying a condo before construction begins is that the pricing is usually advantageous. Developers typically release units in batches, raising the prices each time. The spread between the first sale and the last sale on a comparable unit can be as little as 5% and as much as 20%.
It’s a myth, however, to think that the best units are offered first. Developers typically withhold a representative share of units from the market and release them over time. At times, the best units are saved for the end such that they can command higher prices.
The biggest challenge when buying pre-construction is that the product is not yet physical. Buyers must rely on 3-D renderings and samples of finishes. Buyers are provided with a public offering statement which outlines what the developer is committed to delivering. Thus, while renderings and pictures are great to help a Buyer visualize what is to come, the legal document driving what the developer must deliver is the public offering statement.
There are a number of things to keep in mind when reviewing renderings if you are considering purchasing a pre-construction condo in Asheville:
- Views can be misleading. Renderings are representative and not necessarily pixel perfect. Also, views change over time, especially in Asheville’s Central Business District.
- The TV and mantle above the fireplace in the rendering look great, but are there actually outlets above the mantle? For that matter, is the fireplace and mantle even included, or are they extras?
- If the rendering shows anything, you should be questioning whether it is included or an upgrade (molding, shelving, niche areas, space for a wine cooler below the counter, the marble countertop, types of lights, shower built-ins, etc).
- Ceilings height is very difficult to assess in a rendering. Verify this in writing.
- Where is the heating and cooling unit? Where is the laundry room?
- Amenities are depicted, often generously, and nearby points of interest are often listed on an impressive (and showy) website. What are the amenities exactly? Where are they? How close is that restaurant actually? Can I walk there?
- Developers are often allowed to make decisions considered normal construction variations (i.e. a specific tile is back ordered so they choose a substantially similar one). Make sure you are aware what variations are permitted and to what extent. These should be listed in the contract.
- Consult your attorney and real estate agent. The public offering statement should be reviewed by you and your attorney, and any questions addressed in writing prior to offering on the unit.
Here are a few other questions that you should be thinking about if you are considering a pre-construction condo or townhome in Asheville:
- Is there going to be commercial space on the ground floor? Will it be coherent with the vibe of the community (and how will the developer ensure that)?
- Will the developer be responsible for some of the final minor details (door stops, towel bars, toilet paper holders) or will the buyer?
- Where exactly will the HVAC system and ducts be placed? What is the model number of the HVAC system that will be purchased for the unit?
- What does the planned budget include?
- When will the amenities start?
New Construction Condo Projects in Asheville, North Carolina
There are several new construction condo projects under development in Asheville: The Haywood, The Landings, and The Broadway. The most recently approved condo project is District Brewery, a mixed-use building in Asheville’s “South Slope” neighborhood.
Can You Get a Mortgage on a New Construction Condo in Asheville?
New construction condos are notoriously difficult (but not impossible) to finance. As mentioned before, lenders must approve the building in addition to the borrower, and when a condo is new, there are additional criteria that the building must meet in order to be financeable. Lenders look just as close at the building as they do at the borrower in this process.
With respect to new construction condo buildings, lenders will typically require that at least 50% of the units in the building are under contract or sold in order to be willing to finance your purchase. The exact percentage is up to the lender. If more than 50% of the apartments are owned by the developer or sponsor, you and your neighbors will not be able to make key decisions about the biggest investment in your life until the sponsor owns a minority stake and residents take control of the board. There may also be issues with financing: Banks are reluctant to issue mortgages in buildings with high investor or sponsor ownership, meaning you may have to pay all-cash–and resale values may be depressed because the pool of potential (all-cash) buyers is small. Before issuing a mortgage to a buyer, lenders also require that the building have a Certificate of Occupancy or Temporary Certificate of Occupancy issued by the Department of Buildings.
Asheville Condo Experts
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