Beware the Small Condo Association

There’s a great article in today’s Boston Globe Magazine titled Home Sweet Hell about the problems that can arise in condominium buildings with a small number of units.  Patricia Nelson, a real estate attorney quoted in the article, explains the problem clearly:

“In any organization, you get people with extreme views on the edges of the bell curve.  There are people who think that the minute the roof leaks, you have to replace the whole roof. Others would never want to replace the roof; all they ever want to do is patch. In a large association, the people on the edges are diluted by being with everyone else. It’s more likely that you’ll end up with something in the middle.”

But, as the article notes,  “in a small association, there are simply not enough members to soften the impact of the pain-in-the-neck outliers”–vivid examples of which the article provides.  The Boston condo market makes it likely one will encounter the dynamics described in the article:   of the 7,400 condominium associations in Boston “5,832 – or 79 percent – have fewer than five units.”  Friends of ours just moved from a beautiful, expensive, well-located condominium unit on Marlborough Street in part of because of their difficult neighbors.

Caveat emptor, condominium purchasers.

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