Thinking about buying a condo? An insiders look on condo living.

Condo or a house? This is a frequent question I hear from buyers who aren’t quite sure which option is the best for them. With a condo listing on the horizon, I began really thinking about some of the different pros and cons to these different types of ownership. I feel like I have an insider’s look on this topic since I have owned both of these types of dwellings.

The first home I bought was in 2010, a few years after the housing market completely collapsed. I was enticed by the $8,000 tax credit the government was giving to first time home buyers. I looked at both condos and houses but ultimately decided on a 3 bedroom 2 bath condo in Vila Medici Condos in Jacksonville, FL. I got a great deal on a foreclosed unit, buying it for a whopping $103,000. It had originally sold in 2007 for $230,000 so I thought I was getting a steal.

Some of the reasons I chose a condo over a house:

  • No lawn work or outside home maintenance.
  • The ‘security’ I wanted being a single female living on my own. This condo was in a gated community and on the second floor which to me felt safe.
  • More affordable to buy than the houses I was looking at.
  • Nice amenities such as a pool, clubhouse, and fitness center.
  • The sense of living in a community.
  • I knew it would be easy to rent if I ever wanted to move.

Here are some of the items I wish I had known and thought about before buying the condo:

  • HOA fees can increase every year and there is not much you can do about it. Mine went from $250 when I bought to $389 by the time I sold 5 years later.
  • The parking situation was terrible and there was no reserved parking for owners. If I got home late at night I sometimes had to park on the other end of the complex.
  • The ‘security’ gates were almost always broken.
  • The people on the floor above me had 2 huge, loud dogs that I heard constantly.
  • Since so many people were renting in the community, they didn’t take care of the property or their units the way an owner would.
  • It took a very long time for anything on the property to be fixed by management.
  • Since my unit was on the second floor I wasn’t allowed to install hardwood floors.
  • The value of this condo would not go up nearly as much in 5 years as the houses that I was looking at in the beach area. I ended up selling my condo after 5 years for $114,000. The houses I was looking at in the beach area were around $170,000 and the values of those houses now would be well over $300,000.
  • Assessments can be charged at any time and although there wasn’t any while I owned, there was always that little worry that one could arise.

At first glance, you may think I am persuading you to lean towards buying a house over condo. I definitely am not. A condo can be great for certain people and for certain circumstances. If you are single and don’t want the outside work and maintenance of a home, then a condo may be perfect for you! If you love living in a community with a lot of amenities, then a condo may be a good fit.

A condo can also be a very lucrative investment to make money off of the monthly rent you can charge a tenant. Rents in many areas around the country, including Jacksonville, are skyrocketing and a monthly rent payment can now be much more expensive than a mortgage payment. But there are still a lot of people in the rental market willing to pay a premium to live in nice condos and not have the worries of ownership. Online businesses like Air B&B and VRBO are also making it easy for owners to offer short term rentals, which is very popular in snow bird and vacation spots like Florida. Just make sure you read carefully through the condo docs prior to buying to make sure short-term rentals are allowed.

If you are thinking about buying a condo I would highly suggest reading carefully through all the condo documentation and financials. Make sure you ask if there have been any assessments in the community or increase in HOA dues. Take the time to drive through at night and see what the parking situation is like or better yet, find out if there is reserved parking for owners and ample parking for guests. I would also suggest walking around the community and speaking to some residents. Ask them questions about how they like living there and anything they like or dislike about the HOA.

One of the things that is ideal about the condo I am about to put on the market is it exemplifies all of the qualities you need to be looking for in a condo:

  • Amazing ROI for a rental property.  Condos with a similar floor plan are renting out for $950-$1100/month and in this part of town it is easy to find young professionals to occupy.
  • HOA is under $200/month and this year is the first time it has risen (by $6) since they were built in 2005.
  • There have been zero assessments in the community.
  • Plenty of parking even late at night.
  • Amazing amenities including indoor basketball courts, tennis court, renovated clubhouse, two pools and hots tubs, saunas, fitness center, and walking trail.
  • A gate that is fully functional and 24/7 security that roams the property all day and night.
  • Two gates on either side of the property so there is easy access to get in and out depending on where you are going.
  • Walking distance to grocery store, restaurants, bars, movie theater, and more!
  • Ground floor unit (no stairs!) has a screened porch that looks out onto a beautiful pond and is very quiet.

If the above has your name written all over it then check out the full listing here!

Now moving on to owning a single-family home. My husband and I have owned our home for a little over a year now. There are many things I have loved about our home but I’m not going to lie, there have been several times I wished we owned a condo or townhome. There has been A LOT of outside maintenance and lawn work, especially after the two major hurricanes we’ve had in the area. But in turn, I love having a big yard so that we could get a dog. I also love having our own ‘space’, that my mailbox is at the end of my driveway, and that we are in a cul-de-sac, which to me feels very ‘safe.’

 

Still not sure if a condo or a house is right for you? Reach out to me today and I would be happy to talk through all of your questions and concerns.

 

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