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Pros & Cons of Buying a Condo – Is It Worth It?

By Heather Levin

condo interiorIf you’re thinking about purchasing a home, buying a condo might look pretty appealing. After all, you don’t have to worry about exterior maintenance, you get a pool you don’t have to pay for or keep clean, and you get an awesome fitness center (which saves money on your gym membership).

It’s like an apartment that you own. What’s not to love?

Like everything in life, there are pros and cons to buying a condo. Before you sign on the dotted line, it’s important to weigh these important factors, and remember some key questions to ask when buying a condo.

Pros of Buying a Condominium

  1. Security. Many condos offer gated or locked entries, doormen, or even security professionals for residents. If you live alone, or security is a concern for you, this can be a major perk. In addition, you’re living in close proximity with many other people; in an emergency, you’ll have plenty of people to turn to for help.
  2. Amenities. Want a pool? A fitness center? Wednesday game nights at the community clubhouse? Many condo communities offer residents amenities that are out of reach for the average homeowner.
  3. Maintenance. One of the biggest benefits to living in a condo is that other people do the maintenance for you. They cut the grass and maintain the grounds, they fix the roof, and there are plenty of workers on hand for when your furnace quits. If you’re a first time homeowner, in poor health, busy with work, like to travel, or you just don’t want to deal with all that work, this is a major benefit to living in a condo.
  4. Affordability. Condominiums are often priced lower than single-family homes. If you want to dive into home ownership, a condo can be a great first step.

condominium sky

Cons of Condo Living

  1. Homeowners Association Fees. As you might imagine, that pool, fitness center, security system, and maintenance crew all cost money. And, that money is paid by you. When you buy a condo, you essentially become a business partner in that community. You pay a monthly fee each month (on top of your mortgage) which goes towards the upkeep of the property, as well as future investments (e.g. a playground addition or dog run). How much will you have to pay each month? HOA fees vary widely, depending on the location, size, and quality of your community, but plan on spending at least $300 a month in association fees. It’s not cheap.
  2. Lack of Privacy. Remember when I mentioned that a condo is essentially like an apartment that you own? Well, you get all the “perks” of apartment living too; and this includes neighbors on the other side of the wall, and neighbors going up and down the hall or grounds at all hours of the day and night. If you’re looking for some peace and quiet around you, a condo may not be the right choice.
  3. Delinquency. Condos have been hit hard by the recession. As more people struggle to make ends meet, more condo owners are dropping out of paying their association dues. What happens in this case? Dues go up for everyone else to cover this delinquency. This means you’re stuck holding the short end of the stick.
  4. Challenging to Sell. Condos can be difficult to sell. Why? Well, they pretty much all look the same. If there are empty units in your building, those are likely going to sell first. And if there are a lot of empty units…good luck.
  5. Living by the Rules. Living in a condo means you have to live by the management’s rules. For instance, say you want to install green energy technology like a solar panel on the roof to save energy at home. Instead of just getting started, you have to ask the condo association if it’s ok. If they say no, you’re out of luck. There are many rules for living in a condo; for some people, this can be stifling.
  6. Slow Appreciation. Condominiums often appreciate in value much slower than single-family homes. This is because you don’t own any land, which is the biggest driver for appreciation. Instead, you only own the living space. There’s a big difference.

Final Word

Buying a condo is no small affair, and it’s often more involved than just buying a single-family home. You also need to weigh the significant pros and cons before making any final decision.

Do you live in a condo, or have you owned one in the past? What was the overall experience like? Was it worth the investment, or will you never buy a condo again?

(photo credit: Shutterstock)

Heather Levin
Heather Levin is a freelance writer based in Detroit, MI. She's passionately committed to living green, saving money, and helping others do the same in their life.

