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Condos
Old 03-23-2006, 08:06 PM   #1
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Condos

I think I have pursuaded my DW that a sensible downsize in housing would be appropriate within the next few years to hasten and consolidate our FIRE plans. We now enjoy a 3200 sf home in a great neighborhood, pool, covered patio, etc. It's not a mansion or anything extraordinary, but I enjoy it a lot.

Our options include a smaller house or a condo. Most condos in this expensive area carry monthly fees over $500. This covers pool, exterior insurance, exterior maintenance, some other amenities. Of course, this gets you no deductions or equity, and can (read will) increase over time. It allows you to easily lock and leave when we travel, compared to a house. Purchase price would be similar to a smaller home, and either way we would bury the mortgage.

Condo living has little appeal for me, but I want to be open minded, and realize that there are some advantages if we can find the right place. Pretty sure we can be happy just about anywhere, so it's not a show stopper - we are very adaptable.

Staying where we are is do-able but would definitely cut closer to the core, expense-wise.

Anyone faced this choice or done the condo thing? Any tips, insights, or warnings? Anyone do it and love it?
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Re: Condos
Old 03-23-2006, 08:28 PM   #2
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Re: Condos

We too have been considering downsizing and I have been running the numbers on our options.

Start tracking what you are currently spending on maintaining your pool and yard, allocate a % for your insurance to that which would be provided in the condo fee.* Often condo fees also include garbage, water, and exterior lighting (check the practices in your area).* $500/mo may not be all that bad.

IMHO don't buy into a small condo development, the impact of one or two nay-sayers /whiners is too great.* [We are in a planned unit development of 22 and it isn't big enough!]* When you purchase a condo you are also tied to the owner's association.* Be sure to read their meeting minutes for the last couple years and examine their budget and reserves for maintenance.

Humm.. after writing this maybe we shouldn't buy a condo..
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Re: Condos
Old 03-23-2006, 08:34 PM   #3
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Re: Condos

Quote:
Originally Posted by Brat

IMHO don't buy into a small condo development, the impact of one or two nay-sayers /whiners is too great. [We are in a planned unit development of 22 and it isn't big enough!] When you purchase a condo you are also tied to the owner's association.
Humm.. after writing this maybe we shouldn't buy a condo.
Yes, excellent point, HOAs. Doesn't take too many little Napoleons with traumatic toilet training experiences to make everyone's life miserable.

Someone once told me that if you are moving to where there is an HOA, make sure you like the place and rules just the way they are, because otherwise you are looking at trouble. Not the situation to look for flexibility or exceptions to the rules.
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Re: Condos
Old 03-23-2006, 09:01 PM   #4
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Re: Condos

The HOA where my dad lives is fully staffed with said Napoleons, fresh from the workforce but still interested in flexing their political muscles. Dont be fooled by what the rules are now, they can easily be changed.

Two new ones fresh from this year: When installing a screen door on your front door, you must submit an architectural drawing, plans, and the brands and types of materials to be used. When selling your home, all aspects of it, front and rear, must be inspected by the HOA and meet all current CC&R's. One of the CC&R changes was that the types of materials used for landscaping must be ones that were originally spec'd by the original builder (Dell Webb).

My old HOA was much better. They just took the money every month and did nothing, let people run wild.

By the way, 3200 sq feet is a mansion. People of our parents generations raised 2-6 kids in 1200-1400 square feet.

I "downsized" into 1800sq feet. I still have more room in my house than most people on the planet.
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Re: Condos
Old 03-23-2006, 09:09 PM   #5
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Re: Condos

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cute 'n' Fuzzy Bunny
By the way, 3200 sq feet is a mansion. People of our parents generations raised 2-6 kids in 1200-1400 square feet.
Yeah - it's big. Mansion, I don't know, but well more than we need. What's interesting is that when we moved here almost 3 years ago, we were looking for a smaller place just like I'm referring to in the OP. We had a week to search and buy, and nothing suitable was on the market, so we bought this beast.

As long as we bought the place, no harm in enjoying it to the max. But its days are numbered.
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Re: Condos
Old 03-23-2006, 09:10 PM   #6
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Re: Condos

2600 sq ft in a one floor patio home is just about perfect for DW and 1. Would be happy down to about 2000 sq ft which is about what we are going to do when we relocate upon retirement.
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Re: Condos
Old 03-23-2006, 09:17 PM   #7
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Re: Condos

Downsized about two years ago from a 3500 SF house on 1.5 acres to a 1600SF garden home in a condo community. *Made the move in order to expedite my early retirement, enjoy more time on the golf course and motorcycle. *Probably had close to $15K tied up in lawn and leaf picking up equipment and I'd hate to think how many dollars went into landscaping, mulch, fertilzers, etc. over the years not to mention my time. *The big hurdle was talking DW into the move from her dream house. *After three months in the condo home we both agreed we should have done it years sooner. *Couldn't be happier, and the cost is much cheaper, from taxes, insurance to utilities. * * *
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Re: Condos
Old 03-23-2006, 09:32 PM   #8
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Re: Condos

They're building lots of nice new upscale condos in downtown St. Pete!
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Re: Condos
Old 03-23-2006, 09:36 PM   #9
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Re: Condos

Quote:
Originally Posted by frayne
...The big hurdle was talking DW into the move from her dream house. After three months in the condo home we both agreed we should have done it years sooner. Couldn't be happier, and the cost is much cheaper, from taxes, insurance to utilities.
Nice to hear it worked out. Sounds like a similar situation.

