By Dorota Wright-O'Neill, RE/MAX Editor
A few summers ago, my friend Teresa started to dislike her lawn. To me, it was a pretty, green expanse. To her, the lawn had become a mowing, feeding, watering and weeding responsibility she resented.
Within six months, her house was on the market and Teresa was looking at low-maintenance condos for sale. All of a sudden, she was offered more opinions than any person could possibly process.
There are some common themes that come up in the condo-versus-house debate.
On the pro side: Condominiums, lofts and townhomes can be cheaper than single-family homes, they frequently boast newer and more advanced appliances and include access to enticing amenities such as pools, gyms and entertainment areas. For millions of owners, they provide the perfect lifestyle.
Skeptics, however, point out that many condos tend not to appreciate as quickly as homes, require HOA fees that can run into thousands of dollars per year, and often involve closer-than-ideal proximity to neighbors.
Frankly, there is no right or wrong when it comes to your preference. As Teresa read about condos and consulted with her real estate agent, she focused on some key considerations as she searched for her new place:
- Monthly fees. See what they include. In some places, HOA fees will cover all maintenance, water/sewage costs, trash removal and even property taxes. Others cover more amenities. Be sure to also ask how often these fees increase. If they consistently go up faster than the rate of inflation, that could be a red flag.
- Privacy. How much do you want? How close are the units? How well are they insulated?
- Regulations. What can or can't you do with your property? Are there noise guidelines and remodeling restrictions? Are pets OK? Can you sublet your place?
- Occupancy. Anything over 90 percent is considered a good sign, and so is a low turnover rate.
It turned out condo living was exactly what Teresa was looking for; though, she recently bought a cottage for weekend getaways. It's in a quiet woodsy area of an up-and-coming vacation community. But, yes, you guessed it: She has no lawn to mow there either.
If you have lingering questions about whether condo living is for you, find a local RE/MAX agent who can help you make an informed decision and guide you in starting your property search on the right foot.