Money at 30: The Condo Conundrum

A few months ago I shared that my wife and I were just kinda sorta starting to think about maybe (is that enough qualifiers?) buying a home. At this point, our search really has to be limited to viewing listings online while we continue to save up for a down payment. But, interestingly, our searches lately have led us back to a question I thought we had settled: would we want a condo?

Although I had initially ruled out condominiums, townhouses, and other fancy words for “apartments that you own”  from our search, I’m finding myself coming around on the idea in a big way. Of course it helps that they’re currently building a new condo community in our perfect location, but I digress. So are condos really worth owning or are we just setting ourselves up for disappointment down the road? Here are some of the pros and cons we’ve discovered and discussed:

Pro: The size

My wife and I have a pretty short list of what our dream home must contain: at least two bedrooms, two bathrooms, and some stairs. That lattermost requirement could entail a basement or perhaps a finished attic, but we want some type of stairs (lest we get too lazy). Unfortunately when you talk about adding another level to your home that typically raises the price significantly. Furthermore the two of us don’t want a five bedroom home that we’ll need to heat, cool, and clean year round.

This is where townhouses and other condos get major points. They seem to be the only type of homes that offer a reasonable amount of bedrooms (say, three) split across two or more stories, making it the perfect size for us. As a result, whenever we see listings that meet our three requirements, 90% of them are condos.

Con: The fees

For many house hunters, homeowners’ associations are a four letter word. After all, who wants to pay money to a group just so they can tell you what you can and cannot do with your home and property? Additionally HOAs are able to raise their fees over time, effectively raising the cost of your home without really adding much value.

To be sure, HOAs — or condo associations or whatever they want to call them — are hardly exclusive to condos but  in our experience finding a condo that doesn’t require some sort of extra fee is proving nearly impossible. However they do seem to provide some value as many condo complexes include amenities like pools or even cable television and internet. It’s still not an ideal situation but at least many of the costs are justifiable (as we’ll get into in the next section).

Pro: What those fees cover

One of the things I enjoy most about living in an apartment is that I don’t have to worry about annoying tasks like yard work. Additionally, if anything were to happen to our unit, it’s likely not me who will be on the hook to get it fixed. As it turns out, that’s also something that appeals to me about condos.

While I may still resent paying any sort of HOA or condo association fee, the fact is that having things like snow removal and landscaping taken care of for me does sound awfully nice. Additionally many of the townhouses we’ve looked at also cover any work needed to the building’s exterior. Living in a location where tornadoes are a horrifying possibility, knowing that they’ll replace my roof if a twister ripped it off is kind of comforting. Now if I could only find a condo that also included a free handyman I’d really be sold…

Con: Neighbors

Perhaps the biggest drawback to living in a condo in that, like with apartments, you’ll almost certainly be able to hear your neighbors. Yes, sharing a wall with someone else isn’t exactly my favorite thing but I’ve also grown pretty accustomed to it over the past 12 years or so. While I used to think that, if I were to buy a house, I would want to buy a “real” house and get some distance from others, maybe condos are more my speed right now.


Ultimately I’m thinking more and more that condo ownership actually would make a lot of sense for us. That said we may feel differently by the time we’ve saved up for a down payment or may even decide that we do need more space in case we want to start a family any time soon. But, for the time being, a condo could be the right size, price, and lifestyle for us.

Author

Kyle Burbank

Kyle is a freelance writer and author whose first book, "The E-Ticket Life" is now available on Amazon. In addition to his weekly "Money at 30" column on Dyer News, he is also the editorial director and a writer for the Disney fan site LaughingPlace.com and has recently starting publsihing his own personal finance blog at https://moneyat30.com/

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