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last home purchase ... house or condo??
Old 06-20-2019, 06:50 AM   #1
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last home purchase ... house or condo??

Well, we sold our house and moved into a rental apt, while still searching for our forever house/home. The youngest is still in college and will be on his own in a few years (hopefully)

Lots of nice houses out there but, with retirement approaching fast, I hesitate to sign up for the house thing again ... maintenance, lawn, upkeep, etc.
We've been looking into condos as well but, I feel I'd miss the home ownership and privacy we'd had in the past.

We go back and forth a bit on it. I think either free-standing condo or townhouse may be the bet. Still looking for the right one though.
Renting may give us the time to sort through it all and find what we like.

Looking for stories from others. Who has ditched the house life and switched to condos?? Glad you did?


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Old 06-20-2019, 07:29 AM   #2
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I'm not sure how common free-standing condos or townhouses are. If they are, what's the difference between one of those with HOA fees, or buying a small house and paying someone to do the yard and maintenance?

I see some places where the only common wall is a garage, and maybe the spare bedroom. That would help with any noise issues. I'd also want some kind of partition between patio/deck space.
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Old 06-20-2019, 07:44 AM   #3
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We downsized and bought into a maintenance free neighborhood. Lawn is mowed, trimmed and blown, trees are maintained, and snow is removed. We have just enough area to have a few vegetables and flowers, and maintenance of those is up to us. We love it.

We have a dog, and I want to be able to let him out the door, and not having to take him out on a leash each time.

I'd rent a condo for a bit and see if you like it. When we vacation in condos, the noise from upstairs drives me nuts, along with the traffic coming and going. I can see the advantages of condo living - it's just not my cup of tea.
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Old 06-20-2019, 07:45 AM   #4
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We have a SFH and a condo. I prefer the condo, especially for the future... though we would probably get something bigger. Our community has "villas" which are two-unit buildings with a single common wall... so you have a "roof-mate". They are a little bigger than the condos, all ground level (our condo is on the second floor) and include a one or two car garage. We have some friends who own "carriage homes" that are SFH but where all the outside maintenance is done by the HOA so it is a cross between a condo and a SFH.

Some people can't stand the "limitations" of living in an association... I haven't had a problem with any of it since the limitations in our association are fairly reasonable.

The one thing that I don't like about our association is that they are cheap... they are very good at keeping up what we have in good repair but very opposed to any updates or improvements to reflect the times. Some of the younger residents have talked up things like renovating the dated clubhouse or adding a couple bocce courts and the canned response is "No... that would increase our HOA fee" which is an affordable $317/month.
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Old 06-20-2019, 07:54 AM   #5
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We rented for four years and enjoyed it. Condo in a multi tenant low rise building overlooking a golf course.

We bought a bungalow in an HOA. The HOA takes care of snow removal and gardening. It is essentially lock and leave. We decided that we did not want to live in a condo building. 1400 sq feet on one floor w/ master br. HOA is excellent. Finished suite in basement for occasional guests.
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Old 06-20-2019, 08:01 AM   #6
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Condos vary widely in quality. Many are built with good sound proof walls (extra insulation or even double walls), but many are not. I'd expect many vacation rental condos are built very cheaply and are not a good exemplar of better condos.

It's another case of you get what you pay for.
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Old 06-20-2019, 08:22 AM   #7
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I lived in a snowbird condo 4 months out of the year, and our primary residence is a 3800 sf house on 5 wooded acres on a lake. Total opposites on the maintenance spectrum. At the house, I probably spend 30-40 hours per week on house and grounds upkeep. At the condo, the only maintenance that I did was change the smoke detector batteries.

That said, I found the condo to be confining. No workshop, only a 1 car garage, only 1 tv, no home office.

