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Small condo building conflicts?
Old 01-25-2019, 05:41 AM   #1
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Small condo building conflicts?

When wistfully searching possible relocation options into the city, search results often include condos which were converted from rental apartments in two- or three-family houses. My gut reaction to that option is, you better hope the current and future owners of the one or two other units in the building are responsible and respectful, or youíre in for a life of mortgaged misery. At least in a complex with dozens of units there is likely to be professional management oversight, it seems. As a longtime SFH dweller, Iím interested in the experience of those who currently own a condo in a two or three-unit ďcomplexĒ. Does it work for you?
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Old 01-25-2019, 09:22 AM   #2
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We live in a townhome that we own in a 4-unit group (it's essentially two duplexes). Early on we made a decision that I will deal with the HOA rather than DH, and my strategy for succeeding at that is to make a concerted effort to ignore things that annoy me whenever possible.

We do live very close to our neighbors, and not everyone is as considerate as I could wish. We've had noisy summer people in the place next door, followed by a family with noisy teenage boys. The boys are now early 20s and other than some occasional loud music and front door slams, things are much quieter. We've also lived through extensive remodeling on the other side.

There are also financial costs. Our monthly HOA fees basically pay for pest control, landscape maintenance and insurance on the building. Everything else we do by special assessment, so there have sometimes been disagreements on how much to spend on improvements. In an HOA, those decisions are sometimes out of your hands and you have to go along with the group, even if you don't always agree.
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Old 01-25-2019, 09:39 AM   #3
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My cousin is in that situation, from his tales, I see it basically as having the potential to be much more extreme than a large 100 unit or more grouping. It could be fantastic or really horrible or in between.

I'd personally pick a large grouping of as even special costs are spread around over many units.
I imagine small complex's don't have facilities like BBQ pits, park area, or swimming pools as the cost per unit is too high.
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Old 01-25-2019, 09:50 AM   #4
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IMHO, the more the better in condo type ownership. I would think a minimum of 30 units is necessary just to get enough people to make decisions in a fair way. Preferably, I would like 100 units minimum, but often that is hard to find.

What scares me more is that they are apartments converted to condos. Many apartments are built on the cheap, IMHO with poor sound insulation. Home built to be condos usually have good sound insinuation, independently controlled utilities, more storage, bigger private patio areas, etc. etc. etc.
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Old 01-25-2019, 09:52 AM   #5
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Your biggest risk in this arrangement is if something effects just your unit, but is caused by a common element. How do you force the other owners to pay? Not easily. I have seen this happen (example Roof leaks to your top unit, or your unit is on the bottom and there is a ground water issue).
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Old 01-25-2019, 10:01 AM   #6
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I know of someone who bought a condo in a six-unit site. There was a small outdoor pool that needed repair. One condo owner was elderly and one of his/her kids had been and was living in the unit, not paying HOA fees. Another person had fallen on hard times and had not been paying HOA fees. So, not enough money to pay for the pool repair.


She tried for awhile to get the HOA jump-started, but ended up selling the condo when she moved to another state.
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Old 01-25-2019, 10:21 AM   #7
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I'm not in a condo, but in SFH where the houses are packed cheek-to-jowel next to each with an HOA so it might as well be a condo.
I long for the day where I don't have to smell my neighbors dryer sheets again.
Net: If you're going to live that close to somebody, rent don't buy.
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Old 01-25-2019, 11:24 AM   #8
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I live in an 8-unit complex, we are self-managed, and we work it out. But, to be fair, sometimes you need to compare location. The governing document is a CC&R and each CC&R is unique to the specific state law. The developer is the one who has that document created by an attorney. So the issue of who pays for what starts with what the developer intended and what the neighbors think should happen.

A strong board can guide the neighbors. In Washington state, a non-profit homeowners association has a large board because of state code. So our 8 unit complex has 7 members. That means one has to be open about what the issue are with all the neighbors, even if only one of them doesn't get a vote.


There is not a lot of turnover (unlike in 100 unit complexes) no renters and you know your neighbors. Any neighbor with an attitude finds the other neighbors just aren't as flexible with their concerns and they leave the neighborhood. You have to get along!


As to the thought regarding professional management oversight being better. I don't think so, they have no skin in the game other than they collect a fee with each monthly payment. Property managers can be sloppy and lazy, and ultimately not only not care for the buildings, but ruin your finances.


