Seattle April 28, 2023

That Townhome you Want to Buy Might be a Condo

In 2019, Seattle City Council made changes to the city’s single family zoning requirements, and since then, the addition of accessory dwelling units have surged. The number of new ADU permits grew from 280 in 2019 to nearly 1,000 in 2022. That’s a 250% increase.This change was in response to a growing movement to meet the housing demand in Seattle that was sparked by a creative effort to add density and widen living opportunities in neighborhoods currently zoned for single houses.

“Land use planning really is the most powerful tool that we have as a city. It affects how the neighborhoods in our city change and grow, and so it’s really important that we all understand what the processes are, and figure out how we engage in those processes.”  -Tammy Morales

Now, in areas zoned for single family housing, two ADUs can be built, per lot. This can be two AADUs or one AADU and one DADU. Additional changes include that property owners are no longer required to live on site and off-street parking is now optional. ADUs can now be built larger, taller, and on smaller lots than before.

Another unsuspecting factor is that these new dwellings that look like townhomes are not being constructed on traditional plats. They are being built as condos. Read on to learn more about what makes owning a condo unique from a single family home.

What is a condominium?

A Condominium is a property that contains dwelling “units” that are designated for separate ownership. 

Unlike a traditional plat which may divide a piece of physical real estate into smaller lots, a condominium does not divide the physical real estate into segmented portions.

Basically, the condo buyers will own the condominium unit itself, with an “interest” in the common elements. 


What are Common Elements?

In addition to units, a condominium may also include additional portions called “common elements.” These are designated for shared use and ownership by all or some of the unit owners. Look on the condominium Declaration for specific details.

Common Elements are portions of the condominium that all owners of the condominium project can use.

Limited Common Elements are portions of the condominium that fewer than all owners have the right to use.

Exclusive Common Elements are limited common elements that only the owners of one unit have the right to use.


What is a Declaration?

A condominium Declaration is a written document that accompanies the condominium map. It contains information about the number and type of units in the building, the homeowners association’s rights and duties to owners, and a list of any easements or liens affecting the title of the building*.

*The condominium Declaration is very similar to CC&Rs (conditions, covenants, and restrictions) that accompanies a traditional plat development.


What is an Accessory Dwelling Unit?

Lots within single-family zones are typically restricted to one single-family dwelling. However, the zoning codes of some jurisdictions allow for one or more Accessory Dwelling Units to be constructed per lot. These units are additional single-family residential structures. 

An Accessory Dwelling Unit, commonly referred to as an AADU, is a dwelling that is attached to the principle dwelling unit, often by a common wall.

A Detached Accessory Dwelling Unit, commonly referred to as a DADU, is a dwelling that is not physically attached to the principle dwelling unit. 

How is a condominium legally created?

In Washington, creation of condominiums is governed by the Washington Uniform Common Interest Ownership Act (WUCIOA), which went into effect in July 2018. Per WUCIOA, a condominium is created when the condominium survey map and a Declaration are recorded in the public records.

What is a Public Offering Statement?

WUCIOA requires that every buyer be provided with a Public Offering Statement, which is a document prepared by the attorneys representing the builder of a newly constructed condominium building. The statement includes the condominium Declaration.

Buyers looking to purchase* a new construction condo can get the Public Offering Statement from their broker before making an offer.

*For resale of a pre-owned condo, a Resale Certificate is provided instead.


What is a Homeowner’s Association (HOA)?

WUCIOA requires an HOA for every condominium, even if the condominium has only two or three units, and even if one person/entity owns all of the units. 

Creation of the HOA requires incorporating the entity with the Washington Secretary of State’s office, obtaining an EIN from the IRS, and filling out annual paperwork with both agencies. A formal transition meeting to transfer management of the HOA from the developer to the homeowners happens within 60 days of the sale of 75% of the units. 


What is the warranty on new construction?

Though most developers routinely provide a standard 1-year warranty, WUCIOA imposes a separate implied warranty of quality on all condominiums for a period or 4 years from closing. To trigger the warranty, the homeowner must prove that the defect is more than technical, is significant, and has or will effect the performance of that portion of the unit. 


Thinking about purchasing a condo?

If you are interested in buying a condo or learning more about what ownership could mean for you, a real estate broker could help. The broker can get a copy of the condominium map and the Public Offering Statement for the condominium project and help you review them. 




Kristina Bulajewski
Windermere Real Estate Co.
(206) 910-8676
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