Choosing the Correct Condo (for You)

By: Robert Nachman

With the number of 'single people' buying homes reaching the highest ever and actually overtaking the number of married buying homes, it would be interesting to know how many of the singles are buying condos.

Condos are an all-generational property, and although large numbers of baby boomers buy them up for retirement homes (particularly in warm Arizona), condos also make a good starter home for the first time buyer: i.e. singles.

This raises some interesting questions - one of them being, are condos a good investment? Another is, how seriously must the condo rules, under which all condo residents must live, be studied before deciding to buy?

Do first time buyers realize that when they buy a condo, they are also buying a unit that comes with a set of pre-made rules that must be adhered to. How do the rules harmonize with the lives of diverse age groups who probably have diverse life styles?

All condos have rules which are designed to make for ease of living for all who live there. The problem lies with the question 'ease of WHOSE living'? The early to bed/early to rise trailblazers? Or the eat late/sleep late liberals? It is highly recommended to check all the rules before you sign on the dotted line. Even small differences can expand into large problems.

So, if you get up every morning at 5a.m. and stretch to music on your balcony before going to golf - make sure the rules allow for early risers to make 'reasonable noise'.

What of the dog owner who lets his dog onto the balcony where he can bark loudly at cats, and wake you up? Another problem is the DIY guy who can only repair and renovate after he finishes at the office. Great!

Of course, some condo rules state that no maintenance or repairs may be done by anyone except the approved contractor and this would solve the noise problem. (This rule is in place because many of the repairs i.e. plumbing repairs, can affect other people's properties.)

Another possible rule that could get in your way is a no banging after 7.p.m. rule. However, often buyers will snap up an older condo with a view to renovating it and making money - so rules must be checked to ensure that self-renovating will be allowed.

Of course, there may be none of these rules in place, and you may be able to buy an old condo and change out the bathroom and kitchen and make money on it. If you plan on renting, check that renting is allowed, it is not unusual to have a no rental clause in the rules.

With regard to a condo being a good investment, probably any home that gives you the first step up the property ladder is a good investment. Whatever the price, it will increase in value according the local realty market, so it is an insurance against never being able to afford a home!

However, from a specific investment point of view, check out the areas over which you have no control. One thing that you have no personal control over with condos is the common areas. The rugs, hallways and lobby areas etc are the responsibility of the management.

You may not wish to buy a condo where everyone is allowed to leave bikes and canoes in the hallways, or where the rugs and decor in the common areas look shabby. This will deter prospective buyers when you come to re-sell.

Remember when you buy a condo, you have to pay monthly fees which are used for upkeep - even if you are not there most of the time; check that they are affordable. And by the way, did you notice that Phoenix, Arizona is listed as an area to pick up bargains at the moment , you could live in that lovely dry climate and never get an ache in your joints or a wheeze in your lungs, and I hear they have a lot of places under $150,000!

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