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Buying a condo not the same as buying a home

Friday, December 27th, 2013
Issue 52, Volume 17.

RIVERSIDE COUNTY – Stringent lending policies and the escalating costs of home ownership have led many prospective home buyers to consider condominiums instead of single-family homes.

Condos are typically less expensive than single-family homes, which makes lenders and borrowers alike feel more comfortable. Lenders feel better because the loans arenít as large, while borrowers are more comfortable because such loans allow them to improve their standing with lenders, potentially setting the table for a low-interest home loan down the road.

But the differences between buying a condo and buying a single-family home go beyond the bottom line. The following are a few things prospective buyers should know about condos before they view any properties.

Condos come with fees. Unlike many single-family homes, condos usually always come with homeowner association fees. These fees cover the cost of maintenance and repairs to the property. This includes landscaping as well as general repairs throughout the condominium complex. Fees vary significantly from community to community, and the best deal is not always the one with the lowest homeowner association fees. Low fees tend to provide less proactive maintenance, generally covering only the most basic services. Higher fees often mean the community offers more amenities, such as a private pool and gym for residents. Some people prefer such amenities, while others would rather find better deals on their own. But prospective condo buyers must include fees in their monthly budgets when determining how much they can afford to spend.

Condos come with rules. Owners of single-family homes can create their own rules (within County code) for their households, while condo owners must agree to follow rules established by the homeowners association or the property management firm responsible for maintaining the community and enforcing the rules. Rules may not allow Advertisement
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pets or only allow pets of a certain size. Other rules may restrict how owners can decorate their condos during the holiday season or how they can furnish the exterior of their properties, limiting patio furniture to a set number of chairs or tables. Some condo owners are glad such rules are in place, while others might find such stipulations intrusive. Each community has different rules, and prospective buyers should familiarize themselves with a communityís rules before buying any properties within that community.

Condos often have management firms. Property management firms can be great to deal with, but some are better than others. A good property management firm produces satisfied community members who speak glowingly of their communities, while a poorly run management firm can frustrate homeowners who feel they are not getting what theyíre paying for. If possible, speak to current community residents about how the property is managed. If residents are not available, potential buyers should attempt to attend a homeowners association meeting, which can shed light on what itís like to live within a given community and how accessible the management firm is to community members and how well it tends to those membersí needs.

Condos are not as private as single-family homes. Much like apartment dwellers, condo owners often share walls with neighbors. That means condo owners will have to sacrifice some privacy. Prospective buyers who consider privacy a top priority may want to

continue living in an apartment until they can afford to buy a single-family home.

Condominiums are great options for people who want to own their homes but arenít in a position or donít desire to purchase a single family residence. But buyers must educate themselves about condominium life before signing on the dotted line.



Comment Profile ImageMiquel
Comment #1 | Friday, Jan 3, 2014 at 12:48 am
Excellent tips. A lot of people don't take the fees into consideration with condos, or they don't realize how much the fees can go up each year and after a few years, they might not be able to afford it anymore. It can get tricky, it's important to have a skilled agent even if you're buying a condo.


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