Exit the Traffic Jams - Buy a Condo

By: Joe Cline

Condos are a great buy, holding their price in a downwards market - and sometimes even increasing their value!

Why would it be that in many distressed realty areas, condos are holding their price? Is it the glut of baby boomers moving into the easier 'condo' lifestyle? Is it because they can often be less expensive than houses for first time buyers? Could it be because single householders (who are more likely to choose condos) have now out-numbered married ones? Is it because condos are built slap in the middle of town?

Whatever the reason, condo prices have remained unchanged in nearly sixty key USA metros and they have even shown a price increase in thirty-three metros. A closer look at the figures for the nation could point to the answer.

For instance, Chicago is one of the metros where sales of townhouses and condos were mostly equal or higher than in the previous year. Chicago is a very condo-dense city which could indicate that many buyers probably wish to avoid all the traffic jams and live right where they work. The immediacy of condo life is very appealing to city lovers and the career-minded.

The south-western coast of USA boasts the highest priced condos in the nation. In the San Francisco, Oakland, Fremont area you could pay the median figure of $600,000 for a condo. This is fairly high when you consider that the median price for a condo in North Carolina is $116,000.

The second highest median condo price is in the Los Angeles, Long Beach, Santa Ana area and this is quoted as $363,000. This market is closely followed by the San Diego, Carlsbad, San Marcos area where the median price for a condo is $327,000.

These areas could all fall under the 'West' resort bracket, a sought after location, where all prices are high against the national average.

The rules for buying a condo are the same as ever: location, location, location. However, prospective condo buyers would be well advised to pay attention to the other type of rule pertinent to condo ownership - that of the HOA.

HOA stands for Home Owners Association and it is imperative to read through their rule book before you buy. You will have to live by these rules, so you will need to ensure that they fit your lifestyle. You will also need to ensure that any conditions that you particularly want when buying the condo will not be jeopardized by the HOA rules.

For instance, if you are planning to rent your suite out for half the year, or even half a week - make sure this is allowed. In order to keep the community feeling of the condo society, some HOA's do not like transience.

Permanency builds neighborliness and it also means that the condo occupier is more likely to adhere to the rules. If you are just stopping there for one week, you may well crank up the stereo while you are sunning on the balcony. Rental options may be disallowed in order to better enhance the lifestyle of all the permanent residents.

Another point to watch is this: if you are a do-it-yourselfer, many condos have rules about only using certain contractors to carry out repair problems and/or decorate. Certain other rules are involved in condo living; for instance, night-time noise may be regulated after, say, 11pm.

If the rules of the HOA fit your wishes and your lifestyle, then it will seem as if the conditions are non-existent. However, if part of the deal of purchasing your condo involves augmenting your financial status by renting it, you will need to ensure that this is acceptable.

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