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Considering Very Small Condo
Old 03-16-2015, 02:14 PM   #1
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Considering Very Small Condo

I posted awhile back about downsizing. My 100 year old house is only about 1500 sq ft but with the yard, full basement, 2 car garage etc it is simply too much for me as a single person. There was a time when I loved to spend my time working on and around the house. I no longer do.

Anyway--the point of this thread -- is that a 975 sq ft, 1 bedroom, 1 bathroom in a contemporary building has just come on the market. The area is highly desirable, the condo well appointed. There are approx. 35 units in the association. But the fact that there is virtually no storage and that the vast majority of my furniture either won't fit or would look out of place (ie antiques) is giving me pause. Yes, something in me would love to sell all my old stuff and do something fun and new--like Pottery Barn! Life is, after all, short. On the other hand I wonder whether such a major change would be emotionally upsetting. A lot of my identity in the past has been wrapped up in old houses. Yet the thought of moving into something elegant, modern, and little to no work is so appealing.

I realize I am rambling here. I have found that as a single person these kind of decisions are extremely hard. There's no one to advise or compromise with! Has anyone downsized to such a small place?
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Old 03-16-2015, 02:18 PM   #2
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My condo is not quite that small, but here are some suggestions before you get carried away:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Meadbh View Post
Condo living isn't worse or better than living in a house; it's just different. The lock and leave aspect is great, as is the shared maintenance (from my POV). But you have to understand that you are living in a community, a tight neighbourhood. If you play drums all night, have wild parties, and want to paint your patio purple, a condo is not for you. If you are intolerant of the sound of children playing, choose an adult community. HOAs are not all bad. They have a job to do, and some do it better than others. The most important job that the HOA needs to do is to maintain the complex and keep it on a sound financial footing. Over time, maintenance costs will increase, just as they do in a house.

I own several condos and am involved in several HOA boards. My go-to tips would be:
1. Read the strata property act or similar legislation for your jurisdiction.
2. Read a guide for condo buyers (mine is old and not relevant to the U.S.).
3. Research the local property market. Condo prices and resale values generally lag SFH.
4. Make a list of your must haves and nice to haves. Remember, location, location, location! Conventional condo or land strata? Swimming pool? Gym? Clubhouse? Remember, you will be paying your share to maintain these common properties.
5. Decide on your budget and how you want to finance the condo.
6. Now you can start looking! Employing a buyer's agent is helpful, particularly for an older condo.

When you find a condo that you really like...

7. Look for the best location within the complex/building. For example, in a wood frame building, the top floor is quietest.
8. If buying a new condo, try to see one under construction and research the reputation of the developer. Does an older building meet current building codes, e.g. sprinklers?
9. Read the disclosure statement in detail. What is the history of the building?
10. Review financial statements. How much money is in the reserve fund? Have there been any special assessments?
11. Has a depreciation report (aka reserve fund study) been done? In many jurisdictions these are required and must be updated every several years. Read it to get a sense of how much maintenance and repair is anticipated over the next decade or two.
12. Is there a management company in place? Talk to the managing broker. Ask for a copy of the bylaws and rules. How many pets are permitted? How is parking managed? What are the most common issues in this complex? Are rentals allowed?
13. Is there a building manager on site? Talk to him or her. Ask what is in his or her job description, common maintenance issues and complaints.
14. Talk to some residents and HOA members if possible to get a sense of the culture of the community. How often does the Board meet? Is there a good mix of skills on the Board?
15. Visit at night. How many lights are on? Loud parties? Are there drug deals going down in the parking lot?
16. Visit the local government website to see if there are any major changes planned for the area, e.g. a new rail line just outside your window.

By the end of this process (which I confess I have not followed religiously myself) you should be able to make a fully informed decision. If you do buy a condo, read the meeting minutes, attend the AGM and get to know your HOA chair, building manager and property management firm, if applicable. Your community will thrive only if a critical mass of interested owners commit to making it so. You can be one of them if you choose.
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Old 03-16-2015, 02:49 PM   #3
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I moved from a Federal-style house which was furnished with a mixture of "antiques" (second hand stuff really) and Pottery Barn-style furniture. The antiques looked very appropriate in that house. But when we moved to a modern high-rise apartment, I thought the antiques would look out of place and I considered getting rid of them. My LBYM tendencies prevented me from doing that and I am thankful because I think that the antiques look great in that apartment (other people may disagree but I don't give a hoot). The modern architecture of the apartment is kind of plain, cold, and impersonal. The antiques just add enough character to make it feel homey. If you like the antique look like I do, try to make your antiques work in the new place before making your decision.

And 975 sqft for a one-bedroom condo would be considered down right spacious around here!
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Old 03-16-2015, 03:13 PM   #4
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How big was the condo that you swapped for this house? What was it about the condo that made you sell it and move into a house that apparently isn't a good fit for you either?

