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House vs. townhome vs. condo
Old 09-05-2014, 12:08 PM   #1
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House vs. townhome vs. condo

What have you found to be the best housing choice after retirement? We're in a detached house now and feeling the weight of the maintenance costs.

Here are some initial pluses and minuses, as I see them, to get the discussion started...

Detached house: Full control, but full responsibility. You can control the timing of some home maintenance (such as a new roof and exterior painting), but the financial hit can throw off the annual retirement budget, particularly with unexpected items (furnace replacement). If you don't like yard work, that can be a substantial additional expense.

Townhome: You lose some control. You share a wall or two, which might lead to too much closeness with your neighbors. There are a lot of stairs, which may not be suitable for later years. With row houses, you share the decision on when to replace the roof or paint the house, but there's no yard to deal with.

Condo: You share responsibility, but lose most control. No yard. Usually single level, so no stairs. Shared walls/ceiling/floor might be an issue. The monthly maintenance fee might seem like something you can plan a budget around, but if there's an added special assessment fee, you have to take the hit and have no control (other than a vote on the board) on the timing. Balancing the wants of all the residents can be extremely frustrating.

Your take?
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Old 09-05-2014, 12:23 PM   #2
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Everything you have said is true. People need to decide based on their own preferences and risk tolerance. Some risks are universal. For example, no matter where you live, you may run into bad neighbours.

I moved from a house to a condo. I like the ability to lock and leave, and the lack of exterior maintenance. I did not consider a townhouse because of the stairs. Because my house was older and was located in an area with harsh winters, heating costs, snow removal, etc were quite costly, and there was always something that needed fixing. My condo is a newer building in a gentler climate and I find that my expenses are far lower. When buying a condo, it is essential to make sure that the reserve fund is kept at a level which will support future maintenance. This may be difficult to achieve if the occupants are all elderly, as they will want to keep condo fees artificially low, figuring they may escape special assessments by dying before the roof needs replacing! That's where a reserve fund study/depreciation report is key. Good management is also key, particularly when some units are rentals.
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Old 09-05-2014, 12:27 PM   #3
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Good topic!

I am 66 and retired, and I admit that I am tired of having to deal with outside maintenance of my detached single family home. It doesn't cost me much to have it done, so that's not much of a problem; but it's just one more thing to deal with. It could be lots worse; I do have a small home on a small lot so that helps. I could do a little more to make the exerior of my home lower maintenance, but I have already done most of that.

I am a little leery of condos in this area, because I have heard so many horror stories about some people not paying and the remaining residents having to pay more to make up for it. Besides, there are the other horror stories about (some) HOA's manned by control freaks. Then there is the fact that there really aren't any condos here in my price range that I would regard as suitable for me. As far as a townhouse goes, well, if it had stairs then it needs to have the master bedroom and bath on the first floor. I wouldn't go upstairs often. For the times when I would, maybe I could get one of those devices put on the stairwell, that has a seat that slowly rises to the second floor and back as desired.

Maybe a duplex? Maybe a rental apartment, even though that would cost more in the long run in my location and even though almost all of the apartments here have gone Section 8 and I wouldn't really fit in there? I have been wrestling with the problem of finding the ideal retirement dwelling here, too.
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Old 09-05-2014, 12:31 PM   #4
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If I were to sell my house and get something different I'd get a smallish single story house in a walkable area. DH is on the same page. While able, we'd maintain the yard ourselves. But later would hire lawn service, housekeeping, and maintenance as needed. HOAs are often pretty pricey around here - so the paying for yard work,etc would be similar to the HOA fee.

We've identified our target neighborhood. The schools are less desireable than our current neighborhood, and it's more ethnically diverse... we'd be post kids - so no issue about the schools, and in general, diversity is good. The neighborhood we're looking at is walkable to Target, Home Depot, 2 grocery stores, a Kohls, a Sprouts, a Pep Boys, and the DMV... and is on 3 bus lines. We'd be able to pull about $400k of equity out by buying something in that area, compared to our current area - and it's only 3 miles from where we live.
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Old 09-05-2014, 12:44 PM   #5
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Maybe a duplex? Maybe a rental apartment, even though that would cost more in the long run in my location and even though almost all of the apartments here have gone Section 8 and I wouldn't really fit in there? I have been wrestling with the problem of finding the ideal retirement dwelling here, too.
Stay far away from Section 8. My GF lived in a nice large apartment that somewhere along the way went down the section 8 road. Without my getting too graphic, let me say that it took maybe two years before the building was entirely section 8. All the prior residents had moved. Some of the women no longer felt safe.

