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The best questions to ask before choosing your new condo and the Surfside tragedy

Partially collapsed condo building
Emergency workers conduct search and rescue efforts at the site of a partially collapsed residential building in Surfside,
near Miami Beach, Florida, U.S. June 29, 2021. REUTERS/Joe Skipper

According to Reuters, Shell-holes appeared by the pool deck and just above a garage next to the 1981 Champlain Towers South structure.

Two cavities in these earthen structures began a partial building collapse, leaving 98 residents dead and a postapocalyptic heir cast over Surfside, Florida. 

Just days earlier, a contractor reported rebar corrosion and cracked concrete in the same area. In addition, former employees recounted seawater seeping into the water pumps in the 90s. Reuters reported Champlain Towers South had been sinking from the day it was built, every year, at 1-3 mm. 

Questions still abound about what went wrong at the towers, if it could have been abated, and who is responsible for the willful negligence that happened here. 

Expectantly, this tragedy may be holding back prospective condo buyers from seeking out such homes. However, we hope to put your anxieties at bay with a list of questions to ask your realtor, building association, and manager during your search.

Questions to ask about the building when condo shopping 

Let’s find out if your building is up to par. 

The state of the building will matter, especially if you plan to finance your purchase.  Aside from this, you want to feel absolutely safe in your new home. 

Bring this list with you on your hunt. 

  1. When was the build date of the building, how old is it?
  1. What is the building made of? 

Framing is important. Is it wood, steel, concrete, etc.? This determines the frequency of repairs and sound insulation.

  1. When was the building last inspected?
  1. Is there a history of sinkholes? When? Where?
  1. How many millimeters is the building sinking annually?

Compare this to the Florida average, especially the closer you are to sea level. Oceanfront properties must consider these numbers especially.  

  1. How are units accessed? Interior only access points or exterior hallway access points?
  1. When was the parking garage built? Is it directly connected to the building, or is it separate?
  1. What are the monthly maintenance fees?
  1. What do the monthly maintenance fees cover?
  1. Will I be updated on what specific repairs are being made building-wide and when?
  1. How many stairwells are in the building? 

Know your exit points. Multiple entrances and exits make for safer living.

  1. What is the condition of the building? Are the roofs updated, and are the windows hurricane impact?
  1. Who manages the building? Is it professionally managed or self-managed? 

Having no middle man could be disadvantageous when issues arise.

  1. Are there any current/outstanding lawsuits against the condo? 

These can make you aware of any defective structures/damage in the building.

  1. Do I own the balcony? 

If you own the balcony, you are responsible for repairs; if not, the condo community is the owner and thus accountable for repairs. Find out when balconies were last maintained etc. 


During your search, use your gut. This list is by no means exhaustive, so feel free to add other questions. And, if any of your questions are left unanswered or seem contrived, but you love the building, dig deeper or move on to other condos on your shortlist. Nothing is worth the safety and lives of you or your family.

If you want to start your condo search, check out our Jupiter Condos, Jupiter Community Guides, West Palm and Boca Condos, and Community guides to discover more about these areas.

We can’t wait to help you!

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