Pros and Cons of Buying a Condo
6 questions to ask when buying a condo
A condominium is a popular housing choice for first-time home buyers, empty nesters, and singles or couples who prefer not to worry about home maintenance and yard work. In fact, the National Association of REALTORS® reports condo sales are trending upward, while single-family home sales have declined.
If you're among the growing population of people considering buying a condo, you may be wondering what you need to know about this housing option. To help you answer, "Should I buy a condo?" we've gathered a list of the pros and cons of buying a condo as well as 6 questions you can ask before buying.
4 pros of buying a condo
Homeowners who choose condos often do so for these four reasons:
- No yard work – When you move into a condo, gone will be the days when you have to mow the lawn, trim the shrubs and remove snow from the driveway. Most condo associations also take care of major repairs to roofs, exteriors and driveways.
- Right price – Often, you may be able to purchase a condo for less money than a single-family home in the same neighborhood. Prices depend upon home size, property values and the area's cost of living.
- Community living – Unlike single-family homes, condos are often connected with shared walls or built much closer together, allowing for greater interaction with neighbors. Some condominiums are built in an area where homeowners share pools, tennis courts, fitness centers and other community gathering places.
- Security – Some condominiums are built more like an apartment complex, all under one roof with several floors. These condos generally offer greater security with locked entries.
5 cons of buying a condo
The disadvantages of buying a condo relate to giving up some freedom and control you would have by owning a single-family home.
- Dues – In exchange for not doing most major maintenance, you'll need to pay dues to the homeowners association (HOA). Dues may range from $100 to $1,000 a month to cover lawn care and maintenance of not only the building but any common areas as well. This may make condo living more expensive than a mortgage payment.
- Rules – The HOA not only decides how much you'll pay in dues, this governing board also may have restrictions on condo renovations, parking availability, pet ownership and more. The rules are meant to protect the condos' property values.
- Special assessments – Often, monthly dues cannot cover major repairs to roofs, mechanical systems or other high-cost problems. In that case, all condo owners will be expected to pay an additional assessment that may be as high as $1,000 or more.
- Privacy – Remember that sense of community? For some, living in close quarters may translate into a lack of privacy.
- Resale – Because of the disadvantages listed above, it may take you longer to sell your condo when the time comes. In addition, condos tend to look alike, inside and out, so distinguishing your condo from another for sale in the area will be difficult.
6 questions to ask when buying a condo
If you plan to buy a condo, consider these questions during your search.
- How many units are owner-occupied? Be wary of buildings or areas in which renters—rather than homeowners—are living in the property. If most units are rentals, it may affect property values, something to consider when it comes time to sell.
- How is maintenance handled? It's good to know who is responsible for maintaining your yard and the common areas. Poorly maintained areas may be a hint that the association has governance or financial issues.
- Is there an application process? Some HOAs are protecting the property by asking prospective owners to complete an application to ensure they are financially able to pay dues and assessments.
- What are the rules? Understand the HOA rules for making property improvements, having a pet and more before you move.
- Have any special assessments been made in the past three years? What special assessments are planned? This will give you a sense for any major maintenance or upgrades that were done recently or those planned for the future.
- What is the community like? Ask someone who lives there or a board member about the community, its homeowners and its amenities.
Tips for making the best of an HOA
It's estimated that 20 percent of people in the United States live within an area governed by an HOA or similar organization. At times, you may find you don't agree with a decision or would like to learn more about why the governing board made a decision.
The best approach: Get to know HOA board members from the start, and do your homework.
- Make sure you get the list of rules and procedures in writing and follow them.
- Attend HOA meetings so that you are aware of upcoming projects or new procedures.
- Volunteer by tackling a community project, serving on a committee and seeking election to the board.
Information about condo insurance
If you've decided that buying a condo is the right decision for you, the next step is to get condo insurance. Before you research policies, find out what type of insurance the HOA purchases and what it covers. Most times, the HOA buys insurance to cover the building, but you will need to purchase condo insurance to cover your condo's interior and your belongings.