You dream about owning a piece of Americana, but if that dream doesn't include mowing the lawn or spending the weekend on home repairs, consider buying a condominium. A condo can be ideal for first-time homebuyers who want independent living with manageable maintenance. Condos are also a good option for those ready to downsize or who have limited time or desire to manage the maintenance associated with a single family home. Typically, but certainly not always, smaller and less expensive than a single family home, condos can include attractive amenities such as gated entry, covered parking space, 24-hour courtesy patrol, swimming pool, and clubhouse.
With fewer worries, many people believe owning a condo is easier than owning a single family home. However, there are concerns to consider when purchasing a condo. It’s not just a unique unit; owning a condo means owning a percentage interest in the common areas such as the roofs, lobby, grounds and building exterior, all of which require money to maintain. To make the best decision for you, know the advantages and disadvantages of buying a condo.
Advantages of Condo Living:
- Condos tend to be more affordable with lower prices, especially for first-time buyers and single individuals who would prefer a cozier place that perfect fits budgetary limitations.
- Condos are often conveniently located to office buildings, shopping and entertainment.
- Amenities may include 24-hour concierge, courtesy patrol, activities director, pool, tennis courts and fitness facilities plus the convenience of no yard work.
- Exterior maintenance is the responsibility of the condominium association.
- Condo owners receive the same tax benefits as owners of single-family homes.
- A manageable size means less upkeep.
- Pride of ownership from being an owner rather than a renter.
Disadvantages of Condo living:
- Owners are responsible for payment of condominium association fees and assessments.
- Condo owners may pay for amenities, such as a swimming pool, fitness center or clubhouse, that they may not use.
- Monthly fees and special assessments may increase unexpectedly because of sudden and unanticipated maintenance needs. Poor-quality maintenance or administration may detrimentally affect enjoyment and resale values.
- Poor soundproofing. Multi-family living is not always desirable for some people because of the noise level that may be generated by living with shared walls, ceilings and floors.
- Parking is normally limited and often is in an area not attached to or near the unit.
- No yard in which to putter or grow a victory garden.
- Some condo buildings may not have elevators, leaving owners to climb and descent stairs.
- Condos are governed by a set of rules called the Condominium Declaration and Rules and Regulations. These may include restrictions on noise levels, outdoor barbeques, pet ownership, renovations and even the curtains you can put in your windows.
- There may be less privacy than with a detached single-family home.
- Owners vs. Tenants - Because many condominiums are purchased as investments, there could be a high percentage of tenants in the building. The downside of living in an association with a high number of rental units is that renters may not take care of a property the same way an owner occupant would. In addition, some lenders will not loan money to a buyer if more than 25 percent of the units in a complex are rented.
Owning a condominium is quite different from owning a single-family home and comes with its own peculiarities. So before you jump into the condo market with both feet, make sure that the condominium lifestyle is right for you.
Stephanie Benham, CMCA®, AMS®, PCAM®
Vice President of Fort Worth Operations
Principal Management Group
Fort Worth, TX