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55+ housing: condo or other?
Old 09-27-2007, 08:24 AM   #1
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55+ housing: condo or other?

Can I start up another 55+ housing question? There is a place not far from us (it's a Del Webb place) that has single-family homes, but they are still classified as condos. Basically you own the 4 walls and the footprint of the home, but not the yard - that's all common area. The HOA fee (around $200) covers the usual amenities (pool, clubhouse, fitness center) and also covers homeowners' insurance. You just need to buy a renters-type policy for the contents.

I know this probably isn't much different from having a condo that is an apartment, but it still feels weird that you don't own your back yard, even though the lots are small.

What are the implications of having a place like this classified as a condo? What should we look out for if we ever decided to move to a place like this? (besides the obvious: read the HOA documents).

Thanks for any input!

CJ
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Old 09-27-2007, 08:34 AM   #2
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I have no experience with condos or Del Webb properties. That being said, the $200 per month would concern me a little. Exactly what does it cover. Roof repair? Outside paint? If so, how often? Who controls the amount? Does it have a limit to yearly increase? If major outside repair is covered will there be a fee levied when this work is done? In some places homeowners fees were said to cover the roof. Well it covered spot roof repair but when it came time to replace the roof the owners were hit with a large bill. Are golf fees included in the $200?

If lawn is the only ting along with pool access, then a home in a subdivision with a pool would appear a better choice. Here it is $200 per year home owners and $30 a month for Club dues. More if you want Golf. I can hire a gardener for a bout $200 per month but that is to handle a 1.1 acre lot.
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Old 09-27-2007, 08:51 AM   #3
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Well, I haven't asked a lot of questions yet (not that far along, just starting to investigate) but they supposedly do cover any and all roof repair including replacement if needed. Also included is lawn service, snow removal, and as I said before, the homeowners' insurance. And there are both indoor and outdoor pools as well as a gym. I figure if I added up all of those things, it didn't seem so bad. But the "future assessments for future repairs" and what the increases can be - those are good questions to ask, so thanks for the input.

CJ
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Old 09-27-2007, 09:09 AM   #4
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CJ, we also looked at a Del Webb property in Georgia. Where was the one you looked at?

The one we looked at was single family homes as well. We understood it to not be a condo. We thought you owned your own land, although the homeowner's association maintained it. It also seemed like each individual homeowner would be responsible for roof repairs, unlike a condo. In fact, you got me curious so I'm looking at our info from it. The monthly fee covers the yard work but not roof repair to individual homes, just common area buildings like the clubhouse. It does not include water, except for community buildings like the clubhouse. Does not include water and sewer except for common areas. It does not include insurance on the exterior of the home (whereas condos do).

Keep in mind that many builders lowball the monthly fee to make it appealing and the monthly fees could go up quickly after that. There can also be an assessment if there isn't enough money in reserves and something major needs to be done.

We thought the $200 fee was reasonable, especially considering all the amenities. In our current condo (76 homes), we are now paying $220, with it shortly going up to $230. Only amenity is a small clubhouse and an outdoor pool that can just be used a few months of the year. But we don't need to pay for water and our homeowner's insurance is reduced becayuse we don't have to cover the outside.

What did you think of the place? The clubhouse and indoor pool are pretty impressive, aren't they?
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Old 09-27-2007, 09:46 AM   #5
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Tango - we haven't been inside the clubhouse yet, we're not that far along, just starting to think about it. This one is in Maryland. The other issue, along with the HOA fee, is that the taxes are higher there ($5000+) because it is inside an incorporated city. We think it may be time to find a new state altogether.

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Old 09-27-2007, 09:54 AM   #6
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We down-sized from a big single, family home in a remote suburb of DC to a high-rise condominium in one of DC's inner suburbs, where we currently live. This is a transitional, pre-retirement move for us. In an colossal act of stupidity, I became a member of our HOA.

I'm not really sure, like Tango, that what you have described is a Condo, which is typically a building where the owners share adjoining walls in a garden-style or high rise building, with common amenities in the building. It appears you have a cluster of "patio homes" in an age restricted community. The Del Webb and Lennar age-restricted communities with patio homes, with lots of common amenities, are very enticing to me. Patio homes provide you with the privacy of a single family home, with community amenties, on a small parcel of property, with maintenance of your lawn by the HOA. While I can't see us living in a Condo for our retirement, I can see us living in a patio home in a planned community.

Like Tango advised, be careful with the initial homeowner's assessment fees. In high-rise condo buildings, the initial fees set by the developer might be "low-ball" figures that do not reflect all the actual costs of maintaining the buildings and common amenities. I envy Tango's assessment fees, we pay $607 (79 unit building) and $374 (309 unit building) for the condos we own.

BTW, you didn't mention parking. How is that accomplished?