Ha
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Old 09-05-2014, 01:02 PM   #6
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I'm a bit leery of condos, as well. I had a condo from 1994-2004, and over that timeframe, the monthly fee doubled, from something like $119 to $238. I just went online and looked, and a similar-sized unit is about $290 per month now.

Ten years ago, when I sold, there was a high percentage of rentals in my community, and that made it harder for prospective buyers to get financing. I've heard that it's only gotten worse since then.

One problem with a condo (or townhouse) is that no matter how clean you are, if your neighbor has roaches, mice, bedbugs, crabs, or whatever, rest assured, you will get them too. Many condos have the electricity and water covered in the fee, and that discourages conservation. Where I lived, I paid my own electricity, but the water was in the condo fee, so it wasn't *as* bad.

You can also run into problems where the board of directors are self-serving egomaniacs who think they're in control of a fiefdom.

Oh, also, be warned, a condo is simply an entity, and not a specific type of building structure. Many townhouses are condos. My old condo was in a community where they built them 4 to a cluster. There are some cases where even a single family home can technically be a condo, but those are rare.

Also, some condos do have small yards. In the community I lived in, 3 of the four had a yard, while the fourth sat on top of a row of garages, and instead had a deck off the dining room. The unit owner was responsible for the deck, or the fencing around their yard, and maintaining what was inside of it.

And, in some townhouse communities, the HOA might take care of maintaining your front yard (cutting the grass, at least), so you only have to worry about the back.
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Old 09-05-2014, 01:10 PM   #7
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With condos and town homes it's not just money and time, it's attitude. If one is going to get bent out of shape because the Home Owners Association decides not to heat the pool from November to March, or they decide to put off painting your building for another year, or they decided that installing solar lighting is more important than installing drip irrigation, then one might not be happy regardless of how well managed the place is.

Some people don't understand that a Condo or Town home is an exercise in small group self governance. You win some and you lose some.

One thing to watch is the monthly expenses in regards to the monthly fees. People focus on the fees, but it really is the expenses that dictate the fees. One would think that would be obvious, but the number of people who don't realize that the fees simply reflect expenses is amazing.

Oh, if you do choose a condo or town-home, find a place with some type of rental cap in place. Non resident owners and irresponsible tenants are the homeowner's associations worst nightmare.
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Old 09-05-2014, 01:43 PM   #8
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Stay far away from Section 8. My GF lived in a nice large apartment that somewhere along the way went down the section 8 road. Without my getting too graphic, let me say that it took maybe two years before the building was entirely section 8. All the prior residents had moved. Some of the women no longer felt safe.

Ha
Could not agree more. My second apartment made the same transition quickly as well. A few extra dollars each month is well worth not living anywhere near that situation anymore
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Old 09-05-2014, 01:44 PM   #9
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Some people don't understand that a Condo or Town home is an exercise in small group self governance. You win some and you lose some.
I've lived in condos before, but in smaller buildings (four units in one case and about a dozen in another). My sense is that having more units is better, because it spreads the financial risk. On the other hand, in larger developments there are more likely to be common areas (say, a pool or club house) that you'll be paying for whether you use them or not.
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Old 09-05-2014, 03:07 PM   #10
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Having lived in a sfh most of my life (except for my early 20's when my roomates and I were the neighbors from hell), lock and leave is probably the biggest lure away from sfh-ownership now.
We would love to be able to leave for a month or three for extended travel, but paranoia is a terrible thing. I just assume we would return to a ransacked house.
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Old 09-05-2014, 03:19 PM   #11
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Could not agree more. My second apartment made the same transition quickly as well. A few extra dollars each month is well worth not living anywhere near that situation anymore
That was my experience too. No way would I want to be anywhere near Section 8 housing.
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Old 09-05-2014, 03:49 PM   #12
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I agree with everything the OP said. My take is that I would rather deal with the decay of inanimate objects (furnaces, roofs, etc.) than with human beings arguing about the decay of inanimate objects. Of course, there are still the contractors/workers that might need to be dealt with, but there is one less layer of humanity.
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Old 09-05-2014, 03:56 PM   #13
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We moved from a SFD to a co-op. There are lots of condos all around us. Townhouses were not considered because of stairs that would pose a problem in the future.

