Why I Will (Probably) Never Buy a Condominium
A condominium (or “condo” for short) is often seen as the step between renting an apartment and owning a home. That makes this middle-of-the-road dwelling an enviable option for many. But is buying a condo really a better choice than purchasing a single-family house?
Let’s take a look at the real differences between the two home options, and whether buying a condo is the right choice for your family.
The Advantages of Condo Life
There are quite a few reasons you’d want to choose a condominium over a SFH. The first of which is obviously the cost.
For most, a condo is a more affordable option than buying a house. Condos typically cost less simply because they are smaller in terms of square footage. You’re also not buying a large lot in the process, which further trims the cost.
(Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule, and there are certainly condos that can cost millions of dollars. However, on average, a condo will cost less than a comparable home that meets your same needs.)
You’ll not only save on the cost of the dwelling, but you’ll also save on maintenance expenses. A condo is simply cheaper to maintain, thanks to the community-style setup of the building. You’ll probably pay dues to belong to an HOA, but the association will usually cover things like roof repair, new gutters, landscaping, and even broken pipes. Those could easily set you back tens of thousands of dollars if they were needed on your single-family home.
Buying a condo–if you can afford it–is almost always a better option than continuing to rent an apartment. You will be building equity in an asset with a possibility of appreciation.
The Disadvantages of Condo Life
While condos are an excellent choice for many single buyers and families alike, they aren’t for everyone. There are a few key downsides to know before you start shopping around.
Living in a condominium is much like living in an apartment building. You are close to your neighbors, and no matter how things appear initially, the walls and ceilings are never as thick and sound-proof as they appear.
If you are single and enjoy your peace and quiet, you may have issues with noisy neighbors. If you have a family, you may wind up being the (often-hated) noisy neighbor. It’s important to keep in mind the lack of privacy and potential for disruption when you are living in such close proximity to others.
When the real estate market is in an upward trend, this is beneficial to sellers. The price of your condo will rise and the property will appreciate. However, it’s important to remember that the price of condominium units won’t increase as much as the price of houses in the same market.
There seems to be an endless supply of condominiums. Apartment buildings are often converted to condos when the market is favorable to such a move. Houses, and more importantly the land they sit upon, are much more limited in supply.
If you own a condominium you own a certain cubic feet of air within your particular enclosure. You do not own the biggest driver for appreciation, though: the land.
The common areas in a condominium are owned jointly. As such, they are usually governed by a board of directors or another group of representatives.
In addition to your mortgage and taxes, you will also be responsible for association fees. These fees ensure there is enough funding to mow the lawn, fix the roof, insure the owners against liability, and advertise unsold units. Costs for HOA fees can range from tens of dollars a year to hundreds a month, depending on the building in which you live. Be sure to ask about these fees before you put in an offer, and consider the cost in your monthly budget.
Of course, plenty of single-family homes also require fees for HOAs. However, they are almost guaranteed when you live in a condo, but aren’t always the case in a home.
If you’re in a condo, you’ll be part of a specific community. This community will likely have an association, as mentioned above, and it will definitely have some strict rules. When you’re forking over hundreds of thousands of dollars for your new home, this can be a bit unnerving.
Rules vary from one condominium to another, but they are designed to keep the appearance of the buildings professional and uniform. This supposedly keeps property values higher.
Don’t expect to be able to paint the outside of your unit in a way that reflects your personality. In some cases, you won’t be able to hang a flag on your balcony or in your window, string up Christmas lights outdoors, or even use certain doormats. Your landscaping options are limited. Some associations don’t allow pets.
Between my mortgage, homeowner’s insurance, and maintenance expenses, my home is easily the biggest budget item each month. As a result, I would prefer to run things the way I see fit, rather than having a board of strangers tell me what I can and can’t do with the property deeded in my name.
Of course, there are many for whom condo living is truly ideal. The ease of maintaining the property (after all, you’ll never have to buy/store a lawn mower or worry about a leaky roof!) is pretty enticing, for starters. The cost and availability in the market are also big pluses in the condo category. While condominium life isn’t right for me or my family, you might think the exact opposite!
Have you considered, or are you currently, living in a condo? What are your thoughts about this style of home versus a single-family dwelling?