I am starting to look for a house, but finding that they are more expensive than condos. Most of the condos that I have seen have nice workout areas and storage for residents, but they also walk sort of like apartments. I like the idea of condo complex extras, but I don't know if a condo would be a good investment or if I should wait to buy a house. What do you think?
Dear Condo Confused,
I am not a condo fan, but that is my personal preference. I think that single family houses offer better appreciation over time, more flexibility, lower monthly cost depending on the condo fees and more privacy. Condos like neighborhoods are a personal choice. My opinion is not important, you need to make sure that the condo lifestyle fits you. Here are a few things to think about before you buy a condo.
Condo ownership has benefits and drawbacks that should be weighed before you buy. Condominiums are property complexes that are divided into individual ownership units with common areas and facilities that are maintained by the condo board or management association with fees from unit owners. The means that owners have full control the inside of their units, but do not have to worry about exterior maintenance.
Buying a condo can have built in benefits. Many condos have facilities for resident use that are convenient like workout rooms, pools, tennis courts, community rooms for larger gatherings and onsite storage. Different communities offer different features to their residents, but all the features and exterior maintenance are paid for with a set amount in the monthly condo fee. The structure of condo associations also varies, but most are managed by an elected board. The condo association is like a neighborhood association that arranges for maintenance and mediates issues between neighbors based on the rules of the community. Condos can be a good fit for busy professionals, young couples, owners who travel regularly or people in or nearing retirement.
The condo model of ownership offers benefits, but it also has it's drawbacks. Condos vary in quality a lot. Generally, condos that were built as individual units to be individually owned are better quality than former apartments were converted to individual units. You also need to consider the governing Board. Some Boards are very professional, but some are plagued with nasty squabbles between board members, condo fee mismanagement or members on personal power trips. Consider the cost of the condo fees. A workout room may be nice, but unless you plan to drop your gym membership then you are paying for a benefit that you do not need. Associations are like businesses. You should be able to look at the financial statements and the past need for any special assessments to cover repairs that were not budgeted for in the regular monthly fees. Special assessments can be thousands of dollars per owner so it is important to consider the management style and solvency of each condo Board. Although some families live in condos, many find that complexes do not suit growing families with more than one or two children as time goes on for reasons of space or community acceptance of children in common areas. You also need to ask about rules for renting out your condo. Some complex allow it, others don't or only allow a set percentage to rent out at one time.
You need to get all the information you can, consider all the costs, where you are in your lifecycle/lifestyle, ask a lot of questions about the condo complex and then make a choice about whether or not to buy a condo. Consider sitting in on the condo association meeting and talk to neighbors in the complex. Condos are like small neighborhoods so each one has a unique flavor. Make sure no matter what you buy single family or condo that it fits you and is a place that you want to call home.