But a decision on house vs condo should be made on what you anticipate your needs to be years down the road. We sold our condo because of the above reasons. Now we are going to sell our house because of the maintenance. I want to buy a small house that has little maintenance yet gives me a little of what our current house has. Something that will fit what I believe our needs will be 10 years down the road.
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Old 06-20-2019, 08:29 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by albireo13 View Post
Looking for stories from others. Who has ditched the house life and switched to condos?? Glad you did?
I have never owned a condo but still wanted to weigh in. There are at least two big factors that I can think of to consider when deciding between a house or condo: exterior maintenance, and travel needs.

EXTERIOR MAINTENANCE:
Quote:
Originally Posted by RunningBum View Post
I'm not sure how common free-standing condos or townhouses are. If they are, what's the difference between one of those with HOA fees, or buying a small house and paying someone to do the yard and maintenance?
+1
Since I am 71 with bad knees and completely lacking in talent at home repairs, I refuse to do home maintenance and I don't do it. Yet my house is in better shape than when I bought it four years ago. Here's how:

(1) I paid for a landscaping overhaul so that the yard is very low maintenance for this climate, and only needs for the lawn to be mowed (no sprinkling or feeding of the lawn necessary in this climate).

(2) Then I hired a lawn guy to mow and edge. My role is to put out $35 for him every week, or every two weeks in the winter. Honestly that is all that I have had to do in order to have a nice looking, lush, and green yard. This averages out to $108/month.

(3) I have a handyman that I call if anything else needs to be done to the house or yard. That has cost me surprisingly little since little to nothing really needs to be done. So far, in four years, a clogged kitchen sink once, making a gateway in the fence between F's backyard and mine, and replacing deteriorated pillars on the front porch has been about all. If/when I get any hurricane damage he'll take care of fixing that for me. When averaged over the four years that I have been here, my handyman has cost me $27/month so far, although this could vary a lot..

(4) When I need a new roof I'll pay for that too.

To me, the trade-off is that you either have to put in some effort initially in order to find a good handyman for your house, or else you have to deal with condo problems like HOA and possibly shared walls. With a house you have to pay the handyman directly instead of having the payments passed along to you through monthly condo fees.

TRAVEL:

Now, if you travel a lot (I don't), then I'd think a lock 'n' leave condo would be almost a necessity. So if it was me, I'd base my decision on travel, not on maintenance requirements.
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Old 06-20-2019, 08:49 AM   #9
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We've had both. If you are investigating a condo make sure your understand how the common wall(s) are constructed. It varies widely from insulated concrete ( you won't hear a thing) to stick construction where you will hear everything. Also understand what the HOA is responsible for. You also may not want things like a pool or clubhouse that you will have to pay for and maybe not use.
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Old 06-20-2019, 09:13 AM   #10
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We are still in the large family home (1 acre, pool) with four children in their early 20s still in university so dropping in now and then. I can't wait to downsize. I would have said small house (HOAs are not a thing in Canada so no cost there) because I thought I would be cramped, needed a yard, pets, and hate the idea of paying a condo fee that is more than I rented for as a twenty-something (I know inflation!) but after I retired I started doing some consulting work and I would be put up in high end condos for weeks at a time - et voila I became a believer. So now I know that either will work and as usual, the ultimate decision will primarily be up to DW - hence we are still in the big house! I would agree with the advice given - try renting a condo somewhere you want to visit for a couple of months and see how it goes. Take your time!
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Old 06-20-2019, 10:01 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by albireo13 View Post
Well, we sold our house and moved into a rental apt, while still searching for our forever house/home. The youngest is still in college and will be on his own in a few years (hopefully)

Lots of nice houses out there but, with retirement approaching fast, I hesitate to sign up for the house thing again ... maintenance, lawn, upkeep, etc.
We've been looking into condos as well but, I feel I'd miss the home ownership and privacy we'd had in the past.

We go back and forth a bit on it. I think either free-standing condo or townhouse may be the bet. Still looking for the right one though.
Renting may give us the time to sort through it all and find what we like.