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Old 01-25-2019, 11:38 AM   #9
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We are in the process of trying to sell our condo after living in it for 10 years. For a long time, we were truly happy here... But I no longer recognize what this place has become. Things have drastically changed. You are at the mercy of your neighbors, the Board, etc... Since the unit upstairs was sold about 3 years ago, my life has been miserable. I know lots of folks who love and enjoy the condo lifestyle. It is essentially a glorified hotel. Fantastic if you like that kind of thing, but I can now say that it is *not* for me.
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Old 01-25-2019, 11:48 AM   #10
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I lived in a 10 unit building at one point. We self managed which is problematic. There was a board of 3 owners and we were seen as "them". We knew the rules and tried to politely enforce them. We'd get weird requests like one owner wanted a different address because the UPS driver couldn't find her unit. When we told her the fire department assigns the addresses, she got mad at us.
Things got better when we hired a third party to manage the building. He then became the bad guy.
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Old 01-25-2019, 11:51 AM   #11
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We are in the process of trying to sell our condo after living in it for 10 years. For a long time, we were truly happy here... But I no longer recognize what this place has become. Things have drastically changed. You are at the mercy of your neighbors, the Board, etc... Since the unit upstairs was sold about 3 years ago, my life has been miserable. I know lots of folks who love and enjoy the condo lifestyle. It is essentially a glorified hotel. Fantastic if you like that kind of thing, but I can now say that it is *not* for me.
I know folks who live in a lower unit. You never want to be in a lower unit.
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Old 01-25-2019, 01:25 PM   #12
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Twenty years ago I was responsible for selling my deceased brotherís urban triple-decker, getting around $200k for it. Zillow reports those three units, now converted to condos, are now worth about $500k EACH! No off street parking, narrow street, no yard to speak of...I donít get the appeal, but I guess others do.
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Old 01-25-2019, 01:28 PM   #13
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I live in a 4 unit t/h or condo. 2 stories each unit so nobody above or below you. I love it, I cant hear my 1 neighbor on the one side who lives there full time and on the otherside is a short term rental so vacant about 80% of the time. Low maint. low elect bill, low taxes. And the HOA keeps everybody in line.
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Old 01-25-2019, 01:51 PM   #14
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I bought a 3-level townhouse last year and it's been great. It's a VERY quiet neighborhood and since I'm on an end I only have neighbors on one side and I never hear them. Plus the utilities are really low.
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Old 01-25-2019, 02:29 PM   #15
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I purchased a condo in a complex with 168 units. We have a professional property manager to help mediate disputes. I looked at condos in small complexes (2-6 units) but the dynamics of such a small HOA scared me.
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Old 01-25-2019, 02:56 PM   #16
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Small works well for us.
We're in a development with only 17 units. About half singles, half duplexes. Everyone has an attached 2-car garage, we're on a private street, and there is a small pool.
We have a great landscape/grounds maintenance outfit that also plows the snow when we get it (not much), and another that maintains the pool.

Otherwise, we self manage, with about six of us on the HOA board. Very friendly and only one or two owners who are occasionally a bit difficult. Fortunately, we have several lawyers, one of whom is the HOA president and any budding disputes are dealt with quickly.

The only downside of our small size is that with so few owners the HOA fee is higher than it would be in a larger condo community because common expenses can only be divided among the smaller group.
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Old 01-26-2019, 08:21 AM   #17
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I have lived in my end unit townhome for 32 years. The plan at first was to move into a single family with lots of space away from neighbors when we could afford it. But I'm still here. No HOA here at all, which was an attractant. About 30 4-unit buildings. Not sure if an HOA would have made it better or worse, but I've had a ton of angst over the years, ebbing and flowing, with my immediate neighbor, over zoning laws. I have had to be the bad guy, telling her no, zoning doesn't allow it. I still prefer not having an HOA, even with the intermittent angst episodes.
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Old 01-26-2019, 11:56 AM   #18
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The only downside of our small size is that with so few owners the HOA fee is higher than it would be in a larger condo community because common expenses can only be divided among the smaller group.
+1 But if the owners are truly 'invested' in what happens to their homes, the extra cost far outweighs dealing with personalities found in larger complexes, IMHO.


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Old 01-26-2019, 03:25 PM   #19
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I had a friend who lived in a 24 unit place and they were self managed... but, even if there are professionals the people on the board are unit owners and can tell management what to do..


My mom lived in a 74 unit high rise and there was a building manager and security along with people who kept the building running... but there were also people on the board who wanted to run things... some stuff got done as they did not have to have a vote such as new 'modern' furniture in the shared room downstairs.... but the high cost proposal to redo the main driveway was voted down big time... still got stuff passed as there was major maintenance that was required and it did get voted in... $49 per month for 10 years for a 1 BR...
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Old 01-26-2019, 05:25 PM   #20
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I have lived in my end unit townhome for 32 years. The plan at first was to move into a single family with lots of space away from neighbors when we could afford it. But I'm still here. No HOA here at all, which was an attractant. About 30 4-unit buildings. Not sure if an HOA would have made it better or worse, but I've had a ton of angst over the years, ebbing and flowing, with my immediate neighbor, over zoning laws. I have had to be the bad guy, telling her no, zoning doesn't allow it. I still prefer not having an HOA, even with the intermittent angst episodes.

What happens when itís time for a new roof or exterior paint? Do you just have to worry about your building?
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