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  • http://www.mymoneyforest.com Tim MMF

    If the price is $109,000 I don’t see how the mortgage payment could be $630. You’re right, those fees & taxes are crazy…

    • lisalisavi

      I have been thinking about a condo as well, but came to the conclusion that it really does not make too much sense especially since you can get a great house in these economic times with a mortgage which combines the mortgage payment and association fee of the condo. The thing with condo fees is that they increase annually so there is no getting out of them even after the 30 year mortgage. The other thing to consider is that if you wanted to rent, do rents in the area allow you to charge enough to cover the mortgage and the rising association fee with room for a profit. The other thing I learned in this recent recession is that if you can save to put down at least 20% or pay the negotiated price in full, this would be best and would avoid any PMI. I also think this is a good time for folks to really assess their financial situation and see if homeownership is right for you at this juncture in your life. I wish you the best in your search.

      • lisalisavi

        I forgot to mention I know this is an old post but the information is still relevant to today and thought I would share what I have learned/experienced in the last four (4) years. Thanks for your indulgence.

  • Teigue614

    I will never buy another condo ever!!!! Even though my condo is 1580sq ft very nice and the grounds are kept up, it is the HOA fees that get you. My HOA fees have went up$600 in two years.OH yes your mortgage payments are low but the HOA fees make up for that. And besides
    you will never really own it because of the fees. So buyer beware!!! If it sounds to good to be true
    beware!!!!!!!!!!

    • Keren Jeanne

      went up to 600 from how much, please?

  • Kaitte

    I’m an avid gardener and it’s been challenging to Patio garden. But I am succeeding. I sometimes think I would like a yard again, but at 60 I probably really shouldn’t have it. Fees aren’t too bad and I pay less in a mortgage than I would if I had stayed in my one bedroom apt. which I loved.. I’m a Jill of all trades and although it takes me longer to repair things these days I get it done.. There are pros and cons to a Condo.. when I first moved in I had horrible neighbors upstairs over my bedroom who would fight/party etc… after 11pm at night. Eventually they were evicted. So far in the last 3 years I’ve had good neighbors… and the owners of the rentals know the downfalls of noisy renters. The other thing on the HOA, it takes them forever to fix things sometimes… but we have a good team now hopefully they will catch up…

  • Ivan Wong

    I lived in both house and condo. Currently, I am living in a condo. One is actually no more expansive than the other, it really depends on what you can afford and your life style.

    My Mort. is $800 + $300 for 1400 ft. of living space. Our condo is $110,000 and was built in the mid 80s. We are married with no kids. We have a pool, a club house, and BBQ pits. The $330 HOA fee includes water, trash, exterior lighting, cable TV, and weekly grass mowing, Best of all, it is only 5 miles from where we work. Still, $330 per month do seems like a lot (almost $4000/yr).

    But….

    On the same token, $110,000 could get me a single family home built in early 60s for that amount of living space, which most of these homes are extremely costly on maintenance (roof, sidings, yard, driveways…).and many of these stuff is no longer meeting city code (you can still live in it, but repair people will cost you much more to upgrade to current code.

    Since there is no HOA, I have to pay these out of pocket:
    -$70/mo for water and trash (can’t get away from this one)
    -$200/mo to fund a maint saving account (better save now than put it on credit)
    – $40/mo Iadditional home owner insurance
    -$50/mo additional property tax
    -$15/mo termite control
    -time to find a reliable shop to fix my house and fighting at court if they do a bad job

    But I can save …
    -($60/mo) for mowing – ( if I don’t mow grass)
    -($30/mo) cable TV (if I don’t watch TV)
    -($100/mo) pool -(if I can even find a house w/ a pool @ $110,000) ( if I don’t want a pool)

    At the end, it is not really that much of a different on cost analysis between a condo and a house, but the quality of life can be a big different. In a sense, the HOA fee is an insurance to retain your property value, I know if I don’t do maint, the $200/mo is mine, but the value of the home would drastically decrease and it may cost you more to fix it at that point. Also, when you decide to move, you need to put that money back in to fix the house to get it ready for sell.

    If you are in the higher income bracket, buying a NEW single family would be more cost effective and make more financial sense.

  • Sammi

    I live in Honolulu, and a 2 bedroom condo in any part of town is easily $300,000, and competition is pretty fierce even at these prices so pro #4 definitely applies–it’s the ONLY thing we can afford!! and con #4 does NOT apply, they are VERY easy to sell again, people actually put in offers before they make an appointment for a showing just to get the edge in case they do like it.

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