Looking for stories from others. Who has ditched the house life and switched to condos?? Glad you did?


Thx
I have owned 3 townehouses in Ohio and one in MI (which I currently live in). The ones in Ohio were all good, all newer, and I prefer them over the choices I saw in MI (in same price range).

What I liked- cheaper heating/cooling than the SFH I owned by an order of 3.
Access to pools, fitness centers and amenities within condo property in Ohio.

What I don't like- my garage in MI is not attached, and there is no pool or fitness center. My condo fees in MI are close to $400/mo (older structures) and it is near impossible to decrease these.

What you should ask-
If a tree falls on the condo, what is the way insurance works?
examples
1) homeowner pays deductible
2) everyone in unit shares the deductible
3) entire community pays deductible

Then ask about the condo fees and insurance

If you brew beer in the front yard of the condo with a couple of friends (also brewing) will nosy neighbors call the police? Granted this could happen with a SFH too. This is my most liked and commented photo ever on FB.

In one condo I lived in in Columbus, that condo also had a bar, so I could walk, drink, then walk home. I really liked that.
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Old 06-20-2019, 10:10 AM   #12
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I did both. Bought a patio home with small yard that I maintain. Easy maintenance. Also have a coastal condo I spend roughly 30% of my time. Nice to be able to turn the water off and not worry about it when I'm gone. Someday I will sell the condo and only live in my house. I enjoy the coast but don't think I would care to live there full time. Plan on having both for several more years tho.
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Old 06-20-2019, 01:21 PM   #13
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Moved from our last house to the current condo and we love it.
The only way we'll leave this place is either to a CCRC or with a toe tag attached. I did it because I had all the snow/leaf removal I wanted to deal with for a lifetime.

Would never have moved except that I happened to find this place and it seemed so perfect that it just called my name. Four years later, we still love it and still think it's perfect.
  • Standalone unit, 20 years old.
  • Same size as the prior house (3,000 sf) with attached two car garage.
  • Small development (17 units) on our own street.
  • Good neighbors -- half retired, the rest mostly professionals and business owners
  • Nicely landscaped and we have a gem of a maintenance crew that takes great care of it.
  • Quiet suburban neighborhood but less than a ten minute drive to downtown
  • Lowest crime rate in the state
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Old 06-20-2019, 01:32 PM   #14
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I live in a duplex with one shared wall with my neighbor. Generally, all I ever hear is her garage door opening/closing and that only when I am in my front bedroom (over my garage.) Our duplex is part of a 36 unit HOA that only covers lawn maintenance and snow removal. All exterior maintenance of our homes is the responsibility of the home owner. For this we each pay $480 a year. I smile when I write that check because it's so cheap. There are no common facilities like a club house or swimming pool so that's another reason why our fees are so low.

I have about 1,500 square feet of living space and a two car garage. It's more than enough room for me, but it does place a limit on my weekend hobby. I can't park a cargo trailer in the driveway and the garage is 1/2 of the lower level, so not spacious. Our yards are small, but there's probably enough room for a small garden.

My first "home" was an apartment style condo. It was 1,100 square feet and well designed. I had a small utility room with space for a fullsize washer and dryer. But, I could hear my upstairs neighbors and the parking was outside. I would not go back to that type of condo unless I was living someplace with a very mild climate and the place was very well constructed. I would also need access to a gym since I wouldn't have the space for my own exercise equipment anymore.
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Old 06-20-2019, 02:32 PM   #15
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We went with a side-by-side duplex.
1. We only hear our neighbors when they hammer a picture hanger into their wall.
2. Very small yard. Mowing both sides (and trimming and blowing) takes about 45 minutes.
3. No HOA, but a party-wall agreement. It worked out fine for the roof replacement due to the massive hailstorm in 2017. It also says: "no chickens". Sad.
4. Walkscore of 90. 46 restaurants within 6 blocks of our house.
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Old 06-20-2019, 02:40 PM   #16
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We moved a lot during my military career and a couple of times afterwards. So, in 28 years in the Navy and 50+ years of marriage we have lived in a garden apartment once, a rental house twice (one in the US and one in Spain), in military/base housing twice, in stand-alone homes we owned five times and once in a duplex condo in a small over-55 community (currently). Each has advantages and disadvantages. Our current situation is close to ideal - a quiet neighborhood of only 14 units, pleasant people in the neighborhood (some of whom we've gotten to know well and some with whom we have only a waving acquaintance) and all the major work (mowing, landscaping, snow removal, gutter cleaning, trash removal, etc.) taken care of. The condo fees are fairly high, partly the byproduct of a private road, a private septic system, a fair amount of land and only 14 units among which to spread the expenses. But they are not so high that we've ever considered moving because of them.