Both co-ops and condos are exercises in small group governance and subject to Board drama. One of our residents moved in with a piano and is being a PIA from a noise standpoint. Now in the process of documenting that he is violating the lease. If we were a condo it would be much more difficult to deal with that.

If you can find a 'patio home' that probably would be perfect. They are, effectively, single story townhouses. Often they can be found in planned unit developments, in our area the community of Charbonneau as an example.

When we were looking to buy we observed that many newer condos had open floor plans, not much wall space to hang art work.
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Old 09-06-2014, 12:18 PM   #14
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After having lived in apartments for my first few years in the "real world" after graduating, I made up my mind I will NEVER lived in a shared-wall dwelling again. Ever.

Every apartment I lived in, I had to deal with some noisy neighbor playing a stereo too loud, playing a guitar at 3am, etc.

When I had to move back to Silicon Valley, I only looked at single family homes in nicer neighborhoods. I'm paying a pretty high percentage of my disposable income on rent, but to me, it's worth it. Not having somebody right on the other side of the wall is worth an extra $1000 a month to me compared to a so-called "luxury" apartment.

When I move back to Colorado next year, I want to try and find a home on at least 2 acres (same lot size my first two homes were on). The more space, the better.

Apartments, condos, and townhomes are all out for me. If there's somebody on the other side of a wall, forget it. Never again.
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Old 09-06-2014, 10:52 PM   #15
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Opinion: If renting, you are paying the landlords mortgage, tax, insurance, etc. without any applicable tax benefit. In a rental you cannot put in extra insulation, shade or solar collection, etc
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Old 09-07-2014, 09:14 AM   #16
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Good topic. Here in New England they have a new type of condo - it's a SFR (no shared walls) in a planned development. The association takes care of maintenance and snow removal but you have your own unit. My hub's ex-wife lives in one in NH and loves it. She has a main floor master/bath (plus half bath) downstairs; upstairs there is a small loft, one guest bedroom and a full bath. They are not cheap though, low 3's, but these are new and upscale (granite, etc).

One thing that is nice is that the developer put in walking trails surrounding the property which is really nice.
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Old 09-07-2014, 09:21 AM   #17
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Good topic. Here in New England they have a new type of condo - it's a SFR (no shared walls) in a planned development. The association takes care of maintenance and snow removal but you have your own unit. My hub's ex-wife lives in one in NH and loves it. She has a main floor master/bath (plus half bath) downstairs; upstairs there is a small loft, one guest bedroom and a full bath. They are not cheap though, low 3's, but these are new and upscale (granite, etc).

One thing that is nice is that the developer put in walking trails surrounding the property which is really nice.
Is this a new phenomenon in your area? Here in Canada this type of development is known as condo bungalows. It has been popular for over 20 years.
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House vs. townhome vs. condo
Old 09-07-2014, 10:27 AM   #18
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House vs. townhome vs. condo

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Is this a new phenomenon in your area? Here in Canada this type of development is known as condo bungalows. It has been popular for over 20 years.

Here in SoCal, this style of home was our starter home, 18 years ago (the development was brand new at the time). We were responsible for maintenance and repair of our dwelling, while the association maintained common areas. About the only condo-style advantage is that there was no front yard to maintain, because 6 homes shared a common driveway/courtyard in place of a front yard.

Even with no shared walls, it was still too close to neighbors for us. In the future, I'd probably stick with a SFH with low maintenance landscaping over this arrangement (understanding that that may be easier to do here in the desert SW than in other parts of NA).
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Old 09-07-2014, 05:17 PM   #19
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Is this a new phenomenon in your area? Here in Canada this type of development is known as condo bungalows. It has been popular for over 20 years.
I don't know. I have only been in the Boston area for 15 years - I lived in a close in town so no new development. I know the units in NH are all new. In looking around I see some that are maybe 10 years old?

Maybe I just never noticed since I was not in the market. I have not heard that term, condo bungalows and don't see it anywhere on the listings.
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Old 09-07-2014, 05:29 PM   #20
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I don't know. I have only been in the Boston area for 15 years - I lived in a close in town so no new development. I know the units in NH are all new. In looking around I see some that are maybe 10 years old?

Maybe I just never noticed since I was not in the market. I have not heard that term, condo bungalows and don't see it anywhere on the listings.
Here is an example in Calgary:

Calgary condo bungalow - Trovit Homes

....and in Winnipeg (much cheaper):

http://www.housingblock.com/property...campaign=feeds
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