So what finally convinced her?
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Re: Condos
Old 03-23-2006, 09:38 PM   #10
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Re: Condos

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dude
They're building lots of nice new upscale condos in downtown St. Pete!
I noticed that -- seems like a new one every week, and many are already full.

It's a bit too far of a commute for me (will still be working, perhaps part-time, for a few more years) but they do look nice. Prices seem a bit outrageous, don't they?
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Re: Condos
Old 03-23-2006, 09:53 PM   #11
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Re: Condos

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rich_in_Tampa
I noticed that -- seems like a new one every week, and many are already full.

It's a bit too far of a commute for me (will still be working, perhaps part-time, for a few more years) but they do look nice. Prices seem a bit outrageous, don't they?
The St. Pete Times "Neighorhood Times" section last Sunday (3/19) had a centerfold called "The Skyline of 2008" showing how downtown St. Petersburg will be transformed.....it shows 12 different condo projects, specs (stories,#units,height,status, prices).....anywhere from $200,000 to $6.5 million!* Same thing is happening out on the beaches.....lots of construction.....times are a changin'.
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Re: Condos
Old 03-23-2006, 10:08 PM   #12
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Re: Condos

R_in_T,

I guess I'll provide the minority opinion with regard to condo ownership.

I've owned four places since graduating from college. *My favorite was an 800 sq ft condo. *It was one of four units in an old converted Victorian so it had a lot of personality. *It was within walking distance of restaurants, bookstores and movie theaters and it was in kind of a funky urban neighborhood but only a few miles from an open space preserve where you could completely get away from the city.

I like it because of the great location and it was very easy to clean and maintain and had almost no yard work. *(It did have a small yard but it was landscaped in such a way that it pretty much took care of itself.) *

I didn't have any condo association problems. *Maybe the group dynamics change for such a small group?

With a family of four it would no longer work for me but I've been reading OAP's Vagabonding post to learn how to down-size in the future *

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Re: Condos
Old 03-24-2006, 02:16 AM   #13
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Re: Condos

For me the biggest disadvantage of living in a condo is the noise issues... and in a different way than you might expect.* *The building I'm in has exceptionally quiet tenants, and I basically never hear them.* But the flipside is that I don't feel comfortable making noise myself at all.* I use headphones about 90% of the time I listen to music or watch video.* The only time I turn on the speakers is when I have guests over.* Which is kinda sad given that audio is a big interest of mine; I've built several sets of speakers and put lots of time into building a good system before I moved to the condo.

Now that I'm FIRE and home during the days, I'm just starting to feel comfortable listening to music at mid day when I know most everyone is at work.

My HOA dues are $380/mo for about 1100 square feet (Bay Area of course).* It seems like a lot but I actually get a lot for it... all exterior maintenance, great landscaping, free hot water and garbage service.* And most importantly I don't have to hassle with scheduling or doing any of that work myself.

And yes, you must make sure you are comfortable with current and possible future restrictions.* E.g. my association is right now in the process of creating a smoking ban which obviously doesn't please some long time residents at all.* If that kind of intrusiveness into your life is too much for you to handle then you absolutely shouldn't buy a condo.
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Re: Condos
Old 03-24-2006, 08:31 AM   #14
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Re: Condos

Condo Fees can be killers, especially if you get hit for an unplanned major reno.

Other People tell you how to live, many condos have been bought for Investment Purposes so your new Building might be Party Central.

We bought a piece of land, built our own Bungalow, if I want the Grass Cut or the Snow removed, I can hire someone.

No one tells me what type of pet I may or may not own, I can play loud music without getting complaints, I control my Home not some Anonymous Board.

A lot of people buy condos with low monthly fees then get whacked when a major reno happens.

Oh Yeah, I also have my own back yard.
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Re: Condos
Old 03-24-2006, 08:32 AM   #15
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Re: Condos

DW had a condo before we got married. *She hated it. *She had downsized into it a year earlier and thought it was a good idea at the time but later it was a source of discomfort and anger for her. *It was 1500 sq. ft. on two levels and was brand new when she moved in. *Her HOA dues doubled in a year to $150. month. *After she moved in with me we rented it to one of her daughters how were upsizing and waiting for their house to be built. *We sold it last year and just barely broke even. *

We have been discussing what to do after we retire. *The current house is very nice and has lots of space. *We have been spoiled with having space for everything and being able have large groups over without cramming eveyone into a few small rooms. *I also love the ability to crank up my HT system with all 8 speakers blasting away without worrying about the neighbors. *I like the privacy I have in my own yard. *No one lives directly behind me and my side neighbors are partially blocked by huge spruce trees. *It is a peaceful place for the most part and the backyard is great for parties or just chilling out. *We like it there very much but know that someday it will be more than we want to handle re: yardwork, cleaning, taxes, etc. etc.

