WHAT THE EXPERTS ARE SAYING
by Thom Abbott
When you are looking to buy anything, you always look at the pros and cons of your purchase. Whether it’s a new shirt (which color, etc) or a new car, you should look at both sides of the purchase. The same rules apply to the purchase of a condominium. Owning a condominium is very different from owning a single family home. It’s a different type of lifestyle, and usually in a much different location. So, let’s take a look at both sides...
The PROS to Condominium Living
Location While it use to be the case that most condos were located in more urban areas, you can now find them everywhere from a beach to a historic downtown area. If you want to be in the center of the city, a condo can be a good choice for you.
Security While no building is totally secure, having controlled access with a card reader and a 24-hour Concierge and security staff does make one feel better. Also, if you travel much, the “lock it and leave it” convenience of a condo is awesome. No lawn to mow, paper to have picked up or mail to be taken out of the box! A condo at the beach makes a great second home for this very reason.
Minimal Maintenance Most the condominiums you’ll consider will offer low maintenance. There’s no yard to mow, or snow to shovel (it can happen here!) Common areas (those areas of the building you share with your fellow owners) and things like the roof are handled by the property management. You mostly have to be concerned with items inside your home such as your a/c, kitchen appliances and such.
Affordability This is a key factor in purchasing a condominium. While they come in all shapes and sizes, so do the prices. However, a 1 or 2 bedroom condo could be less than the cost of purchasing a single family home.
Amenities The chance you will buy (or be able to afford) a home with a pool, club room and fitness center are probably slim. But a condominium offers these types of amenities, and more. Some new buildings now have Zen gardens and outdoor living rooms! Along with these amenities come social events with your neighbors or, the ability for you to reserve the club room for your own private event!
And if you are not inclined to use these amenities, you should take them into consideration when purchasing your condo. You might not use them, but the next person might, and this could affect your ability to sell your condo in the future! Be sure to see the different amenities in any condo building you look at.
Condominium Association Somewhat different than a typical homeowners association in that EVERYONE MUST be a member of the association. No ifs, and or buts! The association has a Board of Directors, elected by the owners, who work with the property manager to run the “day-to-day operations” of a condo building, that can be as small as 4 units or as large as 400. The Board acts to enforce all the rules and regulations and make decisions about the overall property and maintenance.
The CONS to Condominium Living
“Box of Air” This term has often been used to describe a condo. You do not own the land on which the condo building sits, but share ownership with all the other owners. So comes the saying that you own a space in the area. It’s a bit more than that, as you are responsible (from maintenance as well as insurance) for your interior walls, in. So if you’ve done extensive remodeling to your condo, you can have a lot more it in. But it is different than the single family home where you own the land your home sits on.
Community Living Of course you live in a community when you own a single family home. But, you’ve got some 10-20 feet between houses, maybe even more, depending on the neighborhood. In a condo, you share walls and common areas (hallways, pool, club room, and garage) with your neighbors. So you are much more inclined to see them more often, and also might hear them if they play a stereo to loud! You are also much more involved as a group in making decisions for the entire building, than just your own home.
Fees Many condo buyers, especially if it’s your FIRST condo purchase, wrestle with condo fees. But it takes some careful analysis to look at what is really covered in that monthly fee which goes towards the maintenance and repair of the common areas and the building. In a single family home, you have insurance against your home, pest control, security (an alarm system?) trash collection, lawn maintenance (if you don’t do it yourself) and other expenses. All of these are covered in your monthly HOA fee. Some condos will even include water and sewer charges, gas (if available) and internet access.
Resale It used to be thought that condominiums were more sensitive to trends in real estate than a single family home. But the recent market probably would question that thought process. More importantly in condo re-sales, is the condition of the building (common areas) as well as the financial strength (reserves) of the condominium association to handle future repairs or potential lost condo fees from foreclosures. In a single family neighborhood, an empty home can quickly be noticed by uncut grass or papers in the driveway. It’s pretty difficult to see which condos are empty.
Rules This is probably the single biggest difference between condominium and single family home living. Yes, in newer home communities, they have strict guidelines about painting your home, installing a fence or pool. But in a condominium, the Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions (CC&R’s) can limit everything from types of pets, what can/cannot be placed on your balcony, where you park and even what type of window coverings you can have. While it sounds very restrictive, and can be, it’s done in the interests of maintaining the community (building) to look the best for everyone. I often say, “not everyone has as good a taste as you and I.”
Condominium Association While it is a positive to have an association, it can also have challenges. But, most associations are professionally managed by a property management company. This provides for an on-site manager (in most cases) to manage the building on behalf of the residents, with direction from the Board of Directors. While I don’t think this much different than a single family association (except no property manager) it’s an important factor to consider. For example, if you want to remodel the interior of your condo, you have to have approval from the association. Not a bad thing….ever seen the damage cause when a contractor ruptures a waterline on the 16th floor?
Thom Abbott is a real estate broker in Atlanta, Georgia. As the owner of Thomas Ramon Realty @ Palmer House Properties, his primary focus is Midtown Atlanta where the living options range from high rise condos to historic single family homes. Having lived in Atlanta since 1994, Thom has become an authority on the city’s qualities and is expert in its diverse housing options; and his previous experience in the hospitality industry has served to enhance his commitment to his clients. Thom can be found online at MyMidtownMojo.com as well as on Facebook and Twitter. .