Before you take the leap, consider the pros and cons of living in a condominium.
There’s a point where you can just sense it, you can almost feel it in your bones. It’s time to put down some roots — and a down payment too. You’re ready to take the plunge and graduate from crazy landlords and leases to legit property owner, but what kind of property?
You’ve got choices. Do you want that traditional house with a picket fence? Or do you want to commit to a condo? Decisions, decisions.
There’s a lot to consider before signing on the dotted line, so how do you know which one is for you?
Pro: The condo is all yours, yet you don’t have to fix everything
With a condominium, you’ve got the equity of a property owner and the benefit of calling someone else when (some) stuff falls apart. Score! Of course, you pay maintenance fees for this glorious service, but why not?
“The condo association takes care of shoveling, snowplowing, landscaping, roofs, painting the exterior, paving, and more — all of those things that can drain your budget and your time on a house,” says Joe Houlihan, managing partner of Houlihan & O’Malley Real Estate in Bronxville, NY.
Con: You must abide by the homeowners association’s rules
Meet your new circle of friends: the infamous H-O-A. They’re not necessarily a bad group; it just happens to be one that’ll determine the quality of your lifestyle in your condo. They’ll also hit you up for money.
“Let’s say the HOA chooses to change the landscaping or the color of your building to purple — then that’s the color it will be, and you will be required to pay for any assessments attached to any of these changes,” says home improvement consultant Heidi Baker. “For some, this lack of control can be quite freeing.”
But for others, it can be annoying. If you need to be in control of everything in your space, a condo is definitely not for you. Plus, when you have to listen to the board, or participate in its decision-making process, your HOA can become a second job.
Pro: Condos often have cool stuff to do — and a community
When I lived in the South, I often rented apartments in complexes with pools, tennis courts — the works. And that’s actually standard for condo living, which can foster a sense of togetherness.
“In a condo, you’re part of a community immediately,” says Kuba Jewgieniew, founder and CEO of Realty ONE Group. “Condos offer many perks such as pools, gyms, and events that bring residents together, which can be beneficial to a single person or young family.”
Con: Privacy? What privacy?
Unfortunately, condominiums still share walls with neighbors, along with parking and other common quarters.
You may even have a policy about having guests overnight and for how long (just as with a lease) or whether you can decorate your door during holidays. That’s something most house owners don’t have to deal with.
Of course, every complex is different, but Philadelphia-based Realtor Denise Baron of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Fox & Roach says you can always opt for a more intimate condo building — for a price.
“The question to ask is: How do you feel about community living in a large building with 100 apartments or so?” she says. “Or do you want a boutique small condo building with four or six units? Smaller buildings tend to have high fees, but they are more private.”
Pro: Condos have elevators
This isn’t one I was expecting. But, hey, the real estate experts have spoken. A lot of condo buildings have elevators and, well, houses just don’t — unless you’ve got a supercool house.
Hasmik Petrosian, a Toronto-based consultant, lived in a condo before buying a house with stairs and soon realized it was a major frustration.
“My experience with the stairs has given [me] newfound respect to elevators and the fact that condo living is virtually stair-free living,” he says.
Con: Condos don’t have yards you can make your own
Ever planted a garden, only to have it dug up by your kids and/or dog?
Well, you most likely won’t get that with a condo, which will dictate what you can and cannot do to your precious outdoor areas. And that’s one of the big differences between a home and a condo that prospective buyers need to consider, says Joe Houlihan.
“With a house, you have free reign to do what you like to the exterior and your yard, which is usually not the case with condos.”
Here are the pluses and minuses you need to weigh before handing over a big down payment. Still unsure? Talk to condo-living friends (or better yet visit them) and see if they can shed more light on the good and the bad of the condo lifestyle.