Having a REALTOR(R) that is familiar with these types of properties is key. Also, the Law office of Julie Alexander in Austin, is very familiar with the mechanics of these properties.
I recently sold a two condo unit in Hyde Park. Depending on how the HOA is written will depend on what you can do with the landscaping, etc. In our case, there was an invisible line that started at the party wall and went thru the front and back yard. Each owner owned their part of the yard. They are free to do with it as they see fit. Each unit had to have 2 parties on the HOA, therefore if they want to hire a lawn service or paint their unit, it would have to go to a vote. Both parties would have to agree on changing the color, paying a lawn service to cut both yards, etc. We had one of our owners that wants to add a closed in porch on her side. Since it is viewable from the street and will change the look of the unit, she will have to get the approval of her occupant neighbor. Since no one is living their yet, you would need to talk to the developer to see if they would be willing to amend the HOA Master policy. This would be a good time to have a Realtor, that could use this as a negotiating lever. If you have any other questions regarding HOA Master Policies, please don't hesitate to contact me. 512-922-4267
The main difference between Condos and Townhomes is on a condo you own everything on the inside. The condo association generally is responsible for the exterior and they own the actual land. Townhomes allow you to own the building in and out and you actually own the land under it, so you will need a survey when you buy a Townhome. So I am surprised that you have found a condo that will allow you to do "whatever " you want to the land. Did you get that statement in writing? If not it may be hard to prove or enforce. You may wish to have a real estate attorney look at your contract and HOA documents to verify that you actually have that right. I would proceed with extreme caution. If you do landscaping work or build a shed and the HOA does not like it they may come back and "back-charge" you to pay a professional landscaper to re-do the yard or demo the shed.
If you need a real estate attorney I recomend Laura Fowler, 512-441-1411.
I wish you the best of luck and please call me if I may be of service.
Betina Foreman, Realtor Austin Texas
I too, have never encountered a minimum common element component or requirement to a condo regime in Austin. Condo regimes are becoming increasingly more common, and though it may seem simple it may be a good idea to have an attorney review the documents on your behalf!
I hope your negotiation goes as it should....
I've never heard of any minimum common element requirement imposed by the City. There are maximum building footprint and impervious cover limits which compel some open space, but that's not the same thing. In any case the condo rules will control I think the developer needs to explain what he meant.
It may be he just never thought about it, picked up some standard language from another condo regime, which a lot of them do. He has almost total control over what these say, so he can change them to suit your needs. Probably would, since there are only two units to deal with, and neither sold.
The good news is, you probably have a VERY low HOA fee.