If you’re buying your first place, moving to a city where high density is the deal, or perhaps moving down and looking for more of a lock-and-leave lifestyle, a condo probably seems like a good bet. And, for many, it is. But is it really right for you?
Condo living is a commitment – to close quarters with your neighbors, to elevator rides to walk the dog if you’re in a high rise, to muddled voice and footsteps from above if you don’t have great insulation. Which might all be a worthy tradeoff for letting someone else handle the maintenance and being able to go from renter to owner. Want to see if condo living is for you? Read on.
1. It’s less expensive than a house
One of the main draws of condo living is the affordability. Of course, that’s relative to the area, the square footage of the unit, the desirability, and a number of other factors.
“Obviously, the cost of a condo versus a house depends on the size of the home, the property values of the neighborhood and the cost of living in the area,” said US News. “But typically, you’ll spend less on a condo, ‘especially in higher-cost markets where condos can be the only alternative to high-priced, single-family homes,’” says Amy Tierce, a regional vice president with Wintrust Mortgage in Needham, Massachusetts.”
2. Lower maintenance
If you don’t want to have to water the flowers or mow the lawn, condo living can offer a distinct advantage. You generally won’t have outdoor space to worry about unless you purchase a detached condo, and, in most cases, the Homeowner’s Association takes care of any exterior and common area maintenance, including any landscaping in the front of your place.
“For busy home owners, not having to actually deal with the upkeep and looks of their home can be a very good thing,” said Street Directory. “You have the benefits of home ownership, without all the responsibilities that go along with owning property.”
3. It’s all yours
Yes, some condos can feel apartment-like. But it’ll feel much more like a home once you’ve put your personal spin on it. Your landlord may not have let you paint or change out fixtures, but in your own place, you’re only limited by your imagination – and your budget.
4. For the amenities
You may be looking at luxury hotel-like condos that offer a fitness center, doorman, or valet (or all of the above). Or perhaps you’d prefer a large pool, sundeck, and clubhouse. Amenities that are standard in many condos offer buyers the opportunity to enjoy a taste of the resort lifestyle—something they probably wouldn’t find in a single-family neighborhood.
4 reasons not to buy
1. Traditionally, condos appreciate more slowly than singe-family homes
Real estate buyers aren’t typically drawn to places that don’t offer a great value. But condos may not compare to single-family homes when it comes to building equity.
“Condominiums often appreciate in value much slower than single-family homes,” said Money Crashers. “This is because you don’t own any land, which is the biggest driver for appreciation. Instead, you only own the living space. There’s a big difference.”
2. Common walls
Have kids, dogs, a loud voice, or a late-night TV obsession? You may bug your neighbor to the point that it’s uncomfortable for you both to live there. Or, they may bug you! If you’re worried about common walls, do your research:
- Listen up – Ask your Realtor to schedule a visit during the dinner hour or on a weekend so you can get a good feel for the noise and activity level
- Ask around – The neighbors should be honest about the living conditions
- Inquire within – If it’s a newer community, you may be able to find out from the builder if the insulation is upgraded to your standards.
3. You want a yard
You might be able to find a pocket of grass and a mini patio, but if you’re looking for ample outdoor space, single-family is the way to go.
4. It might actually be more expensive
With a condo, you may have higher interest rates depending on your loan, plus monthly HOA fees that can be hundreds of dollars. And, US News warns to beware of condos that don’t have their finances in order.
“Some condos are underfunded and therefore have no money in reserves to pay for capital improvements such as concrete and wood repair, painting or roofing,” they said. That could create a situation where each of the owners is assessed to pay for the repairs.