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Should You Buy a Condo or a House? 5 Key Considerations

When it's time to buy a new home, there's a lot to consider. If you've thought about purchasing a condo instead of a house, here are five pros and cons to guide that decision. Then look at your lifestyle, your needs, and your budget, and talk to an experienced realtor before making an offer.
When it's time to buy a new home, there's a lot to consider. If you've thought about purchasing a condo instead of a house, here are five pros and cons to guide that decision. Then look at your lifestyle, your needs, and your budget, and talk to an experienced realtor before making an offer.

When you’re considering buying a new home, you probably start with how much you can afford. But you could have other considerations, too, like maintenance, repairs, and yard work. Both could cause you to land on a condo as a possible choice.

If you’re thinking about buying a condo versus a house, or unsure which option would be best for you, here are five key considerations.

Condos Have Less Maintenance

Are you tired of mowing a lawn, shoveling snow, and clearing leaves out of gutters? Or maybe you just know that your lifestyle wouldn’t give you the time to keep up on all that maintenance. If you buy a condo, you can just write your monthly check to the condo association and it forget about it.

The association typically takes care of mowing, snow removal, and all exterior maintenance with a condo. You’re only responsible for the inside. Most home buyers consider this to be a big plus. This is also one of the reasons that condos are popular with active retirees.

You’ll Have to Deal with a Condo Association

Condo associations are often called Homeowners Associations or HOA and run the overall buildings in a condo development. Condo association fees cover maintenance and upkeep, as noted above, and can also include items like water and trash which you would pay for separately in a home.

Don’t panic when pricing out those fees, as the total monthly expenses for a house versus a condo could be the same. Condos often also have fitness centers and pools, saving you the cost of a gym membership.

If the condo association is well-run, it’s a plus. They’ll invest member fees into maintaining the buildings, keeping the common areas clean, and listen to your concerns. If it’s not well-run, it can impact your property value and lead to a mass exodus.

Condo associations also have lots of rules about what is and isn’t allowed, and you may chafe at having to follow them in a place that’s yours. Pets are a big one, particularly breed and weight, and you’d hate to have to get rid of your beloved Fido. Some associations are so restrictive that they limit items or plants you can put on your balcony or patio.

Ask your realtor to obtain a copy of the rules before you make an offer to avoid any unwelcome surprises when you first move in.

Neighbors are Very Close in a Condo

Condos are somewhat like glorified apartments. You will share walls with a neighbor. If they’re inconsiderate, loud and obnoxious, your quality of living will suffer.

Expect to see them when sitting on your patio, or possibly have to share laundry facilities with them. For those who value their privacy, this could be tough to handle.

When reviewing documents for a condo purchase, be sure and ask if owners can rent their units. Some associations have strict rules against this, and some allow it. If it’s allowed, you could wind up with neighbors who don’t care about their property. If you plan on living there long-term, this is something you should take into consideration.

Think About Resale Value

Condos tend to be harder hit by drops in the housing market. An association which develops the reputation of being poorly run could turn away potential buyers. And, since your unit’s value depends on the sale prices of other units in your development, if someone sells cheap your home value could be hurt.

Again, if neighbors can rent their units, this almost always drags down property values. So ask your real estate agent to get clarification and assurances from the HOA.

Condos Can be Centrally Located

Want to be able to walk to the grocery store, movie theater, and post office? You probably can’t do that in the suburbs. If you prefer a more urban lifestyle than a condo could be a good choice for you. Homes near a city’s center are often prohibitively expensive, but condos can be much more reasonable.

No matter what you decide, or if you’re still on the fence on a condo versus a home, an experienced real estate agent can help you make the right choice. Contact Clever today to be put in touch with an agent in your area who can answer all your questions and contribute to your home buying success.

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Reuven Shechter

Reuven Shechter is the Outreach Coordinator at Clever Real Estate, the free online service that connects you with top real estate agents to help save on commission. He spreads the word about Clever, disseminating studies to journalists and developing relationships with media outlets. Reuven is passionate about investing in real estate and creating lasting success for families. His writing has been featured in Max Real Estate Exposure, Leverage Marketing, and more.

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