Good luck.
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Old 09-27-2007, 10:03 AM   #7
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Parking is in your very own 2-car attached garage. Our current home does not have a garage (just a carport) so a garage is very high on our list.
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Old 09-27-2007, 10:16 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cj View Post
But the "future assessments for future repairs" and what the increases can be - those are good questions to ask, so thanks for the input. CJ
CJ,

We live in a "55 or better" community of single family homes. We are covered by an HOA not a condo association. We currently pay $215 per month. By law in Virginia, a portion of that monthly assessment must be placed into a separate "replacement reserve" account which will be used to cover the future costs of repairing and/or replacing common property of the community. The amount to go into the reserve is based on a professional engineering study that determines the useful life and probable replacement costs of all common property including the roads, sidewalks, roof, swimming pools, etc. Again, by law the study must be updated at least every 5 years. In our community, which is only 4 years old and not fully built out yet, we already have over $600K in the reserve account. If the reserve study is done correctly and the reserve is funded as required, there should be little risk of any substantial "special assessments" for future repairs.

I recommend that you ask for a copy of the reserve engineering study and a copy of the community's most recent monthly financial report to assess whether they are setting aside sufficient funds to cover future replacement costs.

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Old 09-27-2007, 10:23 AM   #9
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I know what you mean, CJ, about a garage. We have always lived in a garden condo building with a parking lot in front, schlepping groceries up a flight of stairs. Now that we are in a ranch condo with an attached two car garage, it's like we have died and gone to heaven! It did take us a while to get used to parking in a garage (I know that sounds pathetic, but we never had one, and we found it intimidating. One lderly neighbor did actually drive through the garage wall into the adjoining neighbor's unit! We almost bought some devices to help guide our parking, then got used to it. We now only have one car, but folks who have two do find the garages a little tight).

About the age restriction for Del Webb homes---we were told, that at least here in Georgia, 20% can be sold to people under 55 (which we would need since we are "only" 53). But I think that no one under 18 would be allowed on a permanent basis, and 80% of the homes must have at least one owner 55+ (this allows young trophy wives to be able to move in with their older husbands!).
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Old 09-27-2007, 10:53 AM   #10
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Tango - DH turns 55 the first of November. I'll ride on his coat tails (pushing might be more like what's really happening here).

I did read somewhere that younger people could stay with the owners for short periods of time. We did our time in regular developments where the little kids and teenagers ran wild, and it's not for us - which is one of the reasons we're considering the over-55 thing. We want a more maintenance-free home and less ground, but don't want to end up back in a kid neighborhood.

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Old 09-27-2007, 11:19 AM   #11
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We live in a Condo which is ranch style buildings with 4 units per building and 20 buildings for a total of 80 units. It is totally built out with only one of the models still to sell. Our condo fee is $230 per month (recently increased) and covers Water, Sewer, Irrigation, Snow Removal, Insurance, and a reserve fund to cover outside maintenance as required. We have a 2.5 car garage, 2,700 sf of finished space with another 700 sf that could be finished. While the community is not 55+ nor gated we have very few "kids" around (in fact we have seen none). We have a public golf course about 1/2 a mile from us, a public park and pool about 1 mile away. We do not have any club house or pool that we are financially responsible for. Works just fine for us and BTW we moved here (central Ohio) from Florida where we lived for about 20 years.
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Old 09-28-2007, 04:50 AM   #12
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I am going through the same questions for myself. We intend to downsize in the next few years. I have considered condos and landos.

I am still leaning toward an individual home. A ranch with a small yard. I have considered building. That way we can get the things we want (that are important to us). We will make sure the home can accommodate mobility disabilities (wide doors, large bath, etc)... mainly the structural stuff. The bathrooms and cabinets, etc will be conventional. We can rip that out if we need to. But I do not want to go through demolition of the walls.

For yard upkeep, a smaller yard will make it easier. Plus, when we get older, I can hire a service.
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Old 09-28-2007, 07:53 AM   #13
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Never again will I own a condo anything. There is just to much that can go very wrong. My sad story is that I bought a very small studio condo years ago in Tucson. What happened was that the owner that was selling the condos was funneling the association fees directly into his personal bank account and not paying taxes,bills, and so forth. When he had enough he skipped town, the bank that was financing the deal foreclosed on the properties that were unsold and auctioned them off. This meant that they were sold at very low prices. The HOA was stuck with running the place and it became a nightmare, few could get out of and I was one of them. A few years later I found a sucker, oops, a buyer for my studio and I got out of there.
Not having learned my lesson well enough I bought into a town house with a HOA. The rules were mostly what you can't do were in a book about an inch thick. Then you had the rule Nazis checking on everybody and enforcing the rules to the letter of what they thought the rules said. Just aggravation. Be very careful what you buy into, a rule that seems innocuous now can come back to haunt you later. Remember there is no such thing as a free lunch. What happens when those folks taking care of the lawn don't do yours? Who fixes the problem? You? What if the fees increase? Who increases them? What can you do about it? (most likely nothing) What about assessments from the local government for roads, traffic lights, paving, schools, so on and so forth.
You don't think about those things until your to deep in to get out of it with out a lot of pain. All these things you have with owning your own house but with a condo or HOA you also have a group of people you may not know or like running the show after the builder is gone. Believe me it can be a real pain in the Pa-toot.
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Old 09-28-2007, 09:09 AM   #14
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Unfortunately Kitty is not the only one with bad experiences!