We are looking at it in 3 year increments. *In 3 years we will have cleaned out most of the excess "stuff" and will have some empty closets. *We will evaluate where we are in the mortgage and how we feel about going another 3 years in that house. *If the kids have moved away that will be a major factor in our decision to move or not. *We love where we are but would like to be closer to the ocean in a warmer climate. *CA is out due to taxes and RE costs. *The Southeast is a possibility if we can deal with humidity and bugs again. *

I can't see us in a condo unless it was virtually soundproof and not too crammed in with other people. *We would rather deal with the yardwork and other housing issues while we are still young as a trade off for more privacy. *I am sure when we are in our 80's we will want something much smaller with no upkeep and by then I will be deaf and blind so who cares about a little noise or snoopy neighbors. *
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Re: Condos
Old 03-24-2006, 08:41 AM   #16
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Re: Condos

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rich_in_Tampa

Our options include a smaller house or a condo. .......Purchase price would be similar to a smaller home, and either way we would bury the mortgage.
I opted for a smaller house over a condo both times I had to consider it, when I bought my property 12 years ago, and when I ER'd recently. The smaller house was better financially and for comfort, for me. I've also found it really isn't so hard to lock it up and leave when I want to be away. Make sure it's low maintenance, or you make it low maintenance, whatever you do. I can't get excited about most of the condo choices near me. I have the same situation with small houses and condos being similarly priced.

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Re: Condos
Old 03-24-2006, 08:54 AM   #17
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Re: Condos

http://wokeuptoday.blogspot.com/2007...ing-house.html
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Re: Condos
Old 03-24-2006, 09:05 AM   #18
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Re: Condos

Quote:
Originally Posted by DanTien

If you want to get close to an ocean and live in a reasonably priced area - try Duluth!
I'm sure Martha and Greg can help get you settled.
In winter you can walk on the water as far as your legs will take you - Michigan?
No thanks! I like my water liquid most of the year. Been there done that and don't want to do it again. Winters here are on average 20 deg. warmer than where I moved from in the upper midwest. We get lots of winter but rarely does it get much below freezing during the day and almost never below zero. We have tons of snow but mostly in the mountains and not so much in the valley. Most of it melts off between storms except during a couple of months when it hangs around for a few weeks. Most of the time you could play golf during the morning and then ski in the afternoon on a 150 inch snow base. Nice!

But, we miss the ocean and being able to go the beach when we want. Even lake property would be nice. It would be nice to have a condo near the ocean somewhere that we could use when we wanted to. Not exactly a frugal idea but then again you only live once.
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Re: Condos
Old 03-24-2006, 09:30 AM   #19
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Re: Condos

We have an absolutely, beautiful, to-die-for, condo (oops "townhouse") by-the-sea in southeastern NC. When we bought it we thought this is where we'd retire. Who could ask for more?

Well after visiting in all seasons over the past 4 years, DW and I have come to the same conclusion... no way! The place is very well built so noise isn't an issue, taxes are low and the monthly payments are peanuts. Its just too small, period. Now, after our first full year of ER DW realizes how much she likes to be close to friends and services. I realize how important a well equipped woodshop (garage) is.

Also after some research I discovered that no one lived in this 25 year old building past their 70's. Hurricanes, stairs.... something drove the old folks back inland.

I think downsizing is important. We are doing that financially. Where we will end up will most likely be in a smaller single family home a block or two from the shore. We start looking this month!


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Re: Condos
Old 03-24-2006, 09:54 AM   #20
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Re: Condos

We have owned a condo in FL since 2000.* Our plan was to sell our house in NY and move to the condo (what a cliche plan that is) when we retire.* Now with ER set for 2007 year end, we have rethought our plans.* Here's why:

The condo is too small.* 900 sq ft.* No room for my kayak.
The condo can get noisy - mostly from street noise on A1A.*
There are 35 units in the condo.* In addition to the condo fees, (which go up every year), we have been hit with assessments for various repairs every year.* This year, the assessment is $5000 to fix some things that need to be fixed, but there is no compelling reason to fix them right now. The building is 15 years old.* Things need to be replaced.* The HOA voted to do it now.
If we lived in a house, we could choose when to do upgrades/improvements rather than having them imposed on us.* We would still have emergency repairs, but other things could be done on our own timetable.* For example, if we have a good year investment-wise, we could take the extra cash make some improvements. In the condo, it doesn't work that way.

Right now, the plan is to sell the NY house and move to the condo.* 2 Yrs later, we will sell the condo and buy a small house.* *The condo was nice to use on vacations and we got a little bit of rental income to offset expenses.* However, long term, a house would be better for our lifestyle.
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