These moves are costing you money and peace of mind. I'm curious why you don't just hire an occasion house cleaner and a lawn mower while you ponder your next move. That is certainly a lot cheaper then buying and selling annually. There must be something besides the upkeep that you don't like about a single family home. That problem is so easy to solve.

Perhaps the "pause" you are feeling means you aren't really certain about what you want. Feel free to do what you want to with my opinion and tell me to pound sand if you want to, no hard feelings. I do realize your question was simply about downsizing and getting rid of some of your treasured possessions ...
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Old 03-16-2015, 03:23 PM   #5
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Thanks for what I am sure is sincere concern ivinsfan! Yes, it has been a trying year house wise. No, I don't sell and buy annually! In fact I've only lived in 3 places over the last 30 years, hardly a record. The move from a condo to a house was because of a dysfunctional association, and now I've decided to flip the house. I will actually be making money on it, so it has turned out to be a good situation.
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Old 03-16-2015, 04:52 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Marita40 View Post
Thanks for what I am sure is sincere concern ivinsfan! Yes, it has been a trying year house wise. No, I don't sell and buy annually! In fact I've only lived in 3 places over the last 30 years, hardly a record. The move from a condo to a house was because of a dysfunctional association, and now I've decided to flip the house. I will actually be making money on it, so it has turned out to be a good situation.
That's good, the housing market in MSP has been on the upswing in the last year. So, no real reason for you to feel pressure, that's nice.

The question is how to avoid a dysfunctional association, associations are always a work in progress as power shifts in and out. The problem is real estate agents and sellers have a conflict of interest as far as associations are concerned,we had a pretty good thread going awhile back about condo buying that had some great tips about scoping out problems with associations.

I hope your ideal place shows up soon so you can have this all behind you.
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Old 03-16-2015, 05:00 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Marita40 View Post
I posted awhile back about downsizing. My 100 year old house is only about 1500 sq ft but with the yard, full basement, 2 car garage etc it is simply too much for me as a single person. There was a time when I loved to spend my time working on and around the house. I no longer do.

Anyway--the point of this thread -- is that a 975 sq ft, 1 bedroom, 1 bathroom in a contemporary building has just come on the market. The area is highly desirable, the condo well appointed. There are approx. 35 units in the association. But the fact that there is virtually no storage and that the vast majority of my furniture either won't fit or would look out of place (ie antiques) is giving me pause. Yes, something in me would love to sell all my old stuff and do something fun and new--like Pottery Barn! Life is, after all, short. On the other hand I wonder whether such a major change would be emotionally upsetting. A lot of my identity in the past has been wrapped up in old houses. Yet the thought of moving into something elegant, modern, and little to no work is so appealing.
My DM is making a similar move right now. She's also moving south. She thought she wanted to make the move, but wasn't sure.

So she decided to rent a 1 bedroom unit in the coop. After a few month of renting, she made up her mind - she wanted to move in!

Now she's just watching for the right unit to go up for sale. She may stay in the 1 bedroom floor plan or may take the 2 bedroom (still one bath), depending on what is available.

Have you considered renting for a while to see how you like it?
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Old 03-16-2015, 05:05 PM   #8
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Forget about the furniture possibly "looking out of place." (Unless the furniture just won't fit). Who's to judge?

I don't want to downsize, but sooner or later most of us will need to do so. If I had to give up my best-loved familiar possessions, I would be very sad.

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Old 03-16-2015, 06:30 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Marita40 View Post
I posted awhile back about downsizing. My 100 year old house is only about 1500 sq ft but with the yard, full basement, 2 car garage etc it is simply too much for me as a single person. There was a time when I loved to spend my time working on and around the house. I no longer do.

Anyway--the point of this thread -- is that a 975 sq ft, 1 bedroom, 1 bathroom in a contemporary building has just come on the market. The area is highly desirable, the condo well appointed. There are approx. 35 units in the association. But the fact that there is virtually no storage and that the vast majority of my furniture either won't fit or would look out of place (ie antiques) is giving me pause. Yes, something in me would love to sell all my old stuff and do something fun and new--like Pottery Barn! Life is, after all, short. On the other hand I wonder whether such a major change would be emotionally upsetting. A lot of my identity in the past has been wrapped up in old houses. Yet the thought of moving into something elegant, modern, and little to no work is so appealing.

I realize I am rambling here. I have found that as a single person these kind of decisions are extremely hard. There's no one to advise or compromise with! Has anyone downsized to such a small place?
I downsized from a four bedroom house to an apartment about fifteen years ago, but that doesn't really count because I didn't have any furniture except a sofa and desk. (Long boring post-divorce story so I won't go into it).

I just wanted to post that I think this idea sounds like SO MUCH FUN!!! I'd love to do something like that. And, I would take a couple of pieces of furniture that I am really attached to a lot, but aside from that I'd love buying almost all new things that would go with the new house. It would be fun to pick out enough lovely new things to fill a condo, and to then surround myself with them. You could think hard about each purchase and get exactly, precisely the style and functionality that you really want. I'd do it, if it was me!