Based on my living experiences over the years, my preferences would be (1) a duplex/ town-house condo such as ours (not in a high-rise building) or (2) a small stand-alone non-condo house, preferably single story, where the normal maintenance could be hired out at reasonable cost. I also don't discount the possibility that some sort of apartment living (possibly in a retirement community with increasing levels of service) might be very attractive.
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Old 06-20-2019, 03:09 PM   #17
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I am a fan of the condo lifestyle.

About 5 years before retirement we opted to downsize and move closer to town. We found a condo/townhouse development that is just about perfect for our needs. Two car garage, private patio (about 20'x40'), 1500 sqft, 2BR, den, full (unfinished) basement. One common wall, but the units were built with separate walls, so there is about 7" of insulation and plywood between the units. The only time we hear anything from next door is if I am in the den, sitting right next to the common wall, and they run the garbage disposal.

We have a rec center with 2 pools (indoor and outdoor), work out room, ping pong table, outdoor pickle ball court and basket ball court, and meeting room with kitchen.

HOA fees are $225/mo. They include the rec center and all out side maintenance (mowing, snow removal, cleaning and staining the cedar siding every 5 years), and building insurance (from the studs out).
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Old 06-21-2019, 12:55 AM   #18
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We have done it all. Right now SFH with 1 car garage and low maintenance. The yard is very low maintenance. When we get to old we could hire the little bit of work out.
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Old 06-21-2019, 02:36 AM   #19
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We have owned and lived in several SFRís ranging from 1,800 to 3,500 sq ft as well as 3 different condos - one in a high rise and two in mid-rise buildings. We have chosen the condo lifestyle for two reasons:
- Easier to ďlock and leaveĒ for travel. Now that we are retired, we have averaged being away 4 months per year.
- We decided living on the beach with the Pacific Ocean as our back yard was important to us. A condo is much more affordable than an SFR on the sand, and there are many more choices. Setting aside affordability, I would not feel safe in an SFR on the sand given the number of homeless people on Southern CA beaches.

We currently own a top floor corner unit so we have only two adjacent units - one next door and one below. The guy below us is a single man in his 60ís, very quiet. Our next door neighbor just sold his unit to a couple who will only be there part time. If they have grandchildren visit, it could get noisy occasionally, but we donít think it will be an issue. Our former neighbor had his grandson visit and we rarely heard anything.

To me the major disadvantage of condo living is giving up complete control of oneís immediate environment. In an SFR, you donít have much control over what your neighbors do, but you do control your own home and yard. You decide if and when to make changes. In a condo building, major decisions such as when to replace or repair systems or amenities are made by the HOA Board, and itís unlikely youíll always agree but nevertheless you must abide by it or move. You can mitigate this issue by selecting an HOA with a good reputation and sound financial position.
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Old 06-21-2019, 05:38 AM   #20
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Big fan of my 3BR/3BA townhouse...end unit, only share one wall.

Stumbled upon it by accident...last one in the development, builder motivated to sell.

Most residents here are older, having downsized from a traditional SFR.

20+ years of never having to do any outside maintenance.
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