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Should I buy a condo or a house?

Which is better? Buying a condominium or a house?

Frequently when a first time home buyer is ready to move out of their last apartment, the debate between buying a condominium or a house arises. For me personally, this has always been a no brainer. I don’t like living in apartments, and I don’t want to pay to own a unit of what is essentially an apartment complex. The operative word in that sentence is “personally” though. For many people a condo can be exactly what they are looking for. So in the interest of serving people who are trying to make the decision between a condominium and an house, I am going to do what I do and go over many of the things that you may want to consider before you choose which side of the fence to jump off on.

The first area to look at in the choice between a home and a condo is price. Much like stand alone homes, condominiums can range from $30,000 up into the millions. This is because the first three rules of real estate (location, location, location) apply regardless of the type of dwelling you are buying. Pound for pound a condo will cost you less to purchase than a house in a similar area. A lower purchase price also means a lower down payment.

Most often, the payment on a condominium will even be lower than apartment rentals in the same area and offer price stability as your payment will not change if the area becomes more popular. Whereas in an apartment the rent can and will likely go up year to year s an area becomes more popular.

but

Along with that lower purchase price comes HOA fees. Sure most newer housing additions have home owners associations with annual fees as well, but condominium HOA and maintenance fees are much, much higher and fluctuate greatly from year to year based on board decisions. This can be the result of damages to the common areas, a need for new signage, maintenance expenses going up with inflation, or any other modification that the board sees fit to implement. Even if you are active with your board these decisions will usually be outside of your control.

As this segues nicely off of cost, the next area we want to look at is maintenance. Even from my anti-condo stance, this is an area that condominiums completely blow away house ownership. When you pay those expensive maintenance fees, you become free of any external maintenance responsibilities. That’s right. No more mowing, shoveling snow, raking leaves, edging the walkways, trimming hedges, or any of that. Its not your problem. In addition to not having to do the work, you also will not have to own and maintain all of the equipment it takes to perform these tasks.

but

The other side of that coin is restrictions. In a condo community the covenants and restrictions are typically very stringent. External decoration of any type is strictly regulated and all modifications must be board approved. So if you like to garden, or give your home a little flair without asking permission; a condo may not be the answer for you.

Another big advantage of buying a condo over buying a house is the amenities that are available.

Where most new construction homes these days come with park like common areas, ponds and maybe even a golf course; condominium communities are just getting started at that point. It is not uncommon at all for a condo to come with a pool, a fitness center, basketball courts, tennis courts, waterway access (as in boat ramps and docks for waterfront condo developments), and even a clubhouse so that you can have social gatherings even while living in a smallish low maintenance home.

Condominiums also frequently have paid security, and even when they don’t maintenance staff is always afoot and the sense of community provides an extra set of eyes to help prevent issues in the neighborhood.

In addition to all of that, condominiums lend themselves to a strong sense of community as people live close together and will get to know each other through board involvement or by using the aforementioned amenities.

While we are on the social aspect, it is also worth mentioning that condo developments are frequently located in commercial districts and city centers. The main result of this is a high level of convenience for socializing, meeting your work and shopping needs, and coming up with entertainment ideas. This also makes public transportation more readily available and also places your home in what is typically a more walkable community than most housing additions. This is one of the reasons the millennial generation is making condos more popular again after years of being out of favor.

Some of the bigger negatives that condos have, which do not equally affect house ownership are:

Privacy. Even in duplex condos you share a wall. Unless that wall is 8 inches of concrete you are going to hear some of your neighbors life….and they are going to hear yours. Depending on you this may or may not be a major concern.

Less space. While per square foot the purchase price is still typically lower than a house…condos tend to be smaller than homes in the same area. If you have a ton of stuff or just like spacious living, this may be a concern for you.

Parking. Parking in condominium developments tends to be by assignment. Some units have parking spots sold with the condo. More urban units usually do not, and when they do they are extremely expensive. If you have multiple vehicles then this should be something you consider carefully.

Ability to sell. The truth of the it all is even when condominiums are more in fashion they can be more difficult to sell than a house, especially if you want a return on your original investment. Its just how it is. In addition to needing them to be the flavor of the week, many condominium covenants require board approval for the transaction….which can obviously further complicate the matter.

All of that said, many people enjoy living an condos and they are bought and sold every day.

Hopefully this article is helpful to you as you try to decide whether you would rather buy a condo or a house for your first home.

Which ever way you go, if you want the help of a real estate professional that will help you buy the home that is the best fit FOR YOU, give Robb a call at 317-657-8059 or email robb@yourrealtylink.com to set up your buyers consultation.

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