(Edited to add: What I am saying above assumes that you have already decided to buy a condo at this time in your life, and that your question mainly concerns whether or not to buy all new furniture or try to fit your old furniture into it. Whether or not to buy a condo in the first place, is another decision, for sure.)
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Old 03-16-2015, 06:37 PM   #10
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I like the idea! I could live in a 975 sf condo as long as I had a garage. And preferably a workshop condo unit nearby..

If your proposed condo is a hot commodity and you can't rent one, pull the plug and buy it. I know the problems associated with house and grounds consuming you. That will only get worse,


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Old 03-16-2015, 06:44 PM   #11
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In the 1950s the average house size was 983 sq feet. My entire family lived in a house not much bigger than that.

The Righteous Small House

"According to the National Association of Home Builders, the average size of a new single-family American residence in 1950 was 983 square feet. Today, it is nearly 2500 square feet. As home sizes ballooned over that time, family size shrank. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that in 1950, an average American family consisted of 3.8 people; today’s average family contains 2.6 people."

If I was single I do not think I would want a place larger than 900 sq feet. That is a lot of per person space.
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Old 03-16-2015, 07:53 PM   #12
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Ugh, answering to an HOA, sharing walls or space with nosy/obnoxious neighbors, being at the mercy of whatever the association wishes to charge in maintenance/special assessments... No thanks. Then again, I would happily live in a compound in the woods if DW did not insist on suburbia.


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Old 03-16-2015, 09:10 PM   #13
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Ugh, answering to an HOA, sharing walls or space with nosy/obnoxious neighbors, being at the mercy of whatever the association wishes to charge in maintenance/special assessments... No thanks. Then again, I would happily live in a compound in the woods if DW did not insist on suburbia.


De gustibus non disputandam...
My feelings exactly. I'm hoping that when I get to the point that I can't do the upkeep on my house that I can pay someone to do the work. I think even if I did downsize, it would be to a small house versus a condo. My opinion may change later in life, but while I wouldn't live in a compound in the woods, I do like my space and can't imagine asking for permission from an association to do anything.
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Old 03-17-2015, 01:16 AM   #14
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I'm single and less than 1000 SF would be too small for me. A friend bought a condo about that size which was as cute as a button but by the time he moved out, the place looked like a episode of Hoarders. I'd hold out for a 2 BR/2BA with maybe 1200 SF and some storage. As far as the furniture, I like antique furniture in contemporary houses especially if there are hardwood floors or flooring other than carpet. You may have to get rid of some of your large pieces - I'm guessing it is Victorian. The earlier stuff is generally smaller in scale. Architectural Digest magazine used to show sort of contemporary Manhattan apartments with antique furniture.
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Old 03-17-2015, 08:24 AM   #15
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I've sold both condos and townhouses and I would go the TH route. You still get rid of the outside maintenance but you maintain more of a "house" feel.
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Old 03-17-2015, 11:54 AM   #16
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I'm not a fan of condos, but I would never, ever buy a 1 bedroom anything. I concur with ABQ2015.
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Old 03-17-2015, 05:18 PM   #17
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I'm with Brewer and Jerry, in my perspective HOA's are evil and to be avoided at all costs. So are shared walls and lack of personal space outside living area. I have a philosophy: if one has problems with your neighbors you did not buy enough land.

However, if you can be happy with those limitations of the condo, I think it can work out good for you. Size is enough for single person, you like the area it is located, so look further into it and have fun. I would use what furniture you have or want to keep, but then I am not fashion conscious to give a crap if it matches or not.
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Old 03-18-2015, 07:30 AM   #18
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I'm not a fan of condos, but I would never, ever buy a 1 bedroom anything. I concur with ABQ2015.
If your talking about Minneapolis I agree 100%. If you're talking about NY City or the San Fran Bay area then a 1 bedroom can make sense.
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Old 03-18-2015, 10:25 AM   #19
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HOA's are not evil or good. They are a form of self-government by people who share ownership of a property. Usually, they are elected by the owners and therefore represent owner interests overall, but not necessarily the interests of each individual owner.

In my experience, those people who complain the most about HOA decisions usually do not attend the periodic meetings, have nothing to do with electing representatives, always know how to do things better, cheaper and faster, and almost never volunteer to help correct what they complain about.

However, if having to bend to the will other owners is not one's cup of tea, by all means don't buy properties that have HOAs. It's not worth the aggravation - your own and the other owner's.
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Old 03-18-2015, 10:34 AM   #20
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I moved to a 816 sq ft, 1 bedroom, 1 bathroom condo. Had years of accumulated junk to throw out before moving in. Really worth it to lighten up. I was in a rental apartment and decided to buy something to lock in my cost structure prior to retirement.
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