Frank has discouraged me from looking at planned communities, so I went online and did a search on "home owners association" and "problems". The stories are amazing and really make you think twice.

Apparently there are good home owners' associations and bad ones, so at the very least you need to do a lot of due diligence, and get an excellent and forthright realtor who will guide you to the better run communities in the area. And then you need to find out about any possible large assessments coming up, and other potential problems.

I decided they are not for me. Plenty of people also have good experiences with homeowners' associations, though.
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Old 09-28-2007, 09:34 AM   #15
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I appreciate the input about HOA's. We have lived under 2 HOA's in our lives, and all the problems we ever had seemed to center on thing for the kids (playgrounds, basketball hoops, etc.) And there always seemed to be 2 types of people: (1) those who didn't pay attention to the rules, did what they wanted to, and got away with it; and (2) those who tried to live by the rules and got screwed because of it. I won't go into the gory details. I guess I'm trying to be optimistic an hope that in an adult community it wouldn't be so bad. But someone pointed out in another thread once that there are sometimes a lot of old geezers (also defined in another thread!) sitting around finding things to bicker about...

Like DH and I often say - there just is no perfect place!!

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Old 09-28-2007, 01:23 PM   #16
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I take this condo/HOA thing to heart also. But I never want another single family home. It is just too much work that I no longer enjoy. Also, in city they are few and far between, or hugely expensive, or in neighborhoods where crime would be a concern for me.

So I am drawn to at least considering a condo/co-op, if only to fix one part of my housing expenses when and if the market here weakens.

Still, if I can decide that should I ever get priced out of apartments where I want to be, I can always move-- then I can relax and just continue renting.

I don't mind apartment life at all- sounds and sight of others in the building are a plus for me, not a negative. And of course if a particular building or neighborhood heads south, it isn't that hard to move on. What furniture I have I bought with a mind to portability.

Ha
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Old 09-28-2007, 03:53 PM   #17
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We have lived in condos for 25 years and never had a bad experience in terms of the homeowner's associations. Our last condo never had a special assessment in 20 years and the fees remained reasonable. We are a little scared in our current condo because the reserve fund isn't all that much and the board won't raise the monthly fee more than just what's needed to cover the rising costs of insurance, water, landscaping services, etc. They say that the homeowners in this community who are mostly seniors don't care about a possible assessment in five or ten years because they may not be around to worry about it; they would prefer to keep the current monthly fees as low as possible. So if an assessment is ever needed to cover a major/unexpected expense, we will have the money for it---but many of our neighbors may not, and that could get messy and interfere with repair/maintenance work....
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Old 09-28-2007, 04:56 PM   #18
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I have been on the board of the townhome HOA for almost 2 years now. Here's what I would recommend:

1. Request a copy of the financial statements and budget, and really study them to see if there's sufficient reserves
2. Request minutes from the board meetings -- it will show you what problems other homeowners had, and how/whether they were resolved. (Of course if the community is brand-new, this may be hard to do)
3. Ask current residents if they have any issues (neighborhood, structural, water intrusion, etc.)

Good luck!
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Old 09-28-2007, 08:34 PM   #19
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The first place I lived in Florida was a patio home that the land was community property .I hated not having my own little spot .Next place was a private home with a homeowner's association plus clubhouse ,pool ,tennis ,etc. and we owned our lot .I loved it .They maintained the property but it was mine.
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Buying a Condo-things to consider
Old 09-29-2007, 12:14 PM   #20
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Buying a Condo-things to consider

Quote:
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I have been on the board of the townhome HOA for almost 2 years now. Here's what I would recommend:

1. Request a copy of the financial statements and budget, and really study them to see if there's sufficient reserves
2. Request minutes from the board meetings -- it will show you what problems other homeowners had, and how/whether they were resolved. (Of course if the community is brand-new, this may be hard to do)
3. Ask current residents if they have any issues (neighborhood, structural, water intrusion, etc.)

Good luck!
These are all excellant ideas. I have never owned a home, but have always owned condos. I always ask to see the financials BEFORE signing an earnest money agreement. In some states, a copy of the financials, rules, governing documents, and minutes must be presented at closing. The seller has to pay the association to produce the documents as a part of the sale.

But it's not a bad idea to ask the seller to make their copies available for inspection if you really want to buy the place. If they're motivated to sell -- they will. Sometimes reading the minutes will give you an idea of the community and what they worry about.

I live in a condo now that has 8 owners (and no amenities). But I've lived in all sizes with 164 units being the largest. I have moved to smaller and smaller complexes for several reasons.

There is something to be said for knowing all your neighbors. Jointly agreeing and working on community clean up days (we do a spring clean up and fall tear-out of annuals) keeps the place looking nice and REDUCES the disagreements about where you park your car, and INCREASES tolerance.

My current neighborhood has a mix of singles and couples, only one couple is retired.

-- Rita

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