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The Benefits of Owning a Condo

This article was written by in Real Estate and Home. 26 comments.


A few years ago, I declared I would (probably) never buy a condominium. I still believe this to be true. All my adult life, I’ve lived in rented apartments. Some have been nice, some have been not so nice. My least favorite living arrangement was a railroad apartment in Jersey City, New Jersey. It was a great deal in a great location, but a grocery store on the ground floor attracted a variety of critters and my roommate needed to walk through my bedroom in order to get in and out of hers.

Condo ownership brings with it some of the benefits of owning a home, some of the benefits of renting an apartment, but many of the drawbacks of both.

  • Proximity to neighbors who may by inhospitable. I may not always be the first person to meet and greet the neighbors, but I try to be friendly and courteous. In my first apartment out of college, I lived on the ground floor. The ceilings were thin, so every night I endured the romantic sounds from above. In another apartment, I lived above a one-bedroom unit which was considered a home for somewhere between ten and fifteen loud residents. While condos are generally occupied by more serious, more mature residents, and the neighbors would tend to be less transient, in good rental markets, or in areas where condominiums are viewed as a good investment, the units are more frequently rented out.
  • Condos generally appreciate slower than comparable single-family homes. While there are always exceptions, condos are worse investments than houses, and houses aren’t good investments to begin with.
  • Fees and rules govern condos. While this may be true of single-family homes as well in some cases, there’s even less you can do with condos. Ownership associations limit your ability to personalize your front-facing living space, but you are often generally free to arrange the interior as you see fit, unlike apartments. Association rules can often work in your favor. Some rules can help prevent the property values from decreasing by requiring a standard of upkeep within the units, and fees often cover services like lawn care.
  • Less work for the owner. Like apartments, regular maintenance and repair are the responsibilities of the owners. Condo owners do not need to mow lawns or fix pipes. Less time and money maintaining the operation of the household can result in more time and money for other concerns, like family, friends, and income-generating work. This is a trade-off; you will pay more in fees so that you need to do less work on the property.
  • Condos are less expensive than comparable houses. You can find condos for less money than comparable single-family homes. The prices are lower for a variety of reasons, including the fact that you don’t own the land on which the condo sits. Condos can be ideal first homes simply because it’s more affordable. Many of my friends, some with the help of their parents, bought condos not long after graduating college.

A condominium can be the right choice for a family. A friend of mine considers himself a real estate broker, and one of his homes is a condo in an upscale neighborhood in New Jersey, very convenient to Manhattan. He showed me around a few empty units in his building, featuring thick enough walls to prevent disturbance from neighbors, a wide open floor plan, and amazing views of the New York City skyline. Even with a door man, a pool, and a parking garage, the condos were relatively affordable. Nevertheless, it felt like an apartment. When I’m ready to find a place to spend the bulk of the remainder of my life, I still believe I’d prefer a house with a yard, a garage, a basement, and a quiet street.

Do you live in a condo? Why did you choose a condominium rather than a single-family house?

Photo: Bitman

Published or updated July 25, 2011. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @ConsumerismComm on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.

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About the author

Luke Landes is the founder of Consumerism Commentary. He has been blogging and writing for the internet since 1995 and has been building online communities since 1991. Find out more about Luke Landes and follow him on Twitter. View all articles by .

{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Money Beagle

I don’t live in a condo anymore but I did as a single guy in my 20′s. I loved it. I got the taste of home ownership, my monthly payments were on par with friends who were renting all while I built equity in the condo where they didn’t. I was able to make improvements that matched my style and taste. While people still moved and while there were still those who didn’t keep their place up like I would have liked, overall there was less turnover and greater levels of upkeep by individual owners. Also, the buildings were aging, and the association put more emphasis on keeping things repaired and modern whereas apartment buildings I’d lived in that were of similar age had pretty much been left to rot. There are times where condo living is great, and I’m proud of my eight year experience as a condo owner.

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avatar wylerassociate ♦162 (Cent)

I think condos are good for single people in their 20s or older people in their retirement years who are done working and want to live in a house with less space. It’s good for young people who want to experience home ownership.

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avatar skylog ♦368 (Nickel)

i agree with you. i think you hit the point, at least concerning people in their 20s. i think this is the ideal market for condos. young, getting out on their own, do not need a lot of space and get a taste of ownership.

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avatar sub0ptimal

Many condos are higher quality than apartments, but not enough to justify the huge hassle and expense of joint maintenance, condo association fees, the realtor racket, etc. Condos only make sense for retired folks who are downsizing, or young people who absolutely must live in a high density urban area with little single family housing. It makes more sense to rent for everyone else.

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avatar Geoff Hazel

poor construction can leave condo owners with huge repair bills. I know one person who got stuck with 60,000 worth of bills when their condo had to redo all the siding and repair rot due to poor construction. Another got large bills when their windows had to be replaced. At least if you own your home, YOU can decide what to fix, when, and how. With a condo, you are stuck with whatever the association board decides.

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avatar qixx ♦1,895 (Half-Dollar)

Also with home ownership you can decide who fixes the problems. Know how to fix it yourself and you still might be out of luck in a condo and paying someone to do the repair work. On your home you could replace windows or do the siding yourself with the help of your brother-in-law that does construction for a living. Usually not allowed in a condo.

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avatar Geoff Hazel

qixx, here’s a real life example: we bought a new home with the ill-fated LP Siding that got all swollen after a few years in the rain. After the class action lawsuit, we got enough money to replace all the siding IF I did the work myself — which I was capable of — and enough left over for a trip to Disneyworld. No way that would have happened in a Condo, they would have hired out all the work and I’d be stuck with the bill.

