When you are preparing to purchase a home, it’s worth considering whether a single-family home or a condominium (or condo) will best suit your needs. Today, we’ll discuss the pros and cons of condos, who they’re best suited to, and how HOAs can both complicate and streamline your life as a condo owner. Read on for everything you need to know about condos.
Are You a Condo Candidate?
For first-time homebuyers searching for lower down payment options, condominiums can serve as an equity-building stepping stone toward traditional home ownership. Retirees looking for a way to downsize may also benefit from selling their larger homes and purchasing a condo for their golden years. Condominiums may also be constructed in urban centers, giving apartment dwellers a pathway out of renting without having to leave cities for the suburbs.
Condos vs. Townhouses vs. Single-Family Homes
Unlike a freestanding single-family home, a condominium is contained within a multi-unit complex. The size of the complex doesn’t matter; whether there are two units or two hundred, the individual dwelling is still a condominium. A key feature of a condo is that the homeowner only owns the interior of the home. The exterior walls and the land upon which it sits are not owned by the individual but remain under control of the larger property.
Like condominiums, townhouses are attached units rather than freestanding homes. However, a townhouse usually has a front and back yard, and its owners own both the interior and exterior of the home.
All About HOAs
Condos are governed by homeowners’ associations, or HOAs. The HOA will oversee the community’s rules and their enforcement, be responsible for exterior maintenance and upkeep of communal areas, and be charged with setting and collecting added fees for larger maintenance projects.
As a condo owner, you will be part of your property’s HOA. This means that you will be able to participate in voting annually, during which time you can help determine which community members are best suited to help administrate the duties of the HOA.
The monthly fees for a condo’s HOA will likely range from $200 to $500. Keep in mind that condos located in highly desirable areas or within luxurious, brand-new buildings can require monthly HOA fees in excess of $1,000 per month.
If you encounter a condo with very low HOA fees, it may seem appealing; we all love saving money! Still, be cautious when you see an HOA fee that’s far below market, because this may mean your HOA will be uninvolved, broke, or poorly managed. A low monthly fee may mean you’ll be paying eye-watering lump sums when it’s time to conduct a large maintenance project like roof replacement.
Pros and Cons of Condos
- You won’t have to maintain and landscape a yard or maintain your home’s exterior.
- HOA fees are usually less costly than paying for maintenance on a single-family home.
- Condos may give you access to a neighborhood you could not otherwise afford.
- Your condo association will manage unruly neighbors.
- You will have access to community events.
- Your condo may include added-value amenities such as a full gym, pool, grills and picnic areas, a playground, and a community center.
- Your condo complex will only be as good as your HOA’s management.
- HOA fees can be costly, depending on your area, which may make your condo payments higher than a comparable townhouse.
- HOA rules can be more restrictive and controlling than the leases renters are governed by, which can make home ownership less freeing than expected.
- You won’t be in control of which maintenance projects to prioritize, and you can be forced to pay for projects you have no interest in funding.
- Your mortgage rate on a condo will likely be higher than the rate for a single-family dwelling.
- Condos may be more difficult to sell when you’re ready to move.
- Condos do not build equity as swiftly as single-family homes.
- You will not own the land under your condo, only the structure itself.
The Unique Process of Purchasing a Condo
Once you’ve decided that a condo is right for you, get pre-approved for your mortgage. Next, it’s essential that you work with a real estate agent who specializes in condos in Middle Tennessee. Communicate very clearly with your agent about what you want in your condo’s community, the type of HOA involvement you find ideal, and what your price range is.
Once your realtor finds a potential condo for you, it’s time to work with your realtor to assess the HOA.
- Review the HOA’s documentation to ensure you understand what your monthly fees cover.
- Determine whether your HOA is being run with a sustainable, fiscally-sound method.
- Read through the HOA rules and decide whether they will be too draconian for your lifestyle, or perhaps too lax for your expectations.
- Take a look at the HOA’s financial history and see how they’ve handled special assessments, annual fee increases, and disputes on community projects.
- Meet the neighbors and find out how they feel about living under the HOA.
Purchasing a home is a huge decision. To feel great about your choice for at least the next seven years, you must spend time researching and thinking before you make the leap. Your best resource throughout the process of purchasing a condo will be your REALTOR® who specializes in condos right here in Middle Tennessee. Otherwise, you are likely going to miss some vital details in the sea of data you’ll have to sift through as you view listing after listing.