What should I consider when buying a condo or loft?

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Lofts are springing up in many nifty urban neighborhoods. Although trendier than condos, most lofts are created with a condominium form of ownership. A unique set of considerations come into play when you buy a condo or loft. With a single-family residence, you are the sole property owner. As a condo owner, you are the sole owner of the interior of your dwelling unit, but ownership is shared for the common area: the grounds, walkways, hallways, staircases, elevators, recreation room, pool, etc. The condo you buy will be governed by Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions (CC&Rs). The CC&Rs will restrict what you can do with your condo. For instance, you may not be able to remodel at will or paint the exterior of your unit your favorite color. Large pets may not be allowed, or the number might be limited. Ask to see a copy of the CC&Rs. Ideally, you should find out if the CC&Rs include any restrictions you can't live with before you make an offer. As a condo owner, you...