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avatar qixx ♦1,895 (Half-Dollar)

I was posting it as theoretical. Now Geoff has show you a real world example. I’d take a home and trading some work for a “free” trip to Disneyworld anytime.

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avatar Kathryn C

I live in a condo and I can hear the rat tat tat of the little kiddies running around in the unit above me. My neighbors next door just got a puppie and it barks all day, and there is a leak in the unit above me and since I’m on the Board I have to deal with it. Grrrrrr, today not loving condo life. But it would be weird to live in a single family home as a single person, or wait, is that what a “single family home” is??

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avatar lynn ♦155 (Cent)

Condos sound good, but fees are not in a person’s control. Niether are neighbors.

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avatar Geoff Hazel

kathryn, it would not be wierd to have a single family home and live alone. I know a person who did that and built substantial equity. No homeowner dues, no association dues, nobody above or below you. No rules to tell you what you can and cannot do to your place.

of course the real estate market these days is still in flux, and may not appreciate much (if any) for a while, but that is true for homes as well as condos.

can you tell I’m a big fan of non-condo living?

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avatar shellye ♦107 (Cent)

I can’t seen any benefits of condo living. You share walls with neighbors, have to pay someone else to mow the lawn and clean the pool whether you use them or not. Ick. I’d much rather be in a single-family home and be in charge of those things myself.

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avatar krantcents

We live in a townhouse (condo). We downsized 14 years ago from a large house after our children graduated from college. I agree the the rules can be restrictive, but it benefits everyone in the community. Many of thebaby boomers will be downsizing in the next 5-10 years, it should be interesting where they go..

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avatar Jenna, Adaptu Community Manager

I looked at a couple of condos when I first started house hunting but ultimately decided they weren’t for me. Just HOA fees, ability to customize your outside, close neighbors didn’t seem worth it to me.

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avatar lynn ♦155 (Cent)

The fees are what deter me from condos. And the rules are specific to thwart any misbehavior.

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avatar Joshua Heckathorn @ Creditnet

SFRs require a lot of work. Frankly, I’d rather do other things with my time, and I think I share this view with a growing number of younger families that prefer an urban lifestyle. I’ve lived in condos for 7 years now, have 1 kid, and think we could manage just fine with 2 as well. We don’t ever want to own a SFR, but the big question is when will we have to give in and move to the burbs? I don’t like thinking about it…it’ll be a sad day.

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avatar Chris Jordan

I retired, moved into a condo more than a few years ago and loved it. Had plenty of years mowing/sweeping/repairing. For a lot of years my condo was “my slice of heaven”. That complex had long driveways, garages, a fountain, that “million dollar ocean view” from 3 rooms and the deck. Then ownership blew up in my face! Red-tagged unsafe to live in- had less than 2 hours to get out. That was March 2010. I ended up renting an efficiency apartment (one step larger than a dorm) with no yard at all. The condo is being torn down as I type this. This is not the financial best of times for our state or country; so all I can do is HOPE the plan to rebuild that complex continues; and HOPE to move back in. I am not a fan of renting, living in a rental in 2011 is not all that bad. I have even grown to like it here! No ‘whitewater views”, but I will live.

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avatar Evan

I live in a townhouse (organized as a Condo) and while I hate the maintenance fees…I loved when the roof was leaking I had someone to call to come fix it for no cost

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avatar cashflowmantra

My parents technically live in a condominium which works out really well for them. They have about a third of an acre and are on a lake. The home is a stand alone structure meaning they share nothing with the neighbors. If you didn’t know it was a “condo”, you would think it a regular neighborhood. The benefit is that the condo association takes care of all the outdoor work and snow removal which is a good deal since they are in their 70′s. They have a flower bed that they can manage as well so my mom plants a few flowers each year. Essentially, the monthly fee goes toward yard work which wouldn’t be much different than any other place.

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avatar Bobka ♦13 (Newbie)

Condo living can be great, and you can live in a high quality condo with all the amenities and still avoid the hassle of fees and condo politics. Rent one from an owner.

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avatar 20 and Engaged

We live in a townhouse, which is similar to a condo, and it’s great. At times, I do wish we had a single family home, mostly for the backyard, but everything else is great for us.

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avatar tiredofbeingbroke

I bout a condo two years ago in one of the boroughs of NYC. Single, no kids, 29, it was the ideal situation. My mortage, property taxes and insurance is equivalent to what I would have paid in rent. It works for now. Once I get married and have children, I would prefer a single family home, yard, garage etc.

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avatar condoisokay

There are so many single home fans here….but Americans tend to be a tad short sighted. Is association fee really that bad? ….it really, depends. I live in a condo building with 40 other units. I pay $200+ for the fee, which isn’t bad. If something happened to the building roof, for instance, we share the cost among 40 of us, owners. Single home on the other hand, you must bare the entire repair/maintenance costs. Property tax is usually higher, You also need to take care of whole lawn, this and that…lists keep going…by the way, lawn care equipment is among many other costly machinery/tools/items you need to invest in. After all said and done… to me, owning a single home can be a big waste of space and money…if one doesn’t have children, which is my case. With the simpler life, I’m not a slave to my home. My mortgage is small. More money for us to save and invest for our retirement, I prefer that!

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avatar lynn ♦155 (Cent)

Someone is posting with my name and icon. The above comment is not mine. I do live in a condo. Please check into this for me. Thank you.

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avatar lynn ♦155 (Cent)

I checked the date on this. Since it’s 2011, I may be wrong. I’ll look through comments to double check.

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avatar Chris Jordan

Interesting that this thread has gone on for almost the whole 3 years it took to rebuild my condo. Now all basics are done and finish-up is taking place. Brand spankin’ new, at least 2′ air space between walls, 100% A.D.A. compliant and right up to date with 